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Ultimately, my goal is to sound like Catherine Wheel playing Johnny Cash songs," says New Ben Franklins frontman David DeVoe, "which is impossible to do, but it's a great goal to have. Trying to figure out how to get there is a completely different story."
Indeed. So far, it's been a seventeen-year journey for DeVoe, who, inspired by Joy Division and Sisters of Mercy, formed the New Ben Franklins in the early '90s as a trio with a drum machine. Since then, DeVoe says he's been working on this whole concept of taking a noisy and shoegaze-y approach to country. We spoke with him about the band's new five-song EP, which is a bit more steeped in country than shoegaze.
Westword: Can you sum up what the EP is all about?
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David DeVoe: The thought process behind it when we started was, we obviously had people who wanted to take music home from the shows. I wanted to really come in and have kind of a big sampling of the stuff that we're capable of. And that's why we've got the gothic country of "Horse." There's the acoustic-y bluegrass of "Best Friend." There's the old country of the Waylon Jennings song "Amanda." There's more of the noisy pop of "Maine."
You guys were doing Sisters of Mercy- and Joy Division-inspired stuff when you first started out. How did you end up doing alt-country?
I grew up ranching, and so I grew up around country. The very first album that I bought was a four-record Glen Campbell live record. I grew up around Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings; that was the stuff that I really cut my teeth on. When I got a little bit older, I got turned on to the darker side of the whole thing with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Joy Division, the Cure, more of the post-punk new-wave stuff.
When the band first formed in '92, we were still really pushing for that. The fact that we had a drum machine and a vocalist who had a really deep voice kind of drew me to that. As you get older, you kind of rediscover — or discover for the first time — that country music is really visceral. I hadn't listened to much country aside from the occasional Johnny Cash tune. About the time when music was kind of headed toward the grunge thing, I got back into roots and Americana stuff, especially with the whole revival with Uncle Tupelo.
It was like this whole scene was burgeoning. I think that some of that works its way in, because it's part of me. I would love to tell people we're an alt-country band, but a lot of times I just have a really hard time saying that. I don't necessarily think we are. I think we're a really noisy rock band that has some roots in country.