A lot has happened for The Dead Ships in the short time that they’ve been together.
Within a couple of months after singer/guitarist Devin McCluskey and drummer Chris Spindelilus started jamming in the latter’s apartment, the soulful garage rock duo were playing sold out shows at The Echo in their native Los Angeles (opening for King Khan) and at San Francisco’s Bottom Of The Hill.
They quickly became the most talked-about live show in L.A., picking up airplay on radio giant KROQ where their song “Big Quiet” spent five weeks in the number one slot on the station’s star-making Locals Only show. And just recently, the Ships were hand-picked by Goldenvoice to perform at Coachella 2016, where they won over the crowd with their punchy hooks and wiry on-stage energy.
Now, it’s time for the world to really get to know The Dead Ships as they look forward to the release of their debut full-length album CITYCIDE. Produced by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning (he also adds some sweet, sweet guitar playing throughout the LP), the now-trio with Alex Moore on bass put together a fiery collection of songs that showcase McCluskey’s engaging yowl and an unrelenting drive that refuses to let up on the gas pedal until the last notes of album closer “Tomorrow’s Crashes” fade away.
For all its dynamism and momentum, once you start digging into CITYCIDE, you’ll start to taste the bittersweet tang of McCluskey’s vision for this album. For example, the title of this LP began as a reference to the sad fact that when people choose the Golden Gate Bridge as the location to take their own lives, they do so facing the city that they’re leaving behind. “It seemed like a sort of statement,” McCluskey says. “One last rebellion.”
As he started writing a song inspired by that, it evolved into a full suite of songs about the alienation that folks living in big cities like Los Angeles or McCluskey’s former hometown of Chicago can feel, even as they’re surrounded by thousands of other people. On CITYCIDE that takes many forms like his frustration with people that give up on their dreams to make a buck (“Company Line”) or the feeling that the walls of your home are more oppressive than welcoming (“Floorboards”).
There’s an added shade of sadness to CITYCIDE too, as many of the songs poured out of McCluskey in the wake of his best friend’s suicide. Using his art to process his grief and confusion at losing the closest person in his life helped pour some added depth of feeling into the songs. You can get by just rocking out to them, but once you let them sink in deeper, they’ll quickly become a part of you too.
And if the music - a raw power mix of finely tuned dynamics with the unadorned grind of vintage Nuggets-style psych rock - isn’t enough to let you know that this isn’t a sorrowful album but rather a celebration of McCluskey’s friend’s life and the simple act of carrying on even in our toughest times, just spend some time with “First Mistakes.” Through the thick cloud of jangly power-pop chords, the message of the chorus bursts out brightly: “It was good to be alive!”
The next step for The Dead Ships is to bring this feeling to as many willing bodies as they can. The band is coming off a sold-out tour of the U.S. opening for Les Butcherettes and stopping by SXSW before their triumph at Coachella. For the immediate future, that means more touring on the way, hopefully taking them further and farther out than ever before.