Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Des Ark!

I was a founding member of Des Ark. Yep, you heard right. It all started on a gorgeous June night in 2000, at a house show put on by Eric Crespo(at the time in a fantastic band called Question Rig, but you might know him now as Portland, OR’s Ghost To Falco) in Burlington, NC.

My band at the time, Strunken White, had been playing a lot with Aimee’s mind-blowing two acoustic/one electric guitar ensemble, known as Rubeo(good luck finding any recordings, kids- their 7 inch is one of my prized possessions and those two Rubeo tracks are a couple of all-time favorite musical moments for me)- and we shared yet another bill that night in Eric’s basement, along with his Question Rig. It was looking at the time that Rubeo was coming to an end: that night in Burlington they were reduced to a 2-piece, just Aimee and Beth Hoskins- guitarist Robin Landy had been heading in a different direction and had less and less time for the band(Robin now plays in a 2-piece called Silian Rail in San Francisco with my old bandmate from io, Eric Kuhn- just to give you an idea of how incestuous this music world can be if you’ve been doing it as long as someone like me). That night in Burlington, in the Crespo family driveway, I asked Aimee & Beth if they would like to start a band with me on drums. We got together for the first time the following week.

We called ourselves Pequeno for a bit, we were a quartet with Matt Tomich(The Scaries, Sorry About Dresden) on bass for a bit longer, but by the end of the summer of 2000, we were playing shows as a 3-piece around town at GO!, house parties, etc- as Des Ark. I have some amazing boombox practice cassettes with fantastic ideas by Aimee and Beth- gorgeous interlocking guitars and melodies that no one will ever hear- I still go back and listen to these about once a year and get all nostalgic and wonder how such cool shit could end up on the cutting room floor. These things happen when working with talents like Aimee Argote.

Alas, the first incarnation of Des Ark played around Chapel Hill for the remainder of 2000 and on into 2001- staying busy, drinking beers while watching Felicity, attempting to play Playstation games but getting distracted by the vibrating controllers, using band practice as an excuse to hang out and talk shit, etc. In mid-2001 I told Aimee I had decided to move to San Francisco with my new band, io, but that I wanted to make sure Des Ark kept going so I suggested our buddy, Tim Herzog, who often ran sound for us at GO!, take over behind the drums. That summer, I switched from drums to bass, because I wanted to play as many shows with these friends as possible before heading west in the fall. Tim took over behind the kit, things got loud, Beth and I both decided to bow out at the same time- Des Ark became a 2-piece, Aimee & Tim fell in love- the rest is pretty much history. I guess you could blame me for the rough personal times that ensued once I left NC, or you could thank me for doing so- because without it there might not have been a “Loose Lips Sink Ships”

I left a lot behind when I moved out west, but leaving Des Ark and not being able to stay so close with Aimee and Beth was always a big regret. Such a big regret that the week I moved back to NC in 2005, Aimee and Beth and I started jamming again- it didn’t last long due to all our wacky schedules, but it was proof of how important those beginnings in 2000 had been to us.

Flash forward to now. A LOT of people have come and gone through the Des Ark ranks, through many different incarnations. I’ve seen almost all of them, and been in a couple of them. Let me tell you- nothing beats what we’ve got now, and what you’ll see on October 10th at the Cradle. We’ve got Aimee, of course- seasoned and focused like never before- she’s driven and passionate as always, her newest material bringing back those guitar melodies & intricacies that made me love that early Rubeo and Des Ark material so much. On drums: the powerhouse that is Evan Rowe. The first time I saw him with Maple Stave I simply said to him “I think you’re the best drummer in NC right now”. And I’m pretty certain there is no drummer around here more enjoyable to watch- dudemans limbs wave around like Jello but there is nothing flimsy about the attack that they provide. And lastly, Noah Howard- the greatest secret weapon you could ever ask for. Hmm, should I mention Noah was my bandmate for 5+ years? In Strunken White, that little band I mentioned at the beginning of this essay. He was there, standing with me the night I asked Aimee and Beth to form Des Ark. Eight years later, he joined the band. Again, incestuous. But man, Noah completes it. Never has their been a guitarist more well matched for Aimee- this truly is the trio Des Ark was always meant to be. I really hope this one sticks, I’ve got a feeling it will.

You really don’t need me to tell you that Des Ark is important or that they are one of the top bands in the region or that you won’t want to miss the onstage interplay between my dear friends Aimee, Noah, and Evan- because everyone else already has told you. And they were right. Come see for yourself Saturday October 10th at Cat’s Cradle.

-John Booker


Anonymous said...

who are some early des ark's main influences musically?

John said...

Hi- sorry, just now seeing this comment! Hmm, well Aimee and Beth both kinda hate/hated music. Seriously. There weren't a lot of reference points. *I* heard Ani Difranco in some of their old band and the super early Des Ark stuff(which there are no recordings of), but Aimee always talked a lot of shit about Ani. Points of reference which I do remember & we all shared: Shannon Wright, Unwound, Polvo, A Minor Forest. And they both seemed to have a deep love of modern R&B crap.

Hope that answers your question!

Anonymous said...

is there any possible chance of getting the rubeo tracks as mp3s from you? im a big, long time fan of Des Ark and have been waiting for new full band material for a long while so it would satisfy my hunger slightly. also, make sure to come to Syracuse when she, or all of you, get back from Europe. i'd be willing to book the show myself if necessary. email: thanks for the time.

Anonymous said...

Des Ark is pretty much my favorite band right now.

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