Denali hails from Richmond, VA, and began in the spring of 2000 when singer/guitarist/pianist Maura Davis asked her brother Keeley Davis (Engine Down) to help her arrange some song ideas she had been toiling over. Keeley liked them and asked his bandmate in Engine Down, Jonathan Fuller to come on as the group’s drummer along with guitarist Cam Dinunzio. The four of them conceptualized and fleshed out Maura’s ideas into unique songs that balanced between electronic dirges and indie rock masterpieces.
Maura, a classically trained vocalist. was killing some time in-between returning to college when she first started writing the bulk of what would become Denali’s first self-titled release (Jade Tree Records). The success of the band and uniqueness of their sound snowballed into being more than just a side project for the two Engine Down members, and in September 2003 both Jonathan and Keeley left Denali to focus on Engine Down. Without breaking their stride, Maura and Cam got two very talented musicians to take their places—Stephen Howard (bassist/keyboardist) of Pinebender and Ryan Rapsys (drummer) of the band Euphone.
Maura got her start in music at an early age, learning piano and voice and eventually getting inspired by her high school voice teacher who, “changed my life and made me do things I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Last fall, Denali was asked to go on a national tour with art metal rockers the Deftones. Maura says the experience was, “really cool but intimidating at first. You never know what to expect from the crowds so we’d just go out and play the best we could. They were respectful most of the time and only threw things at two shows (laughs).” She adds, “It was a great experience though and the guys from the Deftones were great.”
Maura uses the techniques she learned in voice training to transform her words into tenable, malleable sonic textures that only some in music have been able to accomplish (i.e., Beth Gibbons, Polly Jean Harvey and Björk). Her talents as a songwriter and poetess are succinctly accentuated by the band, and she says she’s even used a few classical voice ‘tricks’ in some of their songs.
Maura finds inspiration in many things but especially in movies. She is also greatly influenced by Björk, Portishead and Ella Fitzgerald. Taking aspects of other’s music and making it her own, Maura and Denali have managed to create something refreshing and new, and the fact that she is the front woman of an all-male band doesn’t bother her in the slightest. In fact, she prefers it.
Denali will be on tour with Cursive and Planes Mistaken for Stars on this year’s Plea For Peace Tour.