The most popular polemic of recent rock discourse has been a simple one: Rock 'n' roll is dead. It died long ago, with its death knell in the early 2000s. On a surface level, one might be inclined to agree with absolutists who occupy a little too much space in the realm of music criticism. The truth, however, is a little more nuanced than that. Rock music isn’t dead, just the rock stars. Long ago, music melted and morphed into various sub-genres, becoming nearly unrecognizable to the untrained ear. Now, what remains are the quiet and the soft spoken. The ones who would rather keep their heads down and keep writing. The ones like Boone Patrello.
Patrello, who performs under the stage name “Dead Sullivan,” hasn’t always been as even-keeled as he appears now.
“I believe it’s really important to stay productive and avoid unhealthy distractions," Patrello says. "Growing up I was always fucking up or getting into trouble, and it’s a good thing I got a lot of that negativity out of my system."
Now, Patrello finds himself to be a homebody who rarely makes appearances in public. Like a specter, he lingers, showing his face just enough to remind you he exists.
“I spend a lot of time by myself now, but I am always working on something," he says. "If I don’t, I start to feel useless and depressed.”
If one were to spend nearly all day inside Patrello’s home to see him only exit his room for a snack, that wouldn't be surprising. Considering all the rooms in the house have an attached bathroom, you wouldn’t need to leave for much.
This dedication to his craft has left Patrello with a storied back catalog, but this isn’t to say he isn’t a perfectionist. His most recent album, Season, began recording well over a year ago, despite only having seen the light of day roughly two weeks ago. It was then that his borderline-hermit lifestyle caught up with him in the form of a grouchy neighbor.
“At the time, I shared a duplex with this guy named Jimmy, an angry, 60-year-old drunk who would bang on my walls and threaten to call the police if my music got too loud," Patrello says.
This forced Patrello to minimize for the most recent album, often playing as quietly as possible, using certain tools to keep volume to a minimum.
“Because of that I had to adjust my process quite a bit," he says. "I could hardly ever record drums/piano and had to run electric guitar through a mini battery-powered orange amp. That was frustrating for a while, but it forced me to try new things, which made for some different-sounding tracks, being more acoustic/aux percussion/synth driven.”
In the end, it pushed him forward, and along the way, he and his neighbor became closer and more understanding.
“I eventually became friends with Jimmy, and when we moved out, he gave me a pair of HPM-150s [speakers] for free," Patrello says. "He's a crazy motherfucker, but I think he's all right.”
Events like this have always shaped Patrello’s songwriting, in which he writes first, and finds a framework later.
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“My lyrical process has always been pretty spontaneous, and I don't like to overthink it, but I do believe applying names to what could otherwise feel like vague or abstract characters/situations makes for a more recognizable, accessible and hopefully relatable picture,” he says.
Patrello would rather wait and make sense of it all until after the ideas have flown from him. In this case, a story began to take shape once all the songs had been written, without him even realizing it.
“It was never really a conscious effort, but when all was said and done, it just made sense for the first few tracks to act as an introduction to the two main characters, and the rest of the album to be a sort of exploration of the relationship between them and the people around," he says.
Like any of us, Patrello is just trying to get by, experience events and emotions, then process them after the fact. He hardly claims to know even what he’s doing. Perhaps his most resonant statement to date was simply: “I don’t know. That’s just my opinion. I probably don’t really know what I’m talking about.”