Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dead Man's Bones


When Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields met in Toronto in 2005 they wanted to hate each other. The two were dating sisters and resented the forced time they were expected to spend with one another, until a conversation stumbled upon their mutual obsession with the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. Zach was so preoccupied with ghosts as a kid that he was put into therapy, and Ryan parents moved out of his childhood home because they believed it was haunted. Neither of them had really outgrown their fascination with ghosts, monsters, graveyards, zombies or anything deathly. Once they realized their shared affinity for the eerie, they started trying to write a theatrical monster ghost love story for the stage. They decided that this story should have music so they began learning how to play various instruments. By the time they had written their first few songs they realized how difficult it would be and how much money it would cost to create the show. They decided to continue with the music and put the play aside. Some of their sounds reflected the music they listened to--a little bit of doo-wop and artists such as The Shangri-Las,The Shags, The Cure, Company Flow, Sam Cooke, The Misfits, James Brown, Bobby Vinton, Joy Division, The Andrew Sisters and Daniel Johnston, to name a few.

Zach and Ryan were also individually inspired by two musical programs of the past. Ghetto Reality is a 60’s musical masterpiece conceptualized by Nancy Dupree (an inner-city school music teacher in Zach’s hometown of Rochester, New York). She made a name for herself and her students when she stepped away from a traditional curriculum to let her students make their own music about things that were relevant to them and their world. In Canada, where Ryan was raised, Hans Fenger brought together 60 untrained children in 1976 and created The Langley Schools Music Project, Innocence and Despair, that featured flawed young voices singing the tunes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and songs by many other famous artists. It was decided early on that their newly formed band, Dead Man’s Bones, wanted to work kids into what was shaping up to be their first album, Monster Music. There was something about the earnest recordings of those kids that hit a nerve with Zach and Ryan that seemed to resonate with their own musical evolution.

They gave themselves rules for the recording process (akin to Dogma 95) to make sure that their mistakes were captured and integrated into the music making process. Examples of rules ranged from trying not to do more than three takes no matter how bad the outcome, not using any steel string or electric guitars, no click tracks, playing all the instruments themselves even if they had never touched them before, etc. Of course, rules fracture here and there but the intent was to keep focus on not trying to appear more sophisticated than they were or trying to hide where they might be amateur and instead finding a way to feature their faults by framing them with their strengths.

Also incorporated into the project was foley such as tin foil for rain, creaking doors, paper ripping for thunder, foot steps, screaming, crying, waves, werewolf howling, boat noises, crickets, etc.
Two years later Dead Man’s Bones finished their record with the L.A.’s Silverlake Conservatory Childrens Choir, produced by Tim Anderson (of Imarobot). Tim was fated to job from the moment Ryan heard him slip Disney’s Haunted Mansion record into a mix while spinning at a party. He became the producer of the group and of Werewolf Heart Records, the label that the trio formed to stay true to the idea of doing everything themselves. Dead Man’s Bones first full length debut comes out October 6th after signing to Anti Records this summer.-amazon

you’re gonna lose your soul,
tonight, tonight.
you’re gonna lose control, tonight.-dead man's bones

Not long ago I was in the car with a friend and she put on their In The Room Where You Sleep and I was instantly in love! Their music made me smile, and it just made the night better. Imagining Ryan and his friends with all this creativity..and sharing it!-ellie's desk

Burn the street,
Burn the cars,
pa pa power pa pa power.
Please make me better.
Broken glass,
Broken hearts,
pa pa power pa pa power.

Broken glass,
Broken hearts,
pa pa power pa pa power.
Please make me better
We won’t destroy you, no we will not destroy you.

—  Dead Man’s Bones - Pa pa power 

Before I heard this band, I never thought it was possible for songs about ghosts and monsters to be cool and innovative, not corny or campy. Dead Man’s Bones proved me wrong. The lyrics are not especially deep, but they do their job. They feel creepy, especially with the Accompaniment of the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir. From the crunching stomp back beat to the eerie organ riffs it feels like a spooky movie from your childhood, but like you watch those movies as a child, they don’t feel campy. they feel real even though there is no logic to support it. This whole album induces that childlike naivety that allows the listener the unique opportunity feel the spookiness without the cheesiness that normally can only be experienced by a child. What is even crazier is that this is not created and sung by some weirdo creepy guy, but Ryan Gosling: a Genuine Grade A Hollywood Hunk (or so I’m told…)!-MUSIC I LIKE



Cafe Fashionista said...

This is such an awesome history about their start! :)

Library Drama said...

I love their music!

Anonymous said...

So talented!