Last month I had the chance to meet up with the Dead Winter Carpenters at a local Montana Brewery for a casual chat on the synchronicity of forming a band, enduring growing pains, and what’s next for this quintet that is on perpetual tour. The Dead Winter Carpenters went on to play a revealing and intimate show at VFW in Missoula, MT during which they shared some of their classic songs, covered the Grateful Dead, Neil Young and Phish, and debuted some songs off their upcoming release, Ain’t It Strange. DWC will celebrate the release with performances in San Francisco at Slim’s on May 18 and then in Tahoe at the Crystal Bay Club on May 25. The group consists of Jenni Charles (fiddle/vocals), Jesse Dunn (guitar/vocals), Sean Duerr (guitar/vocals), Dave Lockhart (upright bass) and Ryan Davis (drums) all of whom participated in the conversation.
First off, how did you all meet?
Jenni Charles: Well it was serendipitous for sure, Ryan, Jesse and I met at a festy in Northern California, and then three weeks later we had another run in at a gig together at the Free Concert Series at Commons Beach in Tahoe City. So we had my band Truckee Tribe and their band Montana Slims and we played together and it was great. Then it was about 6 months later that we all decided to create a band. Really it worked because the bands that we were in before the DWC had different goals, and we found that the five of us all had the same vision.
Where are your roots, where did you learn to play music?
Jenni Charles: I’ve been playing the violin since I was five, it was something my parents got me into and then as I got older and started to listen to different bands I focused on what I wanted to play, and sing. I love ragtime and bluegrass. The type of music you get down to.
Jesse Dunn: I’ve been playing music since before I was a teenager, trumpet first, as I got older I found the guitar, I think when I was 15, and listening to a lot more diverse music. So I took a few classes while I was in high school. Then I just surrounded myself with music and have ever since been learning from not only my favorite musicians but my bandmates as well.
Ryan Davis: I tried to play piano when I was a kid and basically I was told I sucked so I picked up the drums.
Jesse Dunn: Good story! [Everyone claps and laughs]
Dave Lockhart: I started off with the guitar, with my family completely into playing music. After a while I moved to playing bass. Learning upright bass was just part of my evolution. I was classically trained from the beginning. First with the guitar and then bass so I have a very different approach to my playing, I wasn’t self taught as much as I was taught.
Sean Duerr: I started off playing horns and then moved onto guitar, listening to Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, these were the songs I learned and loved and this was my motivation to become as good as I could on the electric guitar. Then I got into listening playing other music and writing my own.
As a band which do you prefer, headlining your own shows or playing festivals?
Ryan Davis: Festivals? They’re more fun, and the energy too. With all of these bands. And instead of booking the gigs, doing the promo etc, festivals are easier in that sense.
Sean Duerr: Festivals, for the simple reason that you get to get out with the crowd and be a fan, and also play with some of the greatest musicians on the scene today. High Sierra was amazing for us.
Jenni Charles: Yes, High Sierra is a major high point, it gave us the ability to pace ourselves, play music on stage or in the crowd. We love to perform, and no matter what if there is a crowd, we will play.
Jesse Dunn: On that note, we will still play even if there isn’t a crowd, we just enjoy playing, with each other and with our fans, and a festival gives us the opportunity to play to new fans that might not have come to see us, probably didn’t come to see us, but we can turn them on to our sound and our music. We have some more festivals coming up this year, Four Peaks in Bend, Oregon, a few random festivals around the West, and The Northwest String Summit.
Jenni Charles: Those are the festivals we can tell you about, there are some others ones too that haven’t announced their lineups yet.