LA trio The Dead Ships have only been kicking out their sugar-coated garage jams (see: latter-era Von Bondies) for about three years now, but they already seem like they’re going to be kinda huge. Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene recently produced a bunch of tracks for them and they’re even going to be appearing at Coachella this year, alongside Slash, Duff, and Axl… However, at the moment The Dead Ships are on the road with the brutally beautiful Le Butcherettes and both bands will be making an appearance at Underground Arts this Friday, March 11th. I recently got a chance to chat with guitarist/vocalist Devlin McCluskey about the band’s history and what they’re most excited about in 2016.
Izzy: So I realize this is a bit general, but considering that you’ve been around for about three years now, I’m curious what have been some of the highlights of the band.
Devlin: Every little thing that breaks our way feels encouraging. Coachella is massive, so is SXSW, and getting to tour with bands like Two Gallants and Butcherettes are big shots in the arm. But getting to record with Brendan from Broken Social Scene was so mind blowing, we all were excited and nervous just to meet him. Having him produce a dozen songs for us is like a fat guy getting to cook with Guy Fieri.
Izzy: Is there anything that you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about the band, whether relating to your process of writing and recording or just your aim as artists?
Devlin: Everyone likes to say they care about lyrics but there are many, many, many songs out there and a million ways to listen to them. Most people don’t really have time to pay attention to lyrics. The last few years I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff, namely losing my best friend. Writing and playing music is the best way I’ve found to process it all. We just keep our heads down and keep working on becoming a better band.
Izzy: I understand that a full-length is set to drop later this year. What can be expected of your upcoming sounds? What would you currently consider to be your most significant influences?
Devlin: I think we’re developing the sound that’s always been there. Our tendency is to speed up and go harder but now we’re getting into a bit more of a groove and trying to find that energy in other ways. The big hope is that our record will better reflect our live shows.
Izzy: How has working with Brendan Canning been? Do you feel like he’s brought anything new to your sound or dynamic of creating music?
Devlin: Brendan is a truly calming presence and someone we all looked up to and fully trusted. He helped us figure out which tracks to focus on, and helped each of us develop our parts. At the end of the day he’s a phenomenal guitar player and we were lucky enough to have him play on a lot of the songs.
Izzy: I really like your music videos that I’ve seen, especially your video for “Canyon.” What is it that inspires the visual elements of The Dead Ships? Are there any filmmakers or visual artists that you find to be particularly inspiring, or just cool?
Devlin: I think everyone in the band wanted to work in film when they were younger. There’s an endless supply of inspiration: all the regulars like Scorsese, PT Anderson, Lynch, Tarantino, Cohen brothers, and older stuff, like Jean-Pierre Melville, the Maysles, Carole Reed. Recently I’ve been watching Marco Ferreri’s films and trying to watch every filmed work of Shakespeare. But last night nothing made us happier than watching City Slickers II: the Legend of Curly’s Gold. About once a week I think about that scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen is on the couch reading into a tape recorder and saying you have to focus on the things in life that make life worth living – like Willie Mays and Louis Armstrong- that scene has snapped me out of more funks than I should admit.
Izzy: Can we expect more videos in the near future?
Devlin: Yes, definitely. We’re currently working with this amazing Brazilian film duo that are going around the world and doing 80 videos/80 countries. I directed our last two videos and I’d love to do some more, but we also have limited time and tons of talented friends like Doctor Dreyer and Jacob Mendel, who made the “Canyon” video with us.
Izzy: You’re on the road with Le Butcherettes, who are some of my favorite people in music. How excited are you for that? Were you previously fans of the band?
Devlin: I’ve listened to their last album and thought they were great but holy hell Teri is one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. We’ve done two shows so far and she legitimately conjures a bunch of spirits for an hour straight without water and then when her eyes roll back into place she’s somehow one of the nicest people I’ve ever met- they all are. I’m so excited for this tour.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience of The Dead Ships this time around?
Devlin: Fur coats and sore throats.
Izzy: Finally, I know you’re going to be playing some really huge bills in the near future, like Noise Pop and Coachella. Are there any gigs you’re especially ecstatic about playing or any artists that you’re especially excited to get to share a stage with, or even just see?
Devlin: Le Butcherettes and Eureka the Butcher have us all ecstatic for this tour. Coachella feels so far away that I think it’s easier for the time being to not look it straight in the eye. The lineup is insane though. More than anything I’m excited that my brother is coming out for Coachella and that he gets to see GNR.