Set to stun

The Deathray Davies love math, drunk ventriloquists, Chinese checkers, and Devo records

"There's a really, really cool scene that's happening right now," he says. "There are a lot of bands that are actually helping each other out and not competing against one another. And we're all just good friends as well, you know? It's a pretty geeky club, but it's a good one."

While all of the aforementioned bands have extended themselves as resources to The Deathray Davies, no group has done more for them than the Old 97's. When Rhett Miller and the gang asked The Deathray Davies to come on tour with them earlier this year, it turned out to be the best kind of exposure that Deathray could have hoped for, playing to packed houses up and down the East Coast. The band played in venues as large as New York's Irving Plaza, and every performance was met with great reviews. "We're definitely indebted to them," Dufilho says. "Or thankful."

Looking at all the shows the guys have played and all the work they've put into this band, just to keep it going amid all of their other projects, you can't help but think that they should really be thanking themselves. Apparently, the band's timing made its journey toward recognition an uphill climb, since Dufilho and Garner moved to Dallas from San Antonio during a lull in Dallas' music community. Or, as Dufilho succinctly puts it, "When we moved here, the scene sucked."

Behave, you silly freaks: The Deathray Davies are, from left, Kevin Ingle, Dylan Silvers, Jason Garner, Peter Schmidt, John Dufilho, and Bill Shupp.
Behave, you silly freaks: The Deathray Davies are, from left, Kevin Ingle, Dylan Silvers, Jason Garner, Peter Schmidt, John Dufilho, and Bill Shupp.
Thirteen might not be a lucky number: Guess which one of these guys is John Dufilho.
Thirteen might not be a lucky number: Guess which one of these guys is John Dufilho.

Silvers, who's been playing in local bands since he moved to Dallas five years ago, explains it best. "A little bit after all the big bands got signed, and that was right after they [Dufilho and Garner] moved here, everything went to shit for at least a good year," he says. "Not that there weren't good shows, you know; there were bands like Centro-matic around. All the old good bands were still there, but little bands couldn't get started. I mean, it was hard to get a band going and play someplace because none of the clubs would let you play. Man, we were all beggin' to get Tuesday-night slots, and that was just a year ago."

Thanks to the hard work of all the bands on the scene right now, the clubs are once again wide open to budding local musicians. (Well, more than they used to be.) The Deathray Davies have worked the clubs harder than almost anyone else. (Dufilho mentions that the only negative criticism of the band that he's ever read has been in the Dallas Observer, in which it was jokingly implied that Deathray plays too much.) Several members of the Davies have also been making acoustic appearances almost every Sunday night at the Barley House under the pseudonym I Love Math.

"The person who's helped us out really more than anybody else in town is Richard [Winfield] from the Barley," Dufilho says. "He's been awesome to us. And it's great because it's Sunday and it's free, so we don't have to take it too seriously." Despite Dufilho's relaxed attitude, the shows are solid and continue to grow.

All of The Deathray Davies' shows, including the acoustic gigs at the Barley House, draw plenty of people these days, and the fanbase is getting bigger with good reason. The band is always moving, always laughing, and it's obvious that they want to entertain the audience with more than just music when they put on a show. And it's pretty evident that the laid-back mood and the Davies-just-wanna-have-fun atmosphere is what keeps all these sleep-deprived guys committed to the band. For the most part, The Deathray Davies are just out there trying to have a good time, and they keep playing together because the shows continue to be fun and relaxed.

Ingle particularly feels this atmosphere at the Barley shows, which he says are by far the most laid-back. "It's probably the best place to play," he says. "Sunday nights at Barley House, I'm just worried about trying to drink a lot and still shake on time."

Still, what maintains the laid-back atmosphere is the music. With its reliable, playful simplicity, The Deathray Davies sound is that of the British invading a garage, complete with loopy keyboard parts and plenty of distortion. Dufilho says that his main inspiration for this music comes from bands like the Kinks (fronted by the band's namesake, Ray Davies), but he admits that there's an undeniable early-punk undertone as well. "Jason and I were into the Clash, Sex Pistols, all that stuff," Dufilho says of his and Garner's tastes. They've developed them together over the years, playing in Deathray, Bedwetter, and other bands before that, such as Thirteen. "I'd say there's a lot of that influence going on."

With the band's second album, The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist, the diverse influences that contribute to Dufilho's music continue to be apparent, as does his unique creative vision. As with Drink With the Grown-Ups and Listen to the Jazz, all the songwriting on The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist was done by Dufilho. Working with Matt Pence at The Echo Lab in Denton, he also played most of the instruments, save for a song ("The Bitter Old Man Blues") he recorded with Centro-matic's Will Johnson and Pence, and guest appearances by Lindsay Romig and James Henderson. Garner shows up on a handful of tracks as well, and Ingle appears on one, singing about his cat Mr. Red. The entire band (which at the time featured Chomsky's Matt Kellum and Sean Halleck) shows up on the final song, "Chinese Checkers and Devo Records," which Dufilho enjoyed, since he swears this will be the last album that's "just me."

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