De Novo Dahl
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De Novo Dahl

Band Pop Rock


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The best kept secret in music


"Splendid > Reviews > 10/21/2003"

The best point of reference for De Novo Dahl would be acts like Ed Harcourt, Rufus Wainwright or, most appropriately, Jeff Buckley -- singers whose output is equal parts pop and cabaret. The difference, however, lies in the lengths of their albums. While those individuals are certainly talented, it's difficult to take one of their full-lengths in one sitting. Not so with De Novo Dahl's six-song effort. The band here displays an aptitude for writing strong pop songs, with lead singer Mark Vovo Dahl in particular showing that he has a vocal range to match any of the aforementioned talents. However, as the album is over and done with in just over 20 minutes, the vocals don't cross the line from impressive and mellifluous to grating.
Two-and-a-half minute gem "Rumors" is typical of the disc -- it bounces along with a Beatles-meets-Broadway vibe. It's easy to imagine "Rumors" being sung by a band on stage, or by an entire production company. The same could be said of opener "Top Of The World", a dreamy, attention-grabbing pop anthem. Even when the band leans in a more rocking direction, as on "Waiting For My Friends", Vovo Dahl's vocals (especially during the implausibly high falsetto at the end) ensure that the song keeps one foot firmly planted in a Buckley/Wainwright stream. It's a debt that the album openly acknowledges in "Memphis", a tribute to Buckley ("Stood by the river to see if I'd survive / Set up a shrine / Drew a bottle of wine and a Long Goodbye") -- although the song's most obvious touchstone is Green Day's stab at balladry, "Macy's Day Parade".

As with the album's other five songs, it works well; it's moving, but never falls prey to the sort of mawkish sentimentality that plagues most tribute songs. That's because De Novo Dahl clearly understand the need for moderation -- a point echoed by their EP's brevity. The group demonstrates restraint and economy, and, in doing so, deliver one of the best albums, short- or long-playing, that you'll hear this year.
- Splendid, By Matthew Pollesel


James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox ... all wonderfully delightful tales by author Roald Dahl.
Just the titles of these books spark an emotion - a memory, if you will - reminiscent of childhood. Dahl celebrated the imagination of the child in each of his books. This bounty of creative effort spawned homage to the man in a band name.

The band, De Novo Dahl ("de novo" meaning "the new" in Latin), originated in 1995 at a high school in Hendersonville, Tenn. However, it wasn't until 2001 that the band formed into the six-piece, colorful tale of musical lore that pricks the spine of one's back just as the thought of Wonka's chocolate factory did to the 8-year-old mind.

Collectively, the members of De Novo Dahl describe their music as "catchy, fun rock songs sent through the ringer of experimental arrangements and layered sounds." But from an objective, wholly journalistic perspective, I see De Novo Dahl as a band able to transcend the notion of serious, emotional lyrics juxtaposed with the likes of a well tuned, highly refined pop/rock underbelly.

Whew, that was a mouthful.

So, to sum up what was just said in an utterly verbose way twice, De Novo Dahl plays some damn good rock music.
- Sidelines Online, By Leslie Carol Boehms

"De Novo Dahl, De Novo Dahl, Self-Released"

With a sound that draws much more from Britpop than Lower Broad, this Murfreesboro-based sextet adds welcome variety to the local din. On their debut EP, they perform with technical polish and a crisp, upbeat feel. But the real strength of De Novo Dahl is in their song craftsmanship. Each of these six titles balances accessibility against complexity, with catchy motifs and melodies scattered throughout unexpected chord changes. These elements never clash, however, thanks to arrangements that manage to highlight each section while also effectively tying them together.

Instrumentally, the key to all this lies in the contrast between keyboards and guitars. Working with a low-tech setup, Mark Vovo Dahl covers a respectable expressive range, from solo lines and pads in the Jeff Buckley tribute Memphis that echo the early techno textures of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, to whimsical moments in Rumors, including a wheezy little solo that may actually have been played on Omnichord by Serai Zaffiro. (We'll have to catch their Slow Bar show to be sure.) With guitarists Joel J. Dahl and Sandy Sandidge alternating muscular eruptions with low-key strums or even silence, the music streams through a sonic kaleidoscope, the changes in color underscored by dramatic irregularities in the lengths of verses, choruses, and other parts.

Though this formula applies throughout De Novo Dahl, each track has a distinctive flavor. Top Of The World, perhaps the most ambitious piece, weaves together power chords, aromatic organ, hints of sampled cello, a hummed vocal counter-theme, an intriguing parade of chords that leads to a pivotal diminished voicing, and other elements behind a lyric that conveys a kind of weary optimism. This leads to Waiting For My Friends, on which a loopy organ that seems dredged from the Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball punches into a more straight-ahead beat. And on Mishka, angelic voices, snarly funk guitar, Telstar-vintage bleeps, and swirls of exuberant noise all somehow fit into an irresistible, medium-tempo package.

The "message" song here is Monsterproof, which can be deciphered as a warning against those who would exploit the anxieties of our time. A dizzy 6/8 rhythm provides the backdrop as harmonized vocals announce the arrival of monsters who "want to destroy our lives. They bring the evil, with sharp shiny teeth and big beady eyes." What's not clear is whether they're targeting actual "monsters" or our own fears, be they of sinister terrorists from abroad or anti-privacy vultures on the home front. Yet maybe that doesn't matter as much - at least for now - as the fact that De Novo Dahl are obviously doing something unique, especially for this place and time. Monsters or no, these guys have clearly got a bright future.

Take note: De Novo Dahl celebrates the release of their EP at 9:30pm Sat., May 31, at Slow Bar, 1024 Woodland St. Tyler James and Snowglobe also perform. Admission is $6. Call 262-4701 for more information.
- The Rage, By Robert L. Doerschuk

"Under the Wire"

Judging by this month's spate of top-shelf local releases, the postmodern Nashville/ Murfreesboro pop scene seems to be in robust health. Now, on the heels of Forget Cassettes' full-length debut on Theory 8 Records, Instrument of Action, and Lone Official's own self-released bow, comes a strong EP from another best-band-to-arrive-in-town-in-the-last-few-years, De Novo Dahl (see CD review).

The band will ring in the new disc's arrival with a Slow Bar EP release party on Sat., May 31. Snowglobe and Tyler James will open. The gig will also, curiously, serve as the marquee event of "Nashville Bowlie Weekender," a first-ever get together of the online Belle and Sebastian forum

But let's not get completely off track. (The Bowlie Weekender deserves its own column, anyway.) The self-titled De Novo Dahl CD will be available after Saturday on the group's Web site (, in the local section of area record shops and, as vocalist-guitarist Joel J. Dahl promises, "anywhere people have warm blood and cold hard cash."

Product from this amiable six-piece collective (four vocalists) has been a long time coming, especially since the buzz, as with the aforementioned Forget Cassettes and Lone Official, has been so huge for so long, both in Nashville and the even more indie-friendly Boro. "I don't know if 'huge' is the right word," says Joel's fictionally surnamed counterpart and fellow lead vocalist Mark Vovo Dahl. "We do work hard at getting our music to both places. We don't want to make people drive 45 minutes to see us play, so we treat each city as equal and play both. One is a smaller college town, the other a big industry city, but both are full of great people who love music."

The band's hard-to-categorize appeal - a mixture of creative instrumentation (omnichord, generous percussion), layered harmonies and weaving lead vocal lines, and the occasional space rock arrangement - is the result, says Joel J., of six cooks in one kitchen. "Everyone in this band brings ideas to the table, and not just for their own instruments. Basically, each person's personality makes a stamp on a song, strangely and luckily giving us a distinct sound." That distinct sound has already attracted a steady fan base, particularly in Tennessee and parts of Georgia, and a management team that includes heavy-hitter industry vet Kip Krones (Venus Hum, David Mead).

Asked for a catalog of the good, bad and ugly of this last breakout year, Joel and Mark put their heads together. "Highlights: opening for Wilco, getting to know each other, recording and writing, telling enough bad jokes to finally start laughing at them, being well-received in other cities, and being roadies for Jessica Simpson." And? "Lowlights: getting our power cut at Dancin' in the District, showing up to an out-of-town show that had been canceled, taking so long to finish our EP, and being roadies for Jessica Simpson."
- The Rage, By Johnathan Flax


De Novo Dahl EP, 2003; Waiting for My Friends, Mishka, Memphis


Feeling a bit camera shy


De Novo Dahl

Drawing on the tones of artists such as David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Super Furry Animals, The Kinks, Blur and Supergrass, De Novo Dahl debuted in the fall of 2001.

The Nashville based 6-piece features Mark Bond on keyboards and lead vocals, Joel McAnulty on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Sandy Sandidge on lead guitar, bassist David Carney, all-around good time vocalist/omnichordist Serai Zaffiro and drummer Joey Andrews.

De Novo Dahl's live shows are always fun-filled and frequently feature themed outfits, audience participation and special events.

From an interview in Murfreesboro's Sidelines:
The band has played some pretty random gigs - they've thrown a beach party, hosted an ice cream social and served the audience a spaghetti dinner while playing a rock concert. And, recently, while touring in New York, the group wore hot pink daisy duke-style jumpsuits. This costume theme is apparently prevalent at any given De Novo Dahl show.

"Our craziest show would probably have to be at the Muse in Nashville," Andrews said. "It was our first show with the full band as it is now, and we totally screwed around. We all dressed up in different attire. Carney as a pilot, I as an African tribesman, Derek as a street cone, Mark wore egg crate foam, Joel as a wild man and Serai in drag. Mark, Joel, and I played our own instruments while the rest played cowbell, tambourine and electronic drums."

All dressing-up aside, the band recently enlisted the services of award-winning producer David Zaffiro as well as Jason Lehning, producer of David Mead and The Bees to record their self-titled EP. The resulting recording provides a snapshot into De Novo Dahl’s passion for infectious, quirky, intellectual pop. De Novo Dahl was released in May, 2003.

“Waiting For My Friends” is an example of De Novo Dahl’s fondness for pure pop - incorporating a strong guitar presence and upbeat keyboards with angelic harmony and an inspiring lyric.

"Memphis", a slower, pensive yet sharply written tune, focuses on the drowning of Jeff Buckley and a personal pilgrimage to the site by the writer. Jason Wilkins of Nashville entertainment weekly The Rage says about “Memphis”, “a splendidly beautiful homage to Jeff Buckley that is touching without being smarmy.”

Recent De Novo Dahl shows of note include performances at Athfest, Dancin’ In the District, 2NMC, NEMO and Uptown Mix as well as supporting such acts as Wilco, Archer Prewitt (of Sea & Cake), VHS or Beta, Blues Traveler, David Mead, Mike Viola (of the Candy Butchers), International Orange, I Am the World Trade Center, P.U.S.A. and The Features.