Denali: Maura Davis

DenaliDenali 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.

Hot Water Music Reunion: Now I See (About SXSW)

I got inspired after reading about a reunion on Dirtbags blog. It brought me to this:

I was drunk at South by South West. Most everyone is. It is Vegas for music geeks. My best friend Alan flew in to Houston and drove the truck up from his Mom’s house and we ate and drank on the company till until we got sick of the taste of beer and cigarettes and Against Me! in ten different locations. Alas, one cool thing was hanging with the Mutiny PR Honcho, Vanessa Burt at the No Idea soiree. I had a badge, Alan didn’t, Vanessa helped facilitate his entrance and we drank Lonestar late into a scorching drunk set by The Draft. Right after Chuck Ragan. I deliberated with Andrew and Warren and James of AM!, convinced they’d do at least one HWM song. James was right. They didn’t. We were bummed. Drunk and bummed. Almost as bummed as the some of the post No Idea releases by HWM (with the exception of Neverender and A Flight And A Crash). But then, a cloud lifted today when I was listening to Live at the Hardback. An interview I found on Late Night Wallflower has The Draft bassist and former HWM bassist Jasonn Black explaining:

There were a lot of rumors at this year’s SXSW that Hot Water Music was doing a reunion show, but that it was shut down by the police because of venue issues. Was this actually the case? Nope. People wanted it, but it just didn’t seem right. First off, we hadn’t practiced, so there was no way. If we play again, it can’t be half-assed, and the first show sure as shit won’t be in Texas.”

Thats a big fat FUCK YES! After HWM previous ‘breakup’ they released No Division (Produced by Walter Schreifels) and it was a rare return to form. HOpefully this time we’ll see the same creative burst for an album or two, like A Flight And a Crash. So now we’ve heard it from Alt Press, Punk News, that means it’ll happen. Fingers crossed. Simplicity boys, simplicity serves us all.

Anti-Matter Anthology:

So anybody familiar with how amazing underground music was in the early nineties will tell you that the anti-matter comps werethe best way to get familiar with the newest and best in post hardcore. The music on these records set the stage for what would later become the emo scene of the late 90’s. There was the big buy up the major labels attempted to get some relevance by signing bands like Samiam, Orange 9mm, and Quicksand but of course that shit failed as an experiment to capitalize on something that wasn’t really ‘grunge’ but had all the trappings of a living scene while Nirvana ruled the air waves. Basically the second wave of emo being Sunny Day Realestate, Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World. I guess the first wave would have been Embrace, Rites of Spring and uh – The Replacements? Whatever, I don’t have a degree in scene-musicology. Anti-matter is where i discovered Split Lip/Chamberlain, Shelter, 108, Snapcase, Texas is the Reason and probably one of the best songs Quicksand ever released. Lots of amazing bands laid the groundwork of lots of shitty ass bands from this era. Sure its not hardcore from the salad days, it was music made by people that lived through Gulf War I. Here is the latest on what will most definitely be one of those documents of note like Our Band Could Be Your Life.  Thanks to author Norman Brannon for taking the time to put all the pieces of my youth together.

For those who don’t know, Anti-Matter was a fanzine published between 1993 and 1996 from a bedroom on the corner of East 10th Street and First Avenue in New York City. Anti-Matter was also a compilation album, released in 1996, that documented sixteen hardcore, post-punk, and indie bands who weaved the fabric of the music that featured prominently in the fanzine. On November 6, 2007, for the first time ever, Anti-Matter will become a book: The Anti-Matter Anthology: A 1990s Post-Punk & Hardcore Reader will be issued by Revelation Publishing, the literary sister of Revelation Records.

On this site, you’ll find updates on the book’s release schedule, a weblog with practical announcements and random stories from the era, related event schedules, and a safe place to debate the important things — like Split Lip vs. Chamberlain. Or “Can We Win” vs. “Give It Up.”

Anti-Matter was conceived and created by Norman Brannon — in 1993, a former guitarist for Ressurection, 108, and Shelter. Upon its demise, Brannon went on to form Texas Is The Reason and New End Original, in addition to working as a DJ and running an independent dance label called Primal Records. His work has been published in Alternative Press, Punk Planet, Ego Trip, Soma, and VIBE, among others. Brannon is currently working on new music, as well as a second book of short-story nonfiction. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and online at Nervous Acid. Also, he apologizes to anyone who bought Fuzzy or Inch records at his behest.



One of the first rules you’re taught in journalism school is objectivity. One of the first things you learn as a rock writer, and one of the only truths that torments you throughout your career as such, is that objectivity stinks. I mean, who besides the most reactionary, humorless fanatic really wants to read an “objective” record review? (You know: “Band X has been making music for Y years. Band X’s new release, Really Important Record, does this and that. It also does this and this and this…”) What rock writer with real human emotions — and not the High Fidelity-sort of pseudo-emotions one gets from memorizing album credits — has ever conducted an objective interview?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. You need only look as far as the rock magazines on your shelves, the rock sites in your Web browser, to find page after page of mannered, noncommittal stories about nothing: Puff pieces exalting the “kewl” new sounds of rock’s flavor of the minute. Illiterate rants penned by sycophants who think all a critic needs are ears, a press release, and a PC (the music’s always secondary, of course). Very rarely today do you find a rock writer whose work tears into the guts of the matter, whose questions get beyond the music’s surface to examine the real human issues lying underneath. Not the well-worn issues of personality and decadence, either, but The Big Issue of what it means to be a frightened human being truly living on this big, lonely planet.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right — sort of. Most modern rock bands don’t examine these kinds of issues, so most rock writers don’t have to dig deeply to get the story. But in hardcore and punk rock, the genres on which Norman Brannon’s fanzine Anti-Matter was built, thousands of intelligent, motivated musicians have long been examining the kinds of existential issues others have put on the backburner. True, a lot of punk musicians are young, and young people by nature are bound to have stupid existential crises. In this area Norm was no different. But there is one crucial area in which Norm broke from his peers in the punk zine community, an issue around which he lives even now that his tastes have shifted toward pop and electronic music: Norm was, and is, a seeker. He interviewed bands for Anti-Matter not because he liked their music (although he did), but because he found something intangible in their music that described how he was feeling, and he wanted their help in understanding just what that “something” was.

Norm wrote what he did in Anti-Matter because he had to; the fanzine’s contents reflected the conflict that was unfolding inside the writer. He often asked questions that were embarrassing to read (many of which are reprinted in this book); but even in his most naïve line of questioning he could articulate the issues that he — and, invariably, his readership — was facing at that point. There’s something beautiful and natural about even the most earnest writing in Norm’s old interviews. When today’s younger punk writers adopt similar styles, their work seems forced. Even at its most amateurish, Norm’s writing never had that quality.

Which isn’t to say that Norm launched Anti-Matter because he wanted to be regarded as “seminal” in the field of punk fanzine editing. The zine’s content flowed naturally, innocently, and it mirrored the direct links between the music, Norm’s heart, and Norm’s head. The hype about Norm’s being “seminal” would come later, much to his dismay, from the author’s admirers — most of whom, unfortunately, would continue to miss the point in their own work.

Norm once said of Anti-Matter, “I was basically trying to get [my interview subjects] to say the things I was thinking in my head — partially because I just wanted to know that I wasn’t a freak, and partially because I wanted other people to know they weren’t freaks, either.” With that noted, I think there’s just one reason why Anti-Matter is no longer publishing — and it has nothing to do with music, advertising concerns, or scene politics. Norm found the truth he was seeking, and he learned to take that crucial next step.