- by Tom Dumarey
When vocalist and songwriter John Maiello started Dead Bars back in 2013, he had a very specific plan to play one show, record a demo, and tour only Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Six years down the line, Dead Bars recorded their second full-length with Jack Endino and they have no upcoming shows planned in either Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico. We caught up with John to talk about 'Regulars,' out now via A-F Records.
PRT: You’ve been in bands for the better part of 15 years, but before Dead Bars it was pretty much always as the drummer. What was it that sparked the idea of wanting to be the frontman?
John: I mainly just wanted to have my own band. When you're the drummer you have a little less control, even if you are kind of running the band. If the lead singer can't play a show or go on a tour, it's kind of hard to have another singer fill in. So I just figured that if I started my own band which I was the frontman, I would have more control over the goals and direction of the group.
PRT: I read somewhere that after you wrote your first songs and played them for people, the feedback was mostly less than encouraging. What was it that made you stick with it rather than throw in the towel?
John: I basically wrote every aspect of every song: vocal melodies, guitar progressions, guitar solos, drum parts, but I didn't really know how to sing or play guitar so it was kind of hard to show people the songs. Like, I had them all written in my head and I would try to play a progression and then sing some words, and then would make guitar noises with my mouth and say stuff like "the guitar solo goes like this." and then hum the guitar solo I had in my head. So, I just think it was hard for people to wrap their head around what I had in my head if I couldn't really show them. I always knew they were good songs, but I just needed some friends to believe in me to turn it into a real band.
PRT: I read that you picked the name Dead Bars because you prefer bars where there aren’t a lot of people and that’s because parties and stuff tend to make you nervous. So how do you rhyme being more of an introvert with being the frontman in a band?
John: I just think it's kind of peaceful to go into a quiet place and have a couple drinks. However, I do really like parties, and I like going to shows. I like the attention of being on stage, but I also do have a lot of anxiety in social situations. I try to get through it as best I can.
PRT: Your songs are a lot of different things, both musically as well as lyrically. It’s garage, punk, classic rock, a bit of 90ies rock and pop all rolled into one. It’s both happy and upbeat but it also packs some despair. You yourself seem to be both introvert and extravert. Is that what shapes Dead Bars? The sum of seeming contradictions?
John: The best songs have something that'll make you laugh and cry at the same time. I think someone could interpret one song differently from day-to-day based on what mood they are in. There is fun, but there is also some darkness too. One can pull different emotions out of Dead Bars songs, and I do think that there is something for everybody.
PRT: Do you think Dead Bars would have still sounded like Dead Bars if you hadn’t moved to Seattle and stayed in New Jersey instead?
John: Dead Bars would have never existed in New Jersey.
PRT: When you started the band it was just you, C.J. and a revolving cast of friends. In what way have things changed for you now that you have a steady line-up?
John: I've said this before, but we kind of function like an actual bar. Sometimes people get tired and they go home, or some people get too fucked up and get kicked out. But now, we have the believers, the regulars, if you will, who came into the band as fans. They believe in what we are doing, and want to help grow this thing.
PRT: Up until the release of ‘Dream Gig’in 2017, you released EPs and 7”s. Now you have full-length number two. What do you prefer? Recording a couple of songs and getting them out there otelling more of a story with a full-length?
John: I like doing both. I like having short, small run releases that can keep the band active and we can go tour on a 7", but I also love crafting an album and building a concept around it. I have the names and concepts for upcoming albums over the next 10 years. There is more to come.
PRT: Who are the regulars you named the album after? Is it the band or the people who come out for every show?
John: The regulars are all of us. Anyone who believes that you can become a better person through sharing and experiencing art.
PRT: You worked with Jack Endino for the new album. What was the biggest thing that you took away from working with him?
John: How to tune a bass guitar. Google it.