By Patrick Finch
When I first spoke with singer-songwriter Anthony Damiao, in 2012, he was finding his feet in an over-crowded folk scene, armed with his acoustic, his harmonica, and his Bob Dylan cap. Today, Damiao has honed his craft and his intent into a focussed, raucous, and genre-less brand of rock ‘n’ roll. He abhors the term “folk-rock”, but his new band, The Namedroppers, just released their first single Luddite which takes what he learned writing protest songs, throws in healthy dose of the Clash, some volume, and allows him to speak his mind with more clarity than ever before.
“Luddite is the shortest, punkiest song we had and it’s basically a social commentary on complacent young people,” Damiao explained to me after killing the volume on the Leonard Cohen playing in the background. “We chose it because the album that we’re putting out this summer, Bored Bored Bored, kind of runs around the same social message; not really a political message, but a social one. The whole thing revolves around the generation that we belong to being bored silly, bored into complacency and not having anything really to call their own and having a popular culture that doesn’t represent them. The single is the first step for us getting our name out there before we put the album out.”
Damiao is quick to point out that the messages he wishes to convey are of social import, not political. He’s loathe to play the role of preacher, but he’s not about to let his audiences get away without hearing his thoughts on the state of his generation.
“None of us are interested in telling anyone what to do,” he said. “None of the songs have any suggestions of what anyone should be doing or how they should be thinking, it’s just a commentary on what I think is going on; what I see and what I think about it. The message comes out in the sound as well, not just the words. I’ve never wanted to sound like an evangelist, you know? Like someone who really knows the score. I’m just singing about what I’m thinking.”
After relocating to Guelph, Damiao set to finding the men who would make up his band. A kijiji ad and some awkward trial-jams later, he had found his bandmates: guitarist Michael Di Felice, bassist Sam Dlugokecki (“a gorilla of groove!”), and, eventually, drummer Stephen Gomboc. His exceptionally skilled side-men not only gave him the confidence to follow his inspirations from rock to punk to jazz, but gave his songs a vastly superior ship on which to sail.
“I wanted to throw in the sort of things you’d find with like, the Talking Heads or that sort of thing; the surprise chord thrown in, or the melody going where you wouldn’t expect it. I was writing that in folk songs which almost worked to their detriment, but I was tired of C, F, and G. When Michael came around and we started playing, we got along really well and he had all these suggestions and put all his oomph behind the music on guitar, and suddenly I believed that maybe I could write punk songs, or I could write rock ‘n’ roll, or maybe genre would have nothing to do with it, but I wouldn’t have to only write folk songs.”
Folk and punk are both, essentially, protest music, but Damiao and crew aren’t railing against the establishment or crying for the salvation of the working man. Damiao’s too sharp to assume that he has the answers. His protest is against the deterioration of the soul in the face of a modern world too bored to care what, or if, they ever actually do anything.
“The record’s called Bored Bored Bored because we to shake things up and do something. If anything that’s the message: do something. Hopefully something creative. Basically the whole message was, lyrically and sonically, when you get down to it, it’s to not follow patterns and trends, it’s to do your own thing.”
WHO: The Namedroppers CD Release party w/ Death Party Playground
WHERE: Café Pyrus
WHEN: Saturday, February 15th, 2014
TICKETS: $10 or Pay What You Can (includes a copy of CD)
DOORS: 7:00 pm