Dovekins Sails Again

Dovekins reunites in Denver on Saturday, January 4.
Dovekins reunites in Denver on Saturday, January 4. Dorota Szuta
The energetic Front Range-based band Dovekins was born in 2009, when singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Griff Snyder and Stelth Ulvang had the madcap idea to sail from Hawaii to Seattle. Hitchhiking back to Colorado after their failed attempt, they wrote songs and played them at open mics along the way. Back in Denver, they cemented the lineup — which included five members, all rooted in the city's folk-punk scene.

"The formation of Dovekins was like an undeniable force of nature, like strong streams of water flowing together," says Dovekins veteran Laura Goldhamer, an acclaimed Denver musician and filmmaker. "For a good while, our creative forces ran and stayed together. We were like a playful litter of puppies together, which is beautiful, but at certain points, people's individual boundaries can get over-stretched, and each pup feels the need to reassert independent creative courses to flow where each wants and needs."

Dovekins played equal parts gritty mountain-town folk and ambitious wide-eyed indie rock; the group released one studio album (Assemble the Aviary, in 2010) and toured relentlessly before disbanding with a final show in Austin in October 2011. Although its members have played a few reunion sets since then, including at the 2018 Treefort festival in Boise, they haven't performed together again in Colorado — until now.

Back in September, Goldhamer discussed a possible reunion while the members of Dovekins were in town for the holidays; soon after, the group received a nostalgic email from Snyder with an old rehearsal recording attached. Goldhamer asked Mercury Cafe owner Marilyn Megenity “if our most memorable traditional Dovekins show date — the first Saturday after New Year’s — might be available.” It was, and Goldhamer's former bandmates were all in.

“Now that it's happening, and even though I was the one who wrangled the group to book the show, I’m actually fairly anxious,” Goldhamer explains. "At Treefort, the music felt easy and instinctual to me, albeit pretty emotionally charged."

Not only is Dovekins playing the Mercury show, but the group has dropped three recently unearthed tracks online.

Snyder, who went on to found Inner Oceans and now lives in Los Angeles, told Westword that he’s excited for the reunion show and “new” Dovekins tracks, and has been thinking about the past — a lot.

Westword: Why would you say this reunion is happening, and how do you feel about it?

Griff Snyder: The moment we started playing [at Treefort in 2018], the first song, we sparked all those feelings again. It’s crazy how you can leave something for so many years, and you start playing those old songs, and it just brings back all the feelings again. We all kind of teared up a little bit, and it was crazy. We all just remembered the songs, too. It was like muscle memory.

For me, what happened since then is that I’ve been digging through a bunch of old recordings, and I just wanted those songs to be alive still. We actually had three songs that we recorded in-studio that we put a lot of time and energy into and never released. Back in October, I sent an email of an old rehearsal, and that kind of sparked a dialogue. Stelth lives out here in California now, too, so we started talking about it. We were just like, “Dude, we just have to do it; let’s put these songs out and have a reunion.”

Why the Mercury Cafe?

It’s the ten-year anniversary of the first big show we played at the Mercury. We’ve all gone on and done such different things, like Stelth in the Lumineers and [drummer] Max [Barcelow] with Gregory [Isakov]. Stelth is calling it “the first last show” or something [laughs]. I definitely think it could be fun to continue playing shows with Dovekins. It’s interesting, because Stelth and I have spent a lot of time talking about the Denver music scene and how we all came from this very strong center, this group of songwriters, and so much has come out of that. We’ve all had that core, even though we’ve all gone on and done different things — and I think as you get older, you realize how much you’ve gotta still stay in your core. That’s what this show is about, for me, at least. I can only speak for myself. I feel like I’ve pretty much spent my time since Dovekins looking for new sounds, but at the end of the day, you still want to come back to that kind of home.

Why did the band break up?

I think, for me, honestly we did two years in a row of Tour de Fat, and that was actually really hard for us. At first it was all about doing what we wanted, however we wanted to do it, and then when we did this big beer festival, we kinda had to become entertainers. In some ways, we really thrived in it, but I think that’s where we saw our differences. I wanted to make stuff that didn’t necessarily fit, like, a drunk bar crowd. I guess I wasn’t really interested in making party music solely to entertain, and I think I put a strain on all of us. To be honest, I think we’re all just so opinionated. It's like Broken Social Scene, because we all could just do our own thing and all be in sync, but I personally wanted to go pursue other sounds. At first it was very reactionary, but the last three years I’ve just been like, “Holy fuck — that was really magic what we did together.” Just from the songwriting standpoint, everywhere that I’ve gone, I’ve realized that Denver has this songwriting quality that transcends genre.

click to enlarge Denver indie band Dovekins in its heyday. - ALLISON FARIS
Denver indie band Dovekins in its heyday.
Allison Faris
The term “Long Spoon” was always attached to Dovekins. What does it mean to you now?

I think that was like the core ideal of that group. I think that was the banner we were building a scene out of. I believe it was Laura's idea, but I could be wrong. It’s based off of, I think, an old story of heaven and hell. There are two old tables, and everyone has long spoons, and the difference between heaven and hell is that in hell people are trying to feed themselves with the long spoons and they can’t get the food in their mouths, but in heaven they’re feeding each other with the long spoons. I guess we just had this very communal ethos, you know? We were all living, like, twelve people in a house. It was a very hippie-commune, folk-punk ethos, and there was a lot of magic in that. [Long Spoon] was also a label that was never really a label; there was one compilation released.

That’s a poignant thing to remember, and I guess it’s interesting to think if we continued with that or not...because I feel like we all really went toward this individualistic way, for better or for worse. Everyone kind of pursued their own things, but there was something really wild about that, and I feel, definitely, at the ripe age of 33, I can see in hindsight how special that was.

The more you go out in the world and start to hustle and build your own career, the more you see how rare it is to find a group like that. To me, these songs are a little cheesy, and for a long time, I couldn’t really play them. I kind of cringed at the songs a little, but now they embody this really pure, raw idealism. It was before I became aware of the greater music world, too, and it was just a really fun band. Those shows were epic — Max in his underwear hanging off the rafters and Stelth crowdsurfing with an accordion. We’ll see if that still happens.

Dovekins play with River Arkansas and Shenandoah Davis, at 7 p.m. Saturday, January 4, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Tickets are $12.
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Pittsburgh native Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer and University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University alum. He lives in Boulder and has written for Westword since 2008.
Contact: Adam Perry