Catherine Wheel playing Johnny Cash songs? That's what David DeVoe's shooting for with the New Ben Franklins
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?
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.
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