888 Drops the Screaming and Revisits the 1980s

Those who remember the Denver screamo band Drop Dead, Gorgeous, which ceased to exist in 2011, might struggle to reconcile the intense punk noise that band created with the delicate synth-driven music that a few of the bandmembers make with their new project, 888.

Sort of. Because if you explore 888's song structure a little more closely and scratch below the surface, there are definite similarities.

Take a DDG song like “Two Birds One Stone” and put it next to 888’s “Critical Mistakes.” Both feature verses that build gently, teasing the crashing climax of the chorus that follows. The differences are in the details: While the DDG chorus blasts in with heavy riffing and roaring vocals, the 888 tune, while equally intense, works with heavy electronica and emotive singing. Similar song structure, different tools.

That’s not a dig. It’s only natural that the songwriting from these musicians will be similar, regardless of the style employed. But it is interesting. Drop Dead, Gorgeous came from the screamo/metal-core school of punk rock, performing on the Vans Warped Tour and playing out with bands like Aiden and The Devil Wears Prada. 888, meanwhile, is heavily influenced by 1980s electro-pop bands like Depeche Mode and the Human League, as well as the tortured songwriting of the Cure and even Nirvana.

“888 formed about two years ago,” says frontman Danny Stillman. “With this particular band, we all wanted to start an electro-influenced alternative-rock band. It’s different from anything that we’ve ever done before. It took a lot of experimenting with the songwriting and structures and everything. Eventually we came up with a sound that we’re really proud of.”

The band’s name comes from a type of tape used in vintage recording machines in the 1960s, and while the general vibe of nostalgia seems appropriate, that oldie feel is actually in stark contrast to 888's polished electronica-driven music, which can be heard on the Decades and Critical Mistakes EPs.

“We just put out the Critical Mistakes EP, which is four songs from Decades and an extra new one called 'Gold,'” Stillman says. “The songs are all very different, going all over the place. We also have a lot of room to grow, like any band or artist. We’re excited to put out new music, to show our fans what we’re also capable of as far as evolving [goes].”

On Friday, August 26, 888 plays the RiNo Fest, a brand-new event taking place in Denver’s River North neighborhood. Also on the bill are, among others, the Silversun Pickups and St. Lucia. Stillman is excited.

“We have a couple of cool plans for the set, but we can’t divulge that right now,” he says. “RiNo Fest asked our manager, who has a good relationship with the promoter, if we would play this show. We were on board right away. St. Lucia are really awesome. A Silent Film are really great, and Bishop Briggs got added as well. That will be really good.”

Stillman says that you can expect a lot of energy from the 888 set at RiNo.

“We have electro influences, but we also have live rock drums, so it just slams you in the face, and we try to display how emotional our songs are, both lyrically and musically,” Stillman says.

The fact that an ’80s-influenced band like 888 is creating an audible buzz in Denver highlights just how eclectic the local scene has become. While EDM and jam bands are still very popular locally, there is plenty of room for other styles to blossom and thrive.

“It’s always been great, but it’s starting to get more eclectic,” Stillman says. “I feel like there are a lot of people moving from different states here, so there’s a lot of stuff going on; it’s not stuck in one specific genre. To me, there’s not a specific thing that makes us sound like we’re from Denver. Pretty much any genre is here, and that's why it's great.”

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

888 plays the RiNo Fest with Silversun Pickups, St. Lucia, Bishop Briggs and A Silent Film at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 26, 3715 Chestnut Place, $30-$35.
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