As a member of Dualistics, Science Partner and more recently the Gin Doctors, singer, guitarist and songwriter Tyler Despres was a fixture in the Denver music community for more than a decade. He died on Tuesday, November 1 the age of 34, of an aortic aneurysm.
Over the past few months, Despres, drummer Carl Sorenson and Rossonian’s Seth Evans had been working on new material for what would have been a new album by Science Partner, a project Despres started in 2009 as an outlet for his solo material outside of his work with the rock act Dualistics.
Evans, who most recently collaborated with Despres last Friday, October 28, says they’d been hashing out rough demos with the goal of getting rhythm tracks down and then bringing in Luke Mossman when he had a break from touring with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and then record singers Jessica DeNicola and Maria Kohler, who started collaborating with Despres not long after he formed Science Partner with Sorenson and Dualistics frontman Charley Hine.
Sorenson says that while he originally started working with Despres on the new batch of Science Partner material over a year ago, they didn’t really start recording the more than a dozen songs until last summer.
Evans says the new songs were “all the best of what you would expect to come from Tyler, but new.”
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“His music was an extension of his personality,” Evans says. “He was always funny. But at times quirky and whimsical and lighthearted. But there’s a couple of songs – the lyrics and the melody — to me [that] are devastating, like a song called ‘Baby Song.’ He talks about a girl he was presumably in love with and how she found he was having a baby and maybe they had broken up a long time ago or something. One line that like, ‘Your beautiful baby has a beautiful mom and that’s alright' or something. It’s just super heartbreaking but at the same time it’s not ‘woe is me’ heartbreaking.”
Evans said Despres could be funny on and off the stage. Evans recalls how they would be rehearsing for a gig or getting ready to record a take and Despres would just erupt into the opening guitar line of the Rembrandts' “I’ll be There for You,” the theme song from the TV show, Friends. “I laughed every damn time,” Evans says.
Sorenson says that every time Despres would check the microphone while in the studio recording the new material, “he’d have this hilarious spiel of pretending to be a sports announcer that would just get me and Seth cracking up every time. It just was to be expected, those kind of shenanigans.”
Sorenson adds that there would always be a playfulness in Despres’s guitar playing, such as when writing some songs he would purposely play the intro of the song three times as fast and but try to hit every note, and he’d actually pull it off.
“Also,” Sorenson says, “he had this thing where he’d take minor riffs and then just augment the third and then make it major. Always play the riff to ‘Schism” by Tool but in a major tonality. That song and a handful of others he would do that do. He’d get us all cracking up in the room together when he played that stuff.
“It was so funny. He was such a jokester on and off his instrument. But even though he was such a jokester, he took his craft really seriously. And I think you could tell that…he was very meticulous in how he wanted something to sound. You’d hear him play the same riff over and over and over just to get the right little nuance he was looking for in the right moment.”
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Evans says that everything from the melodies and the progressions to the guitar riffs Despres came up with were reminiscent of the ‘90s alternative rock that he came out of and loved. Despres also showed his love for '90s rock with the Gin Doctors, the cover band he formed with Tyler Briskie four years ago.
Aside from being part of three bands, Despres used to host popular open-mike nights at the Meadowlark with Kohler around the same time he was forming Science Partner in 2009.
“In terms of Denver and the music community we really lost somebody who was such a gem,” Sorenson says. “And he believed in this music community so much. He’d been a part of it for so many years. He was just so passionate about it and so supportive of other musicians trying to do it also. I know a lot of people that looked up to him a lot. I feel like we lost somebody very, very special.”