The music of Dead Bars, a five-piece group out of Seattle, is difficult to qualify. The guitar melodies sound deceptively like pop rock and are complemented with an overstated drum beat. The vocals cut through the texture like a butter knife struggling to open a can of Hormel Chili. There seems to be nothing about the combination that suggests it would work, but—defying all sense of reason—it comes together in a way that feels so quintessentially punk.
“At the core, our songs have a good pop song structure with a lot of loud bashing and screaming,” said John Maiello, the lead singer. “Then, by the third chorus you’ll be able to sing along with us.”
Along with Maiello, the lineup consists of Jon Oddo on bass guitar, “Blom” on guitar, and C.J. Frederick on drums and guitar. The group is hunting for a full-time drummer.
In terms of the subject matter, Dead Bars often foregoes the screw-the-establishment type of lyrical content in favor of one that emphasizes storytelling. The technique offers snapshots of the littlest moments of life, fully bringing the listener into the scene. Each song feels a little raw and unpolished, but that’s what gives the band its charm.
“I remember what bands like The Ramones did,” said Maiello. “They just fucking did it instead of getting caught up crafting the perfect songs.”
In March, Dead Bars released their new LP Dream Gig through No Idea Records. Like so much of their music, each song on the album paints a little vignette for the audience to step into and live in for a few minutes. One song in particular, called “Always Bet on Clark,” loosely tells of a night of drunken mayhem that ensued a few years ago, during Dead Bars’ first excursion in the Reno area. It’s dedicated to Clark Demeritt of local fame, who led them on their journey.
Fresh off a show in California (and a nasty bout of norovirus they came down with after the aforementioned show), Dead Bars arrived in the Biggest Little city to play at the Holland Project. Having been energized by the show, half of the band felt a renewed sense of health, which merited some late-night gallivanting to celebrate. So, following the trusty lead of Demeritt, they went out to sow the seeds of debauchery on Reno’s nightlife.
The night began at Shea’s Tavern and moved to the casinos, where Dead Bars and company found themselves alone to enjoy the cigarette smoke-filled ambience. Soon Maiello found himself at the roulette table in a dangerous state of affairs—wasted, money in hand, and pressured by threats of being kicked out by the bartender. So, like any reasonable drunk, he put all the money he could on black with reckless abandon and walked out $150 richer.
In no time, morning came. And in a moment so essentially Reno-esque, Maiello went to a convenience store and looked around through his hangover at children buying candy in one area, prostitutes hovering in another, and finally down at the wad of money in his hand that he had drunkenly won the previous night at roulette.
It’s times like these that make for Dead Bars’ best music.
“What we are at our core is a bar band just trying to make it,” said Maiello. “We are influenced by the shit that happens to us at night, and we write about it, because we always have one foot in rock ’n’ roll and one foot in reality.”
Currently, Dead Bars is planning for a show in Reno this summer.