When you move to a new town, you never forget your firsts. My first valentine’s day in Portland, my truck was towed during a snow ban and got a flat tire while I was out at the bar. The first place I ever sat down to eat was a Denny’s off exit 5. A fact that I’m not proud of whatsoever given Portland’s reputation as a great culinary city. But after forcing down that grand slam, the first Portlander I met was Don Dumont, the front man for the Portland based group Dead Man’s Clothes. After spending time at his Houlton street apartment, he invited us down to the open mic he hosted. That night, I had my first listen to an acoustic session of DMC material. It was by far the best welcoming gift I could have received (just ahead of that copy of Soul Plane on DVD. Thanks, Josh!). I devoured their whole first album Aplomb later that night and immediatly became a certified Dead Man's Clothes fan.
It’s hard to pinpoint just what type of genre Dead Man’s Clothes falls under. In an interview with Sandwich Zine, Don described their sound as being “the brontosaurus of music; a combination of many things that create something that never really existed before.” One listen through a given amount of their material and you’d understand why. Psych-rock blends with surfer-jams topped off with straightforward energetic indie rock to create a blazing sound. They’ve released three albums, with their latest Ice Is War being released this past August. Though the lineup has changed over the years, drummer Elliot Heeschen and guitarist/lead vocalist Don Dumont have anchored the lineup since the band’s inception.
Dead Man’s Clothes has added two of Portland’s most talented musicians in their latest incarnation; guitarist TJ Metcalfe and bassist Ian Riley. Riley can entrance you with his roaming bass lines. Another of the band’s multi-talented members (Riley is also an experienced drummer), he acts almost as the conductor; keeping the train on the rails while still maintaining a pace that keeps the song evolving. TJ Metcalfe’s lead guitar riffs keep your whole body in motion, regardless of whether you planned on moving or not. His talent is the perfect fit for the mottled pulse of Dead Man’s Clothes, shifting gears between an enchanting strum to a harried riff in no time flat.
Together, the group creates music that is a wonderful mix of Telemundo and a lit stick of dynamite. They take the fiery passion (or hidden passion depending on your show of choice) and combine it with the exhilaration of inevitable, uniform chaos. Each song is a buildup of tension that never levels off. You either keep climbing, or get dropped off the edge of a cliff, hitting every stabbing note on the way down. The crater left in this musical aftermath is just one of many that Dead Man’s Clothes can pepper upon the landscape of the underground rock scene.
I owe a lot to Don Dumont and the band Dead Man’s Clothes as a whole. My first couple of months visiting Maine was spent crashing on Don’s floor, drinking Cumberland Farms coffee and staying up until 3 A.M. listening to Wolf Parade. If it wasn’t for him and the people I met hanging outside of DMC shows (like Ian Riley), I would have never made the friends I did and started my new life there. Dead Man’s Clothes dedication to their music and their fans is what makes them such an integral part to the indie rock community. And that dedication is starting to pay dividends. Two months before the release of Ice Is War, DMC was voted Best New Act by the Portland Phoenix. And in October, the band was among some of the other local acts chosen to play at The Trash Bar for the CMJ Music Festival in Brooklyn, New York. So if you're feeling like a rousing sea chanty, or just a song about making sweet zombie love, give these Portland boys a chance.