After emerging in 2001 with a distinct brand of politically-charged garage rock, Nebraskan outfit Desaparecidos made like the Spanish translation of their title and disappeared for the good part of a decade.
Following on from what could well have been a one-off reunion in 2010, the band have built their momentum to become a vitalised touring and recording outfit once again. As such, lead singer Conor Oberst will once again perform at Harvest Festival – last time was with a revived Bright Eyes, this time it’s with Desaparecidos. Speaking ahead of the band’s Australian debut, songwriter-guitarist Denver Dalley runs us through Desaparecidos’ return.
“We’d been talking about getting together and playing again for years, then that show came up in 2010. Everything went so well,” he recalls. “We really felt like we picked up where we left off and had a lot of fun in the band room. We’re back to just cracking jokes and it didn’t feel forced or anything. So after that show in 2010, we were really determined to be a band again.”
With all band members enjoying a diverse range of projects since the initial 2002 Desaparecidos break up, they still managed to settle into an equilibrium in the ranks. “As far as our dynamic and chemistry, we all just jumped right back in. Three of us live primarily in New York, but we all have another place. The band is based in Omaha, we’re all from Omaha, and two of the guys live in Omaha full time. There was some scheduling we had to work out – we’re all still involved in other things, so there was some ironing out of the schedule. So when we got together for band practice or a little tour here and there, it was like summer camp,” Dalley enthuses. “It’s become a little bit more of a band procedure … Just throwing in and contributing a little more equally than before. [A song] definitely still starts off as one person’s idea, but we’re building the songs more as a band now.”
Despite the long time between drinks, Dalley still sees OG fans out in the crowd at each performance – as well as a new generation of followers. “It’s a pretty big mix; it’s about half-and-half between fans that were there at the beginning and newer fans. Sometimes on message boards or Facebook there will be people saying, ‘I can’t get in the show, it’s 18 and up.’ You kind of do the math and realise they were six when the first album came out.”
Last year’s fully-fledged reunion saw the release of the double A-side ‘MariKKKopa’ / ‘Backsell’, backed up by this year’s seven-inch ‘Anonymous’ / ‘The Left Is Right’. Even in the space of a year, says Dalley, the band have refined their songwriting focus. “In 2012, it was a little bit more general in making commentary about how people were living their lives and how areas and neighbourhoods were changing, and what the expectations of a person in life are. But now we’re pinpointing specific issues and going after them. It’s more directed and not as general.”
Though the material is politically charged, the band manage to avoid any semblance of heavy-handed, overly preachy hubris. “There are some times at a show where Conor will get on the mic and say something, and we all get behind it, but then after it he will say he doesn’t want to talk so much or sound preachy. We never feel like it comes across that way – maybe he’s just overanalysing it. Maybe it’s the dream to have a song that people enjoy musically, but then the lyrics get someone to go home and look something up online or in a book. Starting a conversation – that’s the dream.”
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK