Set to stun

When people see The Deathray Davies walk on stage for the first time, they might be a little puzzled, taken aback, perhaps, by the number of bodies onstage. After all, no one would expect this local pop-rock ensemble to be a sextet, complete with two guitars, bass, drums, keys, and, yes folks, tambourine. (The sight of which, incidentally, prompted one audience member at a recent performance to ponder aloud, "Who's that Afro'd cheerleader guy with the tambourine?") It's especially confusing since both of the group's albums, including the brand-new The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist, are largely the work of one man, John Dufilho.

"It's all about entertaining and charisma," says the cheerleader himself, Kevin Ingle, referring to the group's size.

"It's a big stage presence," adds Dylan Silvers, the band's keyboard player. "With six people on the stage and everybody moving around, you can't go wrong."

But Dufilho, the man behind the band, fesses up to another reason, which sounds more like the real one. "I'm not that comfortable being the center of attention for anything," Dufilho explains. "I kinda like being on the side and having a lot of stuff going on. I'd just as soon people watch everybody else and let me go on singing."

Dufilho's shyness comes as a bit of a surprise, especially considering that he not only fronts The Deathray Davies, but also performs with two other bands, the Hundred Inevitables and Legendary Crystal Chandelier, practically spending as much time on a stage as off. Of course, to say that he fronts Deathray is something of an understatement, since the entire band is his vision and started out as his own small project a year or so ago, originally just some tapes he had recorded with him playing all the instruments. He was in another band at the time (the now-defunct Bedwetter, which also included Deathray bassist Jason Garner on drums), as well as playing in Legendary Crystal Chandelier. Eventually, however, The Deathray Davies replaced Bedwetter, and the songs he was recording added up to a full-length album, last year's Drink With the Grown-Ups and Listen to the Jazz.

Just before last year's installment of the annual South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Dufilho got some friends together (including Garner and guitarist Peter Schmidt, who's still a member of the band) to help him stage the songs that he had recorded. He had been invited to perform on the strength of a tape containing a handful of tracks, before he'd even thought much about playing live. At Emo's on the opening night of the conference, Dufilho (in spite of a nasty stomach virus) performed with Bedwetter and The Deathray Davies. For the latter, it was only their second show.

From that shaky starting point, though, The Deathray Davies have evolved into much more than a side project, says Dufilho. To wit, the $1,000 the group won in the opening round of Lucky Strike's Band to Band Combat contest at Hard Rock Café was distributed evenly. "I think it started as my thing and everybody just kinda helping out, and it's developed into this thing where everybody cares about it," Dufilho says. "It's developing into a real band and less just my project." Ultimately, the band's recent success and widespread critical acclaim have resulted in more opportunities than any of the members could have anticipated even a year ago.

Which, as it turns out, isn't just because the band as it exists now has been together for only about three months. (Silvers and drummer Bill Shupp were the last to join.) The lineup has changed enough times to boggle the mind (or possibly fill out a kickball team), which is indicative of the many successes that Dallas-area musicians have enjoyed in recent months. Each and every current member of The Deathray Davies (and the majority of former members) belongs to at least one other local band, and most of the musicians who left Deathray did so to devote more energy to their other bands. All of the guys in the band now are spreading themselves pretty thin lately, particularly Silvers, whose band [DARYL] also recently released a new record. "I don't sleep enough," he says. "I've been making a lot of sacrifices lately, but it's [for] the enjoyment of playing so much."

In fact, all of the guys express how much they enjoy participating in all of the bands they're involved with. But if you want to watch them squirm, ask about the future: What happens if The Deathray Davies have an opportunity to tour? The various responses to that query can be summed up by Dufilho's answer: "As long as we can make it work."

What that means is that the band will exist as it does as long as the members' other bands--which include Legendary Crystal Chandelier, [DARYL], Stereo Rookie, Crash Vinyl, and the Hundred Inevitables--don't start to suffer as a result of The Deathray Davies' successes. That's the last thing anyone wants, seeing as how the Dallas music scene has really developed into quite a family in recent years. To hear Dufilho tell it, it's pretty much utopian bliss in Deep Ellum. Close enough, anyway.