Charlteston, S.C.-based rock band Dead 27s has only been a band for a year and a half, but they’ve already been racking up awards in their hometown. The lineup is Wallace Mullinax on guitar, Oliver Goldstein on bass singer Trey Francis, drummer Daniel Crider and guitarist Will Evans. Collectively, they talked to Xpress about classic rock sounds, how Charleston influences the band, and their soon-to-be-released single. Dead 27s plays Pisgah Brewing Friday, Nov. 15. 8 p.m., free show.
Xpress: Since your band name is Dead 27s, what do you think of that whole phenomenon? Is it all just a coincidence, or is there a musical peak at age 27, and an accompanying curse or a destructive force?
Dead 27s: We feel this is primarily just a coincidence. By this age however, most artists have had time to develop their artistic style and achieve varying manners of success. With this also comes criticism and other pressures such as following up landmark albums and hits, which may lead to perceived peaks. Artists at this age have also had time to develop some bad habits prevalent in the industry, which may lead to the perceived curse. When we named the band, we had all passed that critical age (which also played into the dead 27 moniker as well, 27 was dead for all of us), or so we thought. Trey was actually still in his 27th year so he was prohibited from bungee jumping, skydiving and lion taming until the landmark was passed.
Last year you won “Best Unexpected Potential Hit Song From a Random Charleston Band” in the Best of Charleston poll. That’s a pretty nebulous accolade — what does it mean to you? To us this award meant that the City Paper really liked what we were doing and the sound we were going for. At that point, we were still a very new group to the scene, so for them to recognize us in a specific category was very rewarding (it was one of writer’s pick awards chosen by the staff not a general category). It also gave us confidence and motivation in our writing. This year we were nominated for “Rock Band of the Year” and “Up and Coming Artist of the Year” and “Don’t Want to Live My Life Without You” was nominated for “Song of the Year” in the City Paper Music Awards. We were also nominated for personal accolades in “Guitarist of the Year,” “Bassist of the Year” and “Drummer of the Year.” To receive this kind of support in our local scene and local press, which has a LOT to offer, was very humbling. We are very excited to release our next single, “Don’t Comfort Me,” on Nov. 12.
Your sound is rooted in classic rock styles. Do you feel especially drawn to the golden era of rock and Motown, and how do you capture that essence without making it feel dated or overly nostalgic? Those sounds just kind of come out naturally in our writing and live performance. We were all heavily influenced by those styles, listening to them growing up and certainly in our musical development, so they naturally arise in what we do. It’s one of the things that we feel helps to set us apart from other bands. We all have various influences that overlap in certain places but also differ in many respects. The melding of all of these styles and influences helps to give us a vintage vibe without sounding stale. Ideally, you just have faith in the music you make. If something feels dated, we won’t be excited, so we won’t send it out that way.
You’re based in Charleston — how do you think that city influences your sound? Have you found that traveling to other parts of the Southeast has brought new influences to your songwriting or instrumentation? Charleston is a very lively town, and fertile ground for music. There are so many great players and great bands in Charleston, it’s hard to be complacent. The scene is such that you are constantly driven to do more and be better. Not necessarily in the uber-competitive manner that operates in places like Nashville, New York and L.A. Instead, it’s a very, very supportive community with lots of good friends and great bands. The friendly support or competition, whatever you want to call it, really helps bands to develop and strive for great things. With the melting pot of groups and great players, we’re not sure that Charleston necessarily has a specific sound associated with it as is the case with Motown and Detroit and New Orleans, but it is certainly a great scene for a band to play in and develop. We hope to incorporate influences of other regions, especially places like Asheville, as we travel more.
What’s your favorite song to perform live, and why? This is a tough one. It all kind of depends on the night. It depends on what kind of night it is, where it is, what kind of mood the crowd is in, and what kind of mood we are in. Right now, our favorite original song to play is probably “Don’t Want to Live My Life Without You.” That is one that we can always count on for crowd response. It’s the first one we saw people singing along to. It’s great to see people singing along to an original song. Even in places we haven’t played before, we can see people catching on and joining in by the end of the song. Covers are definitely night by night, but a couple favorites are “Little Wing,” which is a great one to capture an audience. The dynamics in that one really demand their attention. Another fun cover to bust out is “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. We do this one instrumental so it’s really cool to see when the audience gets it. They realize what it is and start singing along. We don’t do this one very often, so it’s also a good indication that the band is having a good time.