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Black Owls with Purple No. 7

Feb. 6 • The Comet

By Sara Beiting · February 4th, 2009 · Sound Advice
The Black Owls play a brand of ’60s Garage Rock/’70s basement roll. Definite déja vu dating back to the glory days of everyone from The Ramones to The Stones to The Kinks to The Clash. Hailing from Granville, Ohio, home to Denison University, brews and the Whitehead Angus Farm, Black Owls drummer and rear frontman Dave Butler recently whipped us with his wit during a Q&A.

CityBeat: Talk about singing in the pocket…
Dave Butler: Starts like a kiss, ends like a curse. Really it’s profoundly fun and very aerobic. I have to pace myself because I have a tendency to get wound up as a drummer. I’m over-animated and I get winded — bad thing for a singer. I’m getting better, and the sound is working well. It’s probably as hard as it seems, but I don’t know any better. The guys say different, but I don’t think I’m that great a drummer. Just ‘capable.’ It’s hard to get good monitor without feedback live. I reckon it’s a bit weird for the audience. Especially on a small stage where I disappear behind the guys. Haven’t figured out the portable 5’ drum riser yet. I like the ‘frontman’ ideal, someone to focus on.

I try to be a frontman in the backseat, but I’m tethered to the kit for now. We are in secret discussions to bringing me up front, getting a good gig drummer. Not sure what I’ll do up there but it’d be enthusiastic.

CB: Are any of you Amish, or is it more Amish-like tendencies?
DB: I was pretty much raised in Amish country (Knox, Holmes, Richland and Ashland counties). Spent a good deal of time at auctions with my mother and grandparents, hanging out and playing with Amish kids. I wasn’t really all that fascinated with their lifestyle; I got it, thought it was fine, but always wondered what they thought of me. My appearance was so loud in contrast.

CB: Any particular inspirations?
DB: Absolutely and unabashedly. We really do wear our influences on our sleeves. The Stones, Bowie, T-Rex, Stooges, Kinks, Clash, Mott the Hoople, Thin Lizzy, Wire, X, Ramones … the list goes on and on. Lyrically, I admire Lou Reed, Jim Carroll, Elvis Costello and Andy Partridge. Come to think of it, much of our sound is early XTC, Adam & the Ants even. We wanted the sound to have a good muscular guitar-driven feel, like so much of the late ‘70s Punk and Glam. Clearly the range of inspirado is akin to the way Bob Pollard and GBV came into their rich sound too. So many great influences, pick your favorites and run with it, see where it goes.

CB: What kind of conversation does your music have with its listeners?
DB: Great question. We create complex little simple Rock songs … it seems easy when you listen to it, but we’re all about finding infectious combinations of simple structure. We’re a song band, as opposed to a sound band. It’s about great songs, one by one. We want to give little Aesop’s Fables of Rock, the kind you want to listen to over and over and over. Not tabloid Rock, that’s shocking now, gone tomorrow. We want the songs to create strong associations like the Rock songs from our experiences and youth.

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