Dead End Armory
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Dead End Armory

| INDIE

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Band Alternative Rock

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When I first saw a picture of Dead End Armory, I thought, "Hey, it's those guys from Acoustic Coffee." The band is, at least partly, the staff that's helped me survive many mornings by supplying my caffeine fix. Acoustic Coffee owner Mike O'Connor plays guitar. Drummer Chris Dibiasio is the manager of the café. Raspy voiced lead singer/songwriter John Wesley Hartley, though not employed there, is a fixture at the establishment, and bassist Leslie Deane is also a regular.

But Dead End Armory isn't some thrown-together coffeehouse act. I asked O'Connor why the band doesn't play there more often, and his answer shows he knows the group belongs in bigger venues. "It's too easy," he said. "We don't want to take the easy way out."


Dead End Armory (from left): Deane, O'Connor, Dibiasio, Hartley. (photo/www.deadendarmory.com)


The band's debut EP, released earlier this year, is a collection of five mostly longish songs that are well ordered, well orchestrated, and well representative of a young group steadily building its credibility and musical chops.

From the first listen, I was struck by how cohesive the EP is, as though it could be five distinct but complimentary movements in one 27-minute-long song. Their sound is often reminiscent of math-rock wizards Built To Spill, but Dead End Armory is not quite so proggy.

The energy peaks and swoops dramatically throughout the recording, dragging the listener happily behind, with nary an obstacle along the way. The lead-off track, "Pill-Oh," begins in a lethargic hush, but by its end the band has picked you from the crowd, where you were listening from a safe distance, and thrown you into the ring with them.

The third track, "Pirate," sounds like early Modest Mouse, before "Float On" and radio play, but it's no rip off. Dead End Armory has arrived at its sound naturally. Other times you can hear late '60s Neil Young, or The Pixies' melodic riffs, but the songs all sound original, genuine, real.

This is emotional music. It's earnest, pensive, even sway-inducing. Hartley's vocals, with occasional help from Deane, are a perfect match for the sonic scenes behind them, whether it's driving, straight-ahead rock or a field of sparse cymbal tings and snare cracks with ghostly guitar whines in the distance.

This is the kind of EP that leaves you wanting more, and thankfully, there's more on the way. I recently heard a sneak preview of a second recording in the works that displays a further matured sound and style, and intensified energy. This new material is slated for release in February as another EP, but the band is rumored to have a full album of songs already written. Two-thousand-and-seven will be a big year for this band.


– Sean Wilkinson - TheBollard.com


Music seen, February 17, 2007 at the White Heart
By IAN PAIGE

February 21, 2007 1:43:18 PM
Don’t you love it when an already solid band just gets better? Dead End Armory peppered their well-practiced set of palatable pop rock with new material exemplifying new tempos, darker themes, and a collective ease on stage.

DEA aren’t afraid to start out slow, letting Leslie Deane’s bass and Mike O’Connor's acoustic ring out while Wesley Hartley’s voice sets the stage for the story he’s got to get off his chest. Hartley’s vocals have the potential to be off-putting with a timbre akin to Neil Young or Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips, but cast aside your fears. Like his venerable comrades-in-song, Hartley’s Texan lilt draws you in because of its signature nature; you want to hear what he has to say.

Once you’re listening, Chris Dibiasio busts out a nod-your-head-in-approval beat and the band are off, balancing laid-back guitar twists with a Pixies-esque ferocity that most bands only try to achieve.

How ferocious? Intense enough that Dibiasio ripped a hole in his kick drum. Fortunately, a show at the White Heart is so full of good will and grinning, beer-drinking music lovers that it feels more like a house party. It seemed a natural move for Hartley to play an old tune by himself while the rest of the band helped Dibiasio with a patch job. Moving into a beautiful little ditty called “Sober,” the lead singer was impulsively joined by audience member and fellow songwriter friend Paul Brown who stepped up to mic for some harmonies that, while not necessarily sober, hit their mark without a hitch.

Next on Dead End Armory’s agenda is the March release of their new EP, Trailer Park Nightmares. The Ron Harrity engineered record is comprised of one-takes for a live-sounding feel. Fortunately for the band, they don’t need to rely on studio overdubbing to sound tight. If their live shows are any indication of what the record will sound like, we’ll take it just as it is. - Portland Phoenix


This five-track disc, affectionately referred to as The Horse’s Ass EP, is the latest from Portland’s “Studio District” newcomers Dead End Armory, formerly known as The Easterly. DEA combine fire and ice musicianship with unpredictable meter changes, sharp guitars, and mellow, haunting vocals to create one of the most interesting sounds in the downtown scene.

The disc’s opener, “Pill-oh,” is a down-and-out ballad with soft guitars that feel like they’re just waking up from a hangover, trying to shake out the cobwebs from the night before. As the song slowly wakes up, lead singer John Wesley Hartley and bassist Leslie Deane exchange gorgeous vocal harmonies in a stumbling yet captivating alt-country jam.

On the loud/soft-fast/slow “Vicious Cycle,” the band takes a rainy day ballad with Hartley’s deflated vocals and then turns the juice on, flipping it instantly into a feverish rocker with Hartley and Deane singing together like Frank Black and Kim Deal used to when they still spoke to each other.

In fact, the Pixies influence is felt almost everywhere, especially on the fast-paced “Pirate,” where Hartley rambles along with the drums before the band drops into a frenzied wordless chorus. On the timid, bitter “Serpentine Frame,” Hartley does his best Jeff Tweedy impression, bringing to mind the delicate, mesmerizing melodies of A Ghost Is Born. Interestingly enough, “Happiness” is probably the darkest track on the entire record, rolling along the light tremolo strumming of Hartley and DEA guitarist Mike O’Connor before finally dropping into one more soaring chorus, with Hartley singing at the top of his lungs.

While this EP is not exactly happy-go-lucky bubblegum, Dead End Armory have crafted a distinct sound that is perfect for those rainy October afternoons.
– Bill Reese - Good Times Magazine


Discography

Self-titled debut EP - released in August 2006.
"Trailer Park Nightmares" (EP) - April 2007.

Photos

Bio

Formed in October of 2005 in Portland, Maine, Dead End Armory has quickly built a dedicated fan base throughout northern New England, and has established themselves as a dynamic creative force in the Northeast independent music scene. With the simple ingenuity of bands like Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, and the Pixies to name a few, the band brings a fresh, raw approach to their music.

Dead End Armory creates epic tragedies out of their songs - from the dark dreamlike quality of Wesley Hartley's vocals and lyrics, to the subtle and haunting musical spaces in between lines, to a frenzied finale. Yet this music is far from depressing. Hartley's lyrics are vivid and fantastic tales about people and animals and things that we all know, that we can all identify with, some finding redemption, some finding doom. His creaky Texan voice beseeches the listener to pay attention, and then leaves them with more questions.

With regularly occurring performances at storied venues like The Middle East Club in Boston and The Space Gallery in Portland, DEA is quickly commanding attention as a live band that puts on hugely entertaining shows. Their 2nd EP, Trailer Park Nightmares, due out in March of 2007, shows a band that has just started scratching the depths of their creativity. The EP was recorded live in the studio, with all the songs being first takes.