Desert Neighbor
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Desert Neighbor

Marion, Indiana, United States | SELF

Marion, Indiana, United States | SELF
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The Sophomore Slump: It’s every musician’s fear if they had any success with their first release. The second release has the power to either launch a band into a new level of fame or crush all momentum gained thus far in its career. Luckily for Desert Neighbor, its second EP, “I Haven’t Always Been Like This,” will prove to be prior case.
Last year, Desert Neighbor recorded and released “Nothing Is Working.” The songs were catchy and heartfelt, but the EP’s production left something to be desired. The band sounded distant, which is the opposite atmosphere its live shows offer.
The band toured for two weeks in July with songs from that EP.
Now, after a year of growth, Desert Neighbor is back to offer a new batch of songs to their loyal fan base. Although the band’s members haven’t changed, its dynamics have changed a great deal. Perez and Hopwood explain that touring forced them to be versatile musicians by adapting to new venues every night. Having matured over the past year, Desert Neighbor has accomplished with their second EP what it takes some bands an entire career to do.
They’ve accurately captured their live sound in a recording studio. Their live show is complex, yet simple. It’s ambient, yet cozy. It’s familiar, yet fresh. All of these characteristics have been communicated on “I Haven’t Always Been Like This.”
The EP opens with the slow-burning title track. Simple guitar strumming begins as Perez is joined with a chorus of young men’s layered voices singing out, “There’s something I hope you don’t forget / I haven’t always been like this,” from the bottoms of their hearts. It suggests guilt and modesty all at once. Lead guitarist, Devin Hopwood, and Perez claim that the title of this track and the EP as a whole reflects a self-realization; perhaps the product of a good, hard look in the mirror.
Hopwood states, “Just going through life, people are seen in bad places and at bad times, but they haven’t always been bad. It goes the other way too. I’m having a good day, but my life’s not perfect.”
Next on the EP, Desert Neighbor drives through “Cycles.” It’s an interesting track featuring sporadic and ear-piquing drum patterns of Jordan Overmyer and searing guitar leads from Hopwood. All the while, Perez voices his frustrations with trying to live as a righteous man for Christ despite all the pitfalls the Devil throws in the way.
Listeners are then treated to some new takes on “old” favorites. “Stay With Me” and “A Blizzard” from “Nothing Is Working,” have been re-recorded and are featured on “I Haven’t Always Been Like This” as well. Hopwood explains, “We were happy with what we were playing at the time, but after tour, we decided we wanted to change [a few of the songs] up a bit. We thought that they still lacked something.”
It makes sense for them to pick “Stay With Me” and “A Blizzard.” The first is arguably the band’s best-known song while the latter has been its show-opener for nearly every show.
IWU music professor, Todd Syswerda expresses his fondness of both songs’ layered instrumentation. “I really liked the vocal harmonies the first time I heard [them],” Syswerda says. “It seemed like there were almost three songs within [Stay With Me]. All three work and have individual merit.”
Syswerda did, however, have a few gripes with the overall mix of the music. In “A Blizzard,” he “felt like the vocals could have been mixed higher and brought out a bit more.”
The fifth track, “Hudson” is another strong track that catches listeners off guard. Just when one might expect the band to launch into a huge U2-style, post-chorus chord progression, all instruments but Hopwood’s electric guitar drop out for a few measures, keeping the song intimate. When the full band comes back in, bassist Logan White and Overmyer give the band its signature foundation from which the guitars build.
According to Ben Dobler, a fan of Desert Neighbor, the foundation White and Overmyer provide is key to the band’s overall sound. Dobler anticipates that the guitarists would have no opportunity to be creative if the rhythm section was not as strong as it is.
Brooke Welge, an aspiring chorale director states that she enjoyed the guitar riff from “Hudson.” “I really liked how the guitar melody was kind of like a duet with the vocals. It was interesting and different than normal [for them],” says Welge.
Before listeners are aware, the EP comes to a close with the last track, “There’s Hope.” On the surface, the song is just a strong last track that offers a great opportunity for head bobbing. However, for listeners who are more inclined to be inspired, Perez offers solace in his lyrics. “My mother taught me how to pray to God / but somehow I forgot,” and the chorus, “Because I just think other things / I slope in other directions / that other minds don’t want to go,” express that he’s not perfect. Lucky for Perez and all of us, there’s hope.
“With this EP, I just want people to see that we’re actually trying to do this for real and not just recording in a bedroom or living room,” says Perez.
Hopwood states, “For our first record, we only played the songs together for almost a month before we started recording. We’ve been playing [the songs from this EP] since the summer and we’ve been just refining them, so I think we’ve got them to where we want them to be.”
There is no reason anyone who hears “I Haven’t Always Been Like This” shouldn’t take it seriously. It’s a beautiful collection of songs that offer a powerful and honest message to all who hear them.
Perez says that Desert Neighbor’s message is simple. He says, “God loves you, man. God loves us. That’s the main focus of the band.”
- Eric Stoff


Desert Neighbor is a four-piece indie rock band from Indiana. They formed in May 2010 and released their first EP Nothing is Working in July last year. Their newest EP , I Haven’t Always Been Like This, was released in April.

This album features some pretty strong indie rock tunes, that pull you right in fairly easy. There are some great guitar riffs strengthened by some solid drum patterns. The guys have a good amount of energy in their tracks as well as ambient atmosphere that you can just drift away in. Desert Neighbor has a good balance between being upbeat and laid back in their songs. None of the songs ever get too wild but at the same time it never gets so laid back that your going to get bored, which makes for a nice listen.

Lyrically, Desert Neighbor’s songwriting is strong. I felt the songs showed a lot about the band and that it was a great reflection of the band. I like how they tackle issues or struggles that they have come across in their lives and how that has impacted them as people. Their faith in God is shown clearly in these tracks and it’s shown that even though they struggle their trying to live their lives the best they can for God. I

Even though the vocals didn’t vary a ton throughout the course of the EP they are still pleasant to listen to. Enough emotion is thrown in with both the vocals and the instruments that the songs each get their own identity. The production is a little rough for my tastes but doesn’t hurt the enjoyablity of the songs. You can make out each of the instruments just fine and the vocals being clear as well. As a whole the rough edge works well with the emotion filled tracks.

My two favorite songs on the EP were “Cycles” and “There Is Hope.” These two songs I thought stood out the most musically and lyrically. But I think the EP was organized nicely and the EP flows pretty well. Even though the music sounded good and flowed nicely though this EP just didn’t wow me. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it and there are some really great elements in their music’ I just don’t think it’s the best of the best. Part of this could be that this is not the type of music I listen to all the time. So it may just not be completely my thing; which could be why I’m not blown away. But I still find it to be solid EP and some enjoyable music.

Overall: I Haven’t Always Been Like This is an EP that is great to just kick back and relax too. It is a nice feel good album to throw in. Indie rock fans will have a lot to like here and just anyone who wants a soothing album to listen to. I think for a fairly new band Desert Neighbor put out a good 2nd EP for only being an official band for a little over a year. They have a lot of room to grow and I think a few years at this they will come up with some great stuff. Desert Neighbor’s songwriting, for me at least, is one of their strongest qualities I liked the songwriting and the honesty displayed through it. I think the lyrical content in the songs are easy to relate to, especially how as Christians we are all striving to be good men/women of God. There’s a lot you can get out of the lyrics on this EP and with a decent musical backdrop it’s worth taking a listen.

-Joshua Clark - Indie Vision Music


Discography

Nothing is Working EP
-June 2011

I Haven't Always Been Like This EP
-April 2011

Live at the Airplane Room
-July 2011

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Bio

Desert Neighbor is an Indiana based indie-rock band. They officially started with their current line up in May of 2010.
They are 4 quiet guys from small towns, working hard to show love through honest music anywhere they are allowed to set up and play.

They recorded their first EP, titled "Nothing is Working" in June 2010, and self-booked a two-week tour in the mid-west to help promote the album as well as themselves. After a successful first tour, Desert Neighbor booked as many shows as they were able to play through out the year while refining their songs in preparation to record their second EP titled "I Haven't Always Been Like This," which was released in April 2011. During the summer of 2011, Desert Neighbor went on another self-booked tour from July 8-July 31 through the Mid-West and North-East.

Currently, they are in the process of tracking new songs for another record, hopefully to be released at the beginning of 2012.