The dB’s met each other by the age of 8 or 9 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Chris ultimately formed the trio with Gene Holder and Will Rigby in the late 1970′s, adding Holsapple after they requested him to audition on keys. Chris Stamey stayed with the band for the first two albums, then moved on to play with Alex Chilton for many years. Over time, the original lineup changed, and within a decade, The dB’s as they were had run their course. Peter Holsapple moved through many other bands, including a long run as the “fifth member of R.E.M.,” on the road with Hootie and the Blowfish, and playing with the Continental Drifters, as well as a recurring acoustic duo with Chris Stamey, both live and for a couple of records.
This brand new album by the original foursome of the dB’s, Falling Off the Sky, took nearly seven years to complete. Stamey and Holsapple’s dual vocals create a distinct blend that complements the “jangle pop” of their music. The latest release sounds like a dB’s record, but manages not to sound “retro.” Peter refers to their first meetings since 1988-ish as being like getting back on a bike–comfortable territory and easy to jump right back where they were, despite the decades that had passed. Life has changed greatly for each of them in the interim, though, and makes for a more targeted plan for live performance than might have occurred long ago. The dB’s fan bases in Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles remain, but logistics of shows in each place vary. They are not twenty-somethings riding in a black and gray GMC rental van any more.
Lyrically, dB’s songs are no longer about yearning for a girl in class, and are about their real life changes, including divorces, addiction, and hurricanes. Holsapple’s family lost everything in Hurrican Katrina, but the loss that put the tragedy into deeper perspective was the death of his former brother-in-law, Barry Cowsill, under unclear circumstances in the hurricane. Such personal depths have brought meaning to some of their songs that perhaps were not there in earlier dB’s songs, but the sound will connect their past to their current music.
Notice Mitch Easter with them on bass here at SXSW 2012.