When Omaha punk band Desaparecidos reunited three years ago for the Concert for Equality in Benson, everyone assumed it was a one-off reunion gig.
Frontman Conor Oberst is notorious for always having a lot on his plate, not only as the driving force behind Bright Eyes, but as a member of supergroup Monsters of Folk and with his own solo work as The Mystic Valley Band.
But three years later, Desaparecidos is still busy recording and releasing 7-inch singles — three so far, including their latest, “Te Amo Camila Vellejo” b/w “The Underground Man.” And they’re still touring. Their show in Omaha Oct. 22 was part of an 11-date tour originally scheduled around a festival appearance in Australia (though the Aussie gig has now been postponed).
So what keeps Desaparecidos going, and what’s in the band’s future?
Desaparecidos guitarist and co-founder Denver Dalley was more than happy to provide the answers, or at least try to. Dalley talked via cell phone from San Francisco last week where he was on tour playing bass with Har Mar Superstar, one of his many projects that also includes solo work under the moniker Statistics (which just released a new album, Peninsula, on Afternoon Records), writing and recording music as part of Two of Cups, and scoring sound tracks for independent films, including the recently completed documentary Heartland: The Joplin Tornado.
After finishing this current tour with Desaparecidos, Dalley said he’s moving temporarily from the New York apartment he shares with Desa keyboardist Ian McElroy to chill for a few months at a small boutique hotel in Bali owned by his friends.
“They’re heading out of town on a tour of their own, so I’m going to hang out and record and enjoy Bali for awhile,” he said. “This year has been non-stop, going from one tour to the next and recording with one band or another. I’m looking forward to being in one place for awhile.”
Dalley said one simple reason why Desparecidos continues to function as a band is that it’s simply too much fun to stop. “How well we picked up from where we left off is what drove us to get back together and become an actual band, for real this time,” Dalley said.
Wait a minute, a “real band” and not just a reunion project? Dalley said that’s the plan, though “we obviously haven’t promised anything to anyone and we’re trying to keep everything as open-ended as possible. We’re easing back to being a full-on band again, doing smaller tours and covering different areas, and maybe next year go full-on into touring again and see what new material happens.”
And that includes releasing a new full-length album… maybe.
“It’s definitely in the ether,” Dalley said. “We been building songs with these seven inches that’s headed that way, but we’re kind of like a group of really noncommittal dudes. We all want it to happen, but I don’t think anyone wants to commit that it will happen. If schedules get in the way we don’t want anyone to say, ‘You said it’s going to be out this summer.’”
Dalley said in addition to the songs recorded for the seven-inch singles, the band wrote three or four new ones earlier this summer while in Minnesota. “So right there we have enough for a full-length,” he said, “but we’ll keep writing and see what happens.”
It sounds like no one wants to say what will happen next for fear of spoiling the fun.
“We’ve been having a blast,” Dalley said. “Every time we get together either recording in Omaha or touring it’s like summer camp. We’re at our best and happiest when we’re making music together. We know everyone has commitments and the timing wasn’t there before, but it is now. It’s exciting to see what’s coming in the next year, without any expectations other than to move forward. It’s not like there’s a quota of tour dates that we’re trying to meet.”
And when you’re dealing with a frontman like Oberst, any future plans are unpredictable. Oberst just capped off a solo tour that included a performance in Las Vegas with The Felice Brothers, and curated a stage at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. Can another solo record or Monsters tour be far off?
But Oberst isn’t the only one who’s busy. Drummer Matt Baum is a full-time chef at Dundee restaurant The French Bulldog, McElroy was just in town last week performing at The Waiting Room in the guise of his hip-hop project Rig 1, while bassist Landon Hedges continues his work as frontman in indie band Little Brazil and as a solo artist.
Dalley makes ends meet as a full-time musician touring with Har Mar Superstar and licensing his music to various television shows. “I keep everything pretty simple in my life,” he said. “I keep my overhead low, and, just like anything, if you’re working all the time you don’t have time to spend money.”
Being older and wiser seems to have made the uncertainty of Desaparecidos easier. Dalley, 32, said everyone has “matured as people and musicians, but in a lot of ways, we haven’t matured at all. We’re the same little rascals as before. We’re older and wiser, that’s a fair thing to say. We’re able to just enjoy what we’re doing and are grateful for each thing as it happens, without having to say ‘Well, what’s next?’”