Interview Session: Dead Rock West
Dead Rock West is a captivating duo that call California home made up of Frank Lee Drennen and Cindy Wasserman. Their latest release, It’s Everly Time, is a tribute to the musical greats, as they cover the classic songs of the Everly’s. We had the chance to catch up with one half of Dead Rock West, Frank Lee Drennen, as he discusses in depth the creation on the fascinating new release.
Cindy and Frank; the two of you had met in California nearly 10 years ago. What was the story behind how you first met?
Actually, I met Cindy around 1998 when she was in a band called Starbelly. I was playing with Gregory Page and the Troubled Sleepers. Gregory was producing a record for her, and we were the band. When I heard her sing on the session all bets were off. By the end of 1999 she and I had recorded a demo of two songs. For a short time we called ourselves Swampcooler.
What was the deciding factor to pay homage to the classic songwriters and musicians that influenced you?
Dead Rock West had spent a day with producer Mark Linett at his Your Place or Mine recording studio in Glendale, California to demo a couple new songs. At the end of the day he casually suggested we might try singing an Everly Brothers song sometime. The following week I heard “Problems” on the radio. It was like I had never heard it before. Excited, I pulled over to the side of the road. I called Cindy, and that day we decided to record an entire record or Everly songs.
It’s Everly Time!, your latest release, is skillfully crafted and brings out the essence of the classic songs; really doing them justice. How did you decide how the songs would be recorded?
I have to credit our producer/engineer Mark Linett for his excellent guidance. We had a great band including Elliot Easton from the Cars, D. J. Bonebrake from X and Dave Alvin among others. We tracked the songs live, including the vocals, over 5 intense days.
When it came to selecting specific Everly Brothers songs for the album, how did you select the ones you wanted to cover and put on the record?
Mark Linett is an expert on the Everly Brothers, and over a period of several months he fed us scores and scores of possible songs to record. In the end our decisions came from gut reactions to the songs and also how they worked with a male and female vocal- both the storyline and sound.
The harmonies on the record are absolutely enchanting. Did those come naturally or did it take a bit of practice for the harmonies to come together?
The Everly Brothers are true masters of harmony. For me it was an intimidating and daunting proposition to learn these songs. In preparation for the live recording sessions Cindy and I each learned both of the brothers harmonies on the songs, and decided who would sing what part once we got onto the sessions.
The Everly Brothers were a great choice to pay tribute to. Cindy and Frank, what is your personal connection with their music?
The Everly Brothers are an iconic singing duo, and it is nearly impossible to have not heard them on the radio, in a store, in the elevator or any number of places; they are part of our cultural DNA. In a way, I sort of took them for granted until we started pouring through their many decades of recordings. I still feel like we just barely scratched the surface.
What was your favorite song to perform on the record, and why so?
Every song was a favorite because it was all a brand-new experience, but if I had to say my favorite of favorites it would be “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad).” It was one of the first songs we tracked. When the band filed into the control room for a listen, we all quietly looked at one another as the song played as if we were secretly acknowledging that we were on to something special. As for me, I enjoyed singing softly and quietly on that song. It was something new for me, a new discovery as a singer.