The State of Ohio
You don't need to know about [DARYL] to figure out that the band's latest album, Ohio, is something special. It's a brave take on rock music whose dozens of instruments meld into sensible, glorious blasts rather than self-indulgent experiments. Lyrics reach for chaos, loss and hope with little strain, and the 14 tracks are a fully formed statement rather than a typical smattering of catchy singles.
Albums like that don't need great stories. But Ohio has one, making [DARYL]'s survival and the resulting album only more astonishing.
On August 16, 2003, lead singer and guitarist Dylan Silvers went to jail. The band played earlier in the day as part of the final concert at the Bronco Bowl. But Buzz Oven's all-day send-off, including more than a dozen other local bands, got out of hand from the time [DARYL] ended its set at 2 p.m.
"The minute we got off, 20 cases of beer arrived backstage, where at least eight bands shared one room," says drummer Michael "Spammie" Lamm. "That's just bad news."
Beer and good times flowed, and within the hour, members of many bands began destroying the backstage--after all, the building would be torn down in a month. Wreckage [DARYL] didn't take credit for included a chain saw through a couch and beer cans stapled to a wall spelling the word "fuck." Silvers did take responsibility for enough damage, however, to get pinned for charges.
"The cops were laughing," he says, "but they had to arrest me."
But life in [DARYL] was already rocky, as the band saw its previous synth-punk releases fall into oblivion. Their debut EP, Communication: Duration, received limited release from Urinine Records, while their ambitious LP The Technology got less support and publicity from Beatville Records than they had hoped for.
They re-recorded their debut for Idol Records in 2002 and were on track to record Ohio, but not before parting ways with keyboardist Chad Ferman ("All of our immaturities together combined didn't work," Silvers says). More delays came courtesy of a back injury Lamm sustained on tour. After completing the first round of Ohio's recording in spring 2003, bassist Jeff Parker quit, claiming he needed a break, while guitarist/keyboardist Dave Wilson began to distance himself during the sessions. Silvers and Wilson clashed over keyboard parts, and worse, the songs "just weren't working," Silvers says.
[DARYL] looked to the Bronco Bowl as a chance to have fun after months of lineup changes, but instead, the arrest added an exclamation point to the band's uncertainty. The next day, Silvers called Wilson only to find out he had officially quit, dropping the roster to two original members. Wilson's work in [DARYL], like Ferman's, was crucial to the band's early success, but his departure opened creative doors.
"I wanted to mold the record into a new sound," Silvers says. "With Dave, we got stuck. The keyboards were the same-old. He was hardheaded on a creative level, and it was hard to say, 'This has got to go.'"
The quest for Ohio's new sound began with Stuart Sikes, whose recent credits include producing and mixing records by Modest Mouse and the White Stripes. Silvers and Lamm met with Sikes for a daylong session in August 2003, but before recording began in earnest, [DARYL] released the EP Unnatural Surfaces, including new band members Angie Comley (keyboards, vocals), Justin Wood (guitar) and Dave Christensen (bass). Silvers wanted to make sure the band's new lineup fit before going back to Ohio. He soon found out it didn't.
A two-week cross-country tour brought to a head growing tensions among the lineup, and continuing conflict peaked after a drive from Detroit to Austin's Stubb's BBQ. There, the members got into a fight extreme enough to lead Silvers and Lamm to create an ultimatum for themselves: [DARYL] would continue only if they could play with people they got along with, even if that meant turning the band into a two-piece.
"The minute we sat down and decided that," Lamm says, "we were like, 'Bing.' It was the best I'd felt that entire two weeks."
By the end of January 2004, the duo regained its footing and called up old friends to put the band together. After Parker rejoined on bass ("We begged him to come back," Silvers says), Christensen switched to guitar. Justen Andrews and Beau Wagener joined on keyboards, and David Hayes brought the most unexpected addition--horns. They joined Sikes in the studio to complete Ohio and, furthermore, to remove the band's trademark synthesizers.
"When the band changed, the wall came down, and that's when Ohio got made the way it should have been in the first place," Silvers says. "I got tired of listening to weeyarroor, those kinda-sounding keyboards. I wanted different textures and tones. Once I dove into it, I was like a kid in a candy store. Like, 'Right Now I Could Be a Ghost' starts with a Wurlitzer, then it goes into cello, then into an organ, then a mellotron. Stuart was so on board with everything, helped me develop those tones, but I was worried--this was gonna be such a drastic departure, but I was like, 'Fuck it, this is what it's gonna be.'"
The improvement is obvious; every song on the album, from rockers to pensive ballads, sounds layered and thick. [DARYL] points to Sikes' experience and wisdom in making the band sound better than ever, but the way the liner notes tell it, Silvers took the reins by playing an average of four instruments per song. [DARYL]'s ambition was hinted at years ago in The Technology, and that ambition finally found a match in the support of Stuart Sikes.
"Dylan's got a gazillion ideas, and I don't know if he'd ever had the time to actually experiment with his songs. I felt if I didn't do as much as I could, it wasn't fair to him," Sikes says. "It's pretty rare you see somebody that devoted to his band."
Ohio also benefits from a head-spinning number of cameos, including Cursive's Tim Kasher, Old 97's Ken Bethea, the pAper chAse's Sean Kirkpatrick and Centro-matic's Scott Danbom.
But perhaps the most amazing thing about the album is the history that predates all this. Ohio tells the story of Silvers' unique childhood, highlighted by "Rooms 31 & 30," about the day he and his older brother set their high school on fire. Their subsequent expulsion sent the family moving to Illinois to live with his mother's new boyfriend, and the rest of the album profiles the insanity of Silvers' youth, the friends who died along the way and the return to his hometown in Ohio years later.
"For my elementary and high school years, imagine the Bronco Bowl every weekend," Silvers says. "Sneaking out of the house, lighting stuff on fire, trashing, vandalizing, stealing Mom's car, all kinds of stuff. That's what Ohio is--this youth. Those harbored feelings I wrote, I just put them to the chord progressions."
Silvers hasn't grown up much since those days, but that's a compliment. He acts like [DARYL]'s biggest teenage fan, speaking quickly and giving credit to his friends every chance he gets.
"This record, I was tired of fighting, and everybody trusted me. Once they knew I was with Stuart and had people like Danbom and Kirkpatrick coming in, they knew the shit was gonna be a lot better than anything we'd done before," he says. "We had to make it right. "
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