I walked into La Cita for the first time and sat myself down at the bar. I had trouble understanding the bartender because of her thick accent, but we figured everything out and I ended up with a glass of Templeton Rye on the rocks. The doors for the show were at 8, but there was hardly anyone there. Me being so new to Los Angeles, I assumed that everything would be full immediately. I sipped my drink and watched the first band set up. The house DJ played fantastic music, including “Water” by PJ Harvey, which blew my fucking mind. I felt a kind of tension coming from the band, but I think this was my own sensitivities. The band completed sound check and took the stage.
What came out of the unassuming group was a full sound that pulled me in immediately. They were subtle and commanding, casually switching between styles and attitudes and remaining engaged with the crowd (which had filled out a bit). The band was right there with you and they were confident in what they were doing, which I suppose is easy when you have such great songs to back you up.
I am not sure of DTCV’s (pronounced Detective) song writing process. After talking to them, I imagine it’s an organized process where all the members put their stamp on every track. They switch between vocalists, with Vivrat saying, “We try to make everything really equal.” They seem to put their money where their mouth is. They are a true trio in the sense that all the members seem to provide a perfect sense of balance to their sound and stage presence.
The band’s sound begins with guitarist/singer James Greer. He simply knows how to do what is needed for every song. He can take the lead on a track and create hyper-catchy classic-sounding riffs, or he can take a back seat with more atmospheric layering and gradual building. Greer is funny, speaks his mind, and doesn’t mind the occasional jab. He is a true renaissance man that has lived in many different places. He is a former member of Guided By Voices, ex-senior writer for SPIN magazine, and a successful author. His experience allows him to have the confidence to take the lead, pull back, and be a face when the band needs one. He has no problem interacting with a crowd and making his presence felt. Greer is also somewhat of a neo-expat. He’s spent a lot of time in France, which is why I am inclined to believe that he connected well with French singer/bass-player, Guylaine Vivrat, while living in Los Angeles.
DTCV would not be what it is without Greer’s drony vocal tracks, providing that balance and never slipping into something overly comfortable.
Guylaine is a pleasure to speak with. She is smart, a person clearly interested in evolving herself as much as possible while taking in the world. I asked the band if they had moved to LA to play music. “Not really”, replied Vivrat. “I came here randomly, and then I stayed even more randomly and then I started to play music.” It seems that she got swept up into the music scene, well, randomly. “I was vaguely trying to sing with people, it was horrible, and I took piano lessons as a little kid.” Her inexperience isn’t obvious. She’s a capable bass player, always filling out all the tracks and never being lazy. She has a voice that reminds me of a breathy Neko Case and PJ Harvey at times. Perhaps that was just the DJ getting to me.
Even with this powerful vocalist, DTCV would not be what it is without Greer’s drony vocal tracks, providing that balance and never slipping into something overly comfortable. “That’s sort of a deliberate thing” says Greer. “I mean, I like when bands have a very consistent sound, but I’ve also always liked bands, like Sonic Youth, that have different vocalists because it just changes up the sound.” The band lives this out on stage and recordings in that its hard to pin them down to certain kind of song structure or style. They have a distinct sound, but they aren’t afraid to mash and mold it into something new.
While I love the interplay between Greer and Vivrat, drummer Chris Dunn is the rock the group stands on. While I was watching them set-up, I honestly thought Dunn looked nervous. He just seemed to have an edge about him, like he was about to go in front of the judges. That quickly disappeared as he played some of the tightest drumming I have heard in quite some time. When I asked the band if they grew up learning music, they broke out in laughter. “He’s the only professional musician in the band”, said Vivrat of Dunn. He went to drum school for a few years and it’s obvious when he plays. He brings a confidence to the stage anchored in his technical ability, holding the band together, providing the essential beat.
DTCV have released two albums in their two years together and plan on putting out more material. Their records are candid, exploratory, and well put together. They have a way of remaining understated while maintaining a strong sense of professionalism and joy in playing together. At the end of it, they make great rock records with a sound that is missing from popular music in the United States today. “We’re guitar, bass and drums, you know. And yes, we have keyboards on the records, but inevitably that roots you in a certain aesthetic that is not necessarily, right now, the dominant aesthetic.” Greer makes this point as we start talking more about indie, pop and California. It’s a true statement, but they seem like they are having too much fun to care about fitting themselves into the flavor of the year. They are themselves, and they make great music in their own skin.