DTCV returns with more music than ever

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There are all kinds of hazards to be faced on the road, and DTCV quite literally ran into one of the more unusual ones last fall. Heading back from a gig at the Pygmalion Music Festival in Champaign, Illinois, in September, the California-based trio had a high-speed encounter with a hapless local deer. “We were about half a mile from the exit that was where our hotel was, but we were on the highway doing about 70,” singer-guitarist James Greer recalls when the Straight calls him at home in Joshua Tree. “I was driving, and it was very dark, so there was no possibility of seeing this thing. It just came out of nowhere and smashed head-on into the minivan. All the airbags went off. This has never happened to me before. I’ve never been in any kind of accident where the airbags deployed. It was like a movie or something.”

With its rented minivan totalled and drummer Chris Dunn left with a case of whiplash, DTCV was forced to cancel the rest of its tour. The band is back on the road now, though, and its timing couldn’t be better. This month sees the group releasing a staggering amount of music, including a brand-new double album called Hilarious Heaven, and The Early Year, which compiles two previously issued EPs and a full-length cassette into one 18-song package. If you’re the sort who likes facts and figures, note that this makes for a total of 44 tracks. There’s a lot of variety here, too, from the relatively straight-ahead guitar-based indie rock of “Creative Class Dismissed” to the downbeat synth-pop of “Gone 1 Quickly”, which showcases the vocal and keyboard skills of DTCV’s third member, Guylaine Vivarat.

“I think more bands should be broader in their approach,” notes Greer, who is a screenwriter and novelist when he’s not banging on his six-string. “I would like that. There’s something to be said for a very specific and very narrow and very coherent aesthetic, but over the course of a 70-plus-minute album, that can get kind of wearing, no matter how good the songs are.”

Mind you, DTCV doesn’t take the synthesizers on tour: “Live, we’re much more guitar-drums-bass, high-energy, and we play really quickly, and we’re loud and sloppy. Or at least I’m sloppy—and drunk.”

That sounds like a pretty accurate description of Guided by Voices, for which Greer played bass during its Matador Records heyday. That connection has helped the nascent DTCV in several ways; the trio’s first national tour was as the opening act for the resurrected GBV, and that group’s Robert Pollard designed the cover art for Hilarious Heaven. DTCV has even recorded its own rendition of “Trendspotter Acrobat”, a number that Greer wrote for Guided by Voices’ 1996 EP Sunfish Holy Breakfast.

“When I did it for Guided by Voices, I wrote and recorded it and I played all the instruments myself, on four-track, and I didn’t have drums,” Greer says. “I didn’t have a drummer. I can’t play drums, basically. So I played all the guitars and I put down the bass and I did the vocals. It sounded good, but it was done on four-track in my basement, and I just thought it would be cool to finally have it as a proper rock song. That was the thinking there.

“Now when we play it live we do it a little bit slower, and I think it sounds better,” he continues, ruefully. “I think I rushed through it when we did the rock version, in retrospect. So now we’re probably going to do a third version. No, I’m just kidding! I think that’s enough.”

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