D. Bess
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D. Bess

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Alternative Reggae

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By Diandra Markgraf

One unusually mild fall Flagstaff night at Mother Road Brewing Co., Dave Bess—the lone musician in a (currently) one-man band—sips a couple sudsy gems and sheds light on his distinctive solo process and the romanticism of the musical excursion.

D. Bess (as he’s known on stage) creates his unique tunes from the ground up as he builds the music on itself tier by tier using a stage’s worth of pedals and instruments. The labor-intensive results set an emotive backdrop for high times, low times and the unyielding rollercoaster in between, creating positive pieces of poetry and winding loops for the listener to dissect.

Bess dug his roots early on in the reggae mud while fronting a popular Iowa City, Iowa, reggae band called Public Property.

After the group amicably split, Bess found he was gravitating toward something completely different—and completely solo.

“This was a way for me to just do something while I figured out what the next step was,” Bess says, “and I didn’t really realize that this would be the next step.”

He and his fiancée, Anna, picked up and moved out to Los Angeles, but found the city unappealing. Bess continually practiced his pedal work, and in August the pair traded the metropolis for Flagstaff pines. The move toward a solo gig was something he says he wanted to prove to himself, if anything, that it could be done. After two years of revisions, Bess’ music evolved into the full-length album, Man vs. Bear.

“Initially I wasn’t gonna have anybody on the album,” Bess says. “It was just gonna be me—a true solo album.”

Bess recruited ska legend Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals to lend his vocal talent to the super-catchy, ostensible love song, “Oh Carolina.”

Bess and Hibbert had worked together before, and Bess saw this opportunity as a second chance.

“I figured if anybody’s gonna be on it, it’ll just be him and I’ll do the rest,” Bess says. “And I’m not gonna say no to Toots. If the dude’s gonna say yes, we’re gonna do it.”

Man vs. Bear meshes blues, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll and ska with the traditional reggae “wah.” This record carries the listener on a heartfelt journey through an aural layer cake.

The D. Bess method starts with rhythmic thumps that emanate from a cajón—a wooden percussion instrument that conveniently doubles as a chair—beneath a thick swathe of velvety guitar. He then mixes in a layer of bass-like jams that really come from a Telecaster guitar and an octave pedal. Hip-hop poetry puts the cherry on top, complementing his vocal talent with quick rhymes.

“Cash is king, sex is queen—but illegal is the green. Wanna pay taxes? Legalize weed,” Bess bluntly rhymes on “American Dreamin’.”

He’s admittedly not a rapper, but can’t hold back the flow on a few tracks. “I like to write a hip-hop groove,” he says, “and ultimately you’re gonna start rapping to it.”

Most of the tracks on Man vs. Bear have rather clear outward contexts, but can be dissected to find intrinsic meaning. Bess writes lyrics to match the groove’s foundation.

“For a long time, it was sort of just trial by fire, learning show to show how to utilize different techniques with a loop pedal,” Bess says. “Now I’m trying to look toward how to make it more dynamic, more exciting, more quick live.”

Bess perfected his live act in a truly what-you-hear-is-what-you-get fashion. His uniqueness lay in the authentic nature of everything the audience hears being created right there on stage.

Bess says listeners misunderstand sometimes where his sounds come from. “They come in halfway through a song and go, ‘Oh, he created his beats at home!’” he says laughing. “That’s kind of my challenge, too; I wanna do everything live. The fundamental it comes down to is instrumentation.”

I just like the idea if you start hitting a beat, they don’t know what’s gonna happen next … They’re not quite sure where the song is going, which I think is fun for the audience to see.”

Bess makes sure the music he records is something he can get away with live. His carefully formed layers of music form an auditory fresco for the listener, and he takes care to turn his stage presence into a living work of art.

Grateful to be playing music, Bess takes his craft one day at a time and looks forward to playing as many shows as possible.

“The rule of thumb, I’ve found,” he says, “is if it works, go with it. Don’t try to second guess yourself.”

And D. Bess truly found something that works.

Groove to the one-man rhythms of D. Bess at Charly’s Pub & Grill, 23 N. Leroux, Fri, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. For more information, call 779-1919, and for up-to-date show info and a free download of Man vs. Bear see www.dbessmusic.com. - Flagstaff LIVE!


Hawaii-native Dave Bess applied his honey-coated tenor, charismatic stage presence and ace tune-smithing to Iowa City-based ska/reggae mavens Public Property for nearly a decade.

On his ambitious, genre-tripping groove-athon “Man vs. Bear,” Bess dazzles as a one-man-band, writing, playing and singing everything (except a seductive duet with reggae legend Toots Hibbert on “Oh Carolina”).

The dynamic, layered recording (kudos to John Svec) includes the hypnotic “You Got Me Walkin’,” the infectious hip-hop of “Welcome to the Future,” the slinky, Curtis Mayfield-meets-ML King “American Dream,” the wah-wah drenched “Red Rocks” and the dub-phased, Fishbone-esque “Wow! Pow!”

“One More Song” conjures late-period Bob Marley, and Bess utilizes a vocorder on the flashy, exquisitely named “S. Berlusconi Loves Him Some Teenagers.”

Taken altogether, the 13 songs (plus five comedic spoken-word interludes) present a shape-shifting hybrid of dub, hip-hop, ska, reggae, funk and classic early ’70s soul. - Press - Citizen


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

D. Bess is a one-man band who loops all his licks live. Born and raised on Oahu, the roots of his Hawaiian upbringing can be heard in his original mix of reggae, ska, dub, blues, folk, hip-hop and dance funk. No pre-recordings, no laptops: just pure D. Funk, recorded and rocked live. Get you some.

"Bess dazzles as a one-man band, writing, playing and singing everything into an ambitious, genre-tripping groove-athon... a shape-shifting hybrid of dub, hip-hop, ska, reggae, funk and classic early 70s soul." 

- No Depression

"D. Bess (as he's known on stage) creates his unique tunes from the ground up as he builds the music on itself tier by tier using a stage's worth of pedals and instruments. The labor-intensive results set an emotive backdrop for high times, low times and the unyielding roller coaster in between, creating positive pieces of poetry and winding loops for the listener to dissect."

- Flagstaff Live

MAN vs. BEAR

After fronting the ska/reggae/soul band Public Property for 7 years, Bess produced, sang and played everything on his first solo album "Man vs. Bear". The album features only one other artist, the reggae legend Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals singing with D. Bess on Bess's song "Oh Carolina".

The collaboration with Toots led to a music video recorded at Toots' home studio, Reggae Studios, featuring D. Bess and Toots singing, recording and hanging out in Kingston, Jamaica.

D. Bess has toured North America as a one-man band from the Midwest to LA and back several times.

He has shared bills with The Wailers, Cee-Lo, Toots & The Maytals, Blondie, Jake Shimabukuro and has collaborated with Toots & The Maytals, Jake Shimabukuro, Ticklah (Axelrod), John Brown's Body and Euforquestra. 

http://www.dbessmusic.com
http://dbess.bandcamp.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9qtb3kq_YQ

Band Members