Tonight the Doomtree collective begins its ambitious tour (no, not a friggin’ reference to Madonna), the start of many, many days on the road – from January 19 to March 20, including SXSW dates from March 13 to 18 – introducing fans to the live versions of the songs from No Kings, written, recorded, mixed, mastered and released in 2011 in yet another ambitious, albeit tenacious, fashion.
Each player in the collective of 10 years – P.O.S., Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger – are all music making entities in their own right. When you bring these seven souls together the term “power house” seems like a whimper of an adjective.
After a decade of teaming up on album releases that were essentially collections, with works contributed by individual members, Doomtree set out in 2011 to make an album from beginning to end, as one unit.
“This one was our most collaborative effort in working together,” said Dessa, making time in her busy schedule for a quick Skype chat while preparing for take off. “For this disc the producers ended up creating the beats together. So they’d actually meet in a room with their noise machines and guitars and synthesizers, and compose together. And then after they were making creating the beats, almost the entirety of the collective drove north and sequestered ourselves in a cabin for about a week to write the bulk of the lyrics together…working together in real time and in the same room.”
The preemptive measures in music that took place for No Kings prior to huddle in a Wisconsin cabin really show the expansive styles each member personifies and brings to the table. “No Way” jumpstarts with a James Bond guitar lick, and then echoes down a tunnel of syncopated electrification. Dessa’s depression-era blues hymn opens “Little Mercy,” carrying it through the trials of their “winnings and injuries.”
On “Bolt Cutter,” it’s the percussion line that leads the way, and overall in No Kings, electro tricks, synth styles and an emphatic staccatissimo of drum and bass runs throughout, sprinkled with surprise change ups in the form a bit of piano here or tweaked back vocals there.
Back to putting words to the music, Dessa describes the process of pushing through a writer’s block without the luxury of time, which was liken to runing through a side ache.
“For me the writing process is tough. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t like baking. It isn’t a hobby that you do for fun, necessarily; at least in my experience,” she explained. “So it was kind of wringing myself out to try to do those lyrics as fast as we needed them, because this record is the one that we’ve created most rapidly. So there just wasn’t any time to waste. If you didn’t something done at the cabin, very likely you weren’t going to make the record on that song. So for me it was a lot of really dogged efforts.”
Dessa’s writing process involved using the environment of the woods to her advantage, getting a line on the song’s beat, understanding the direction the others were going with, and then “walk for an hour and a half and try to get eight bars of rap music written and come back, and deliver as a cat would with a dead mouse. And set off to walk in the woods again. So it wasn’t quite fun but it was good. I’m glad I did it. It was meaningful.”
The benefits of this process, albeit a challenging one, were numerous, from the outcome of the powerful album itself, to the understanding that they’ve been able to climb and conquered a new peak in their collective songwriting.
“I think that all of us learned how valuable it was to actually be together, physically, while trying to make a record. In the past we would try to write by listening to beats and then emailing each other little scraps of verses when we had time. It’s a pretty easy way to let the passion cool. We didn’t get quite as much done that way.
But at the cabin there was no ‘we’ll come back to this later.’ You had to get it done there that day or not submit anything at all. So, yeah, I think I learned how productive we could be when we had to be.”
Lyrically, “Bangarang” seems to be the Doomtree anthem, with “Wings / Teeth / Ten years in our lane,” blasting their stake firmly in the ground, fiercely defiant and passionate about the dues they’ve paid for what they do.
“Team Best Team” is another nod to the past and a look to the future, embracing their own mortality but with tenacity to more than just keep pace with life, “Those days like these days / Except for maybe these grays / But that’s just my salt and pepper / My heart and soul won’t live forever / Whatever… / It’s gonna come some day, so come what may and I pray it comes / We’re still gonna run like strays, purr like kittens, and bang a gong / We’ve sang our songs, we’ve seen the war we’re living that and more / Knowing even the greatest dancers are bound to leave the dance floor.”
And with the overall theme behind No Kings of “obey no kings, seek no thrones,” seems to subconsciously personify society’s current rebellion against those in power who seem to be holding all the cards.
“I think there’s probably and ebb and flow of dissent. And it may well be we find ourselves on a rising tide at the moment of people who are trying to find a different way to live and are less inclined to conform to the social systems. I think most of us write on a scale that’s a little bit smaller. There are a few explicit sociopolitical writers amongst us. But I think we also write on a personal scope and I think you can hear that on the record as well.”
Adding icing to the No Kings cake is the production of Doomtree member, Lazerbeak, who will be introducing crowds to his new solo album, Lava Bangers (out 1/24), as the opening act throughout the tour.
Doomtree comes to Denver Sunday, January 22 at The Summit.
Cecil Otter http://bnds.in/qufiWM
Mike Mictlan http://bnds.in/rdNrcF
Paper Tiger http://bnds.in/oB79g1
1/19 – The Granada Theatre – Lawrence, KS
1/20 – Mojo’s – Columbia, MO
1/21 – The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE
1/22 – The Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
1/23 – Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
1/24 – Neurolux – Boise, ID
1/26 – Branx – Portland, OR
1/27 – The Crocodile – Seattle, WA
1/28 – Fortune Sound Club – Vancouver, BC
1/29 – WOW Hall – Eugene, OR
1/31 – Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
2/01 – Catalyst Atrium – Santa Cruz, CA
2/02 – The Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA
2/03 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
2/04 – Chasers – Scottsdale, AZ
2/06 – Wrecker’s – Lubbock, TX
2/07 – Dan’s Silverleaf – Denton, TX
2/08 – Fitzgerald’s Downstairs – Houston, TX
2/09 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
2/10 – Bottletree Café – Birmingham, AL
2/11 – Drunken Unicorn – Atlanta, GA
2/12- Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
2/13 – Rock and Roll Hotel – Washington, DC
2/15 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
2/16 – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
2/17 – The Middle East – Downstairs- Cambridge, MA
2/18 – II Motore – Montreal, QC
2/19 – Sneaky Dee’s – Toronto, ON
2/20 – Shadow Lounge – Pittsburgh, PA
2/21 – Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
2/22 – Blind Pig – Ann Arbor, MI
2/23 – The Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
2/25 – Turner Hall – Milwaukee, WI
2/29 – Northern Michigan University, Great Lakes Room – Marquette, MI*
3/07 – Blue Moose Tap House – Iowa City, IA*
3/08 – The Maintenance Shop – Ames, IA*
3/09 – Union South, The Sett – Madison, WI*
3/10 – The Firebird – St. Louis, MO*
3/11 – The Marquee – Tulsa, OK*
3/12 – Media Star Entertainment Hall – Shreveport, LA*
3/13 – 3/18 – Austin, SXSW*
3/19 – Conservatory – Oklahoma City, OK*
3/20 – The Scene-ary – Wichita, KS*
*Newly announced shows