Aside from the obvious Jimmy Buffett reference, the Burleson pop-punk group members have long been culpable getaway enthusiasts. Their good-times vibe shines through on their latest release.
A quick listen gives the impression that the band definitely wrote the album's songs on some island wicker seats on a tropical beach. Of course, they're in North Texas, miles away from any beach. That’s the point of the first song on the EP, “Landlocked in Texas" — essentially, it's a faux surf song.
“Surfing is not actually a thing I’ve ever done," says lead singer Garrett Hollowell. "I live in North Texas, and it is pretty easy to point out that Texas is not landlocked as a whole but ‘Landlocked in North Texas’ didn’t flow as well. It’s primarily a song about wanting to get away and needing a vacation.”
There is still no tour getaway lined up for Dead Words, aside from an upcoming three-stop mini-tour between Texas and Shreveport with their Austin friends The Butts. But you can catch them live in Arlington at Division Brewing on July 24.
The musicians in Dead Words, who have been playing together since they were fresh out of high school, had grown used to loading in the band's van and hauling off on monthlong road trips before the pandemic.
The gap year that was 2020 happened around the time of the band’s 10-year anniversary, for which they'd planned a small festival with other bands from around the country, friends they’ve made from a decade of touring.
For now, plans for their anniversary show are still on hold. But the band is falling back into its rhythm again and plans to hit the coast before you can say “I’m going to Disney World.”
Disney parks just so happen to be well-favored destinations for Hollowell and the band. The EP’s third track, “Tiki Lounge,” is an homage to a song that plays in the Tiki Room at Disney Land.
“It was my attempt at writing a Ramones core song, but like Jimmy Buffett would have written it — or vice versa,” Holloway says. “It’s a story about meeting a magical woman at a tiki lounge and falling in love.”
But don’t get too caught up on the “lime in the coconut” aspect of the EP; it’s merely a ground effect. For Hollowell, the true patron saint of paradise wasn’t really Jimmy Buffett; it was his old man James Hollowell, who died suddenly in 2017 from a suspected heart attack.
“There’s a line in one of our songs, ‘Beach Somewhere,’" Holloway says. "It’s a take on a quote my dad made on Facebook when I called him out on being a Parrot Head [Jimmy Buffet fan]. He said, ‘I like big water and living life as it should be.'”
The Patron Saints of Paradise Vibes EP is dedicated to preserving his father’s memory. While the heartstring-tugging song “Beach Somewhere” was specifically written for Hollowell’s dad, it’s actually Dead Word’s cover of the party song “Margaritaville” that the band keeps closest to heart.
“We practice in the barn behind my parents' house," Hollowell says. "Often my dad would be working in the backyard listening, and we started playing ‘Margaritaville’ for him just for fun.”
After he died, the band started performing the song live as a tribute. It became such a regular part of their set that “Margaritaville” set the pace for the entire album.
The record isn’t just a reflection on loss. These days, Hollowell has two kids of his own. That’s where the second cover on the record, “Pearly Shells,” comes from.
“I was running out of ideas for what the song needed ... What better way to [fix it] than by collaborating with all your music buddies from all across the country and Canada?" - Dead Words lead guitarist Blake Gunter
“I used to watch Beach Party at Disney World Sing Along Songs as a kid and 'Pearly Shells' has always kind of stuck with me,” he says. “When my daughter Kyber was born, for whatever reason it was the song I sang to her when I was putting her to sleep.”
As the band wrapped up work on the EP, lead guitarist Blake Gunter decided it could use a final polishing touch.
Gunter was also in charge of engineering and mastering the record, and during post-production he sent the song to the bands on the would-be lineup for Dead Words’ 10-year anniversary party, asking them to add their own touches to the single.
“I was running out of ideas for what the song needed,” Gunter says. “What better way to [fix it] than by collaborating with all your music buddies from all across the country and Canada? It was all about being 100% satisfied with the song as opposed to tweaking the mixes ... When it was just us, it felt a little stale. I wanted to listen to it and say, ‘Oh, now that's fun.’”
Those collaborators are BraceFace from Baltimore, Frankie Moon from Maine, Guilhem Benard of Lost Love and Pouzza Fest fame, from Montreal, and East Bay's Sarchasm.
Hollowell was thrilled with the final product.
“I just thought they were going to throw some harmony or gang vocals or whatever but what we got back was so much more," he says. "They took it up to a totally different level that we are all really excited about.”