Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Maybe only when you're bedside with one of your best friends, talking about the marauding, dictating, warlording cancer that's laying siege to their body - even if that afternoon things seem better and beating the odds is more than just a passing thought - does the word hope mean its full potential. Maybe only then can someone truly feel as if they're witnessing hopefulness in its maximum potency, its highest esteem and regard. It's at that time that people are brave and strong in the face of it and then later, when they've retired to their room, or just after getting into their cars to return home, they put their heads in their hands and find themselves sinking into a convulsing, shuddering weep. It all happens out of admiration for the strength and out of understanding that hopefulness is just another way of saying that there's nothing else out there working on your behalf than some magical invisibility.
It's putting faith in everything unseen, whether or not the unseen has any viable healing powers. Eau Claire, Wisconsin band The Daredevil Christopher Wright has a song called, "A Conversation About Cancer" that is just that, a song that's structured around an e-mail that lead singer Jon Sunde received from his English-teaching, aspiring novelist mother after speaking with her dying friend. It's about those overcoming circumstances bigger than anything else imaginable - the David and Goliath references were a bulk of the conversation - or at least portraying the useful hope needed to do so. One thing about hope is that it doesn't work half the time. It's not a pessimistic statement or a defeatist attitude, it's just that hope and faith are turned to when there's nothing else, when the odds are sliding right off the table, to crash on the floor and shatter into a thousand little pieces. This is obviously not to say that having it isn't a good idea or the best idea there is.
Sunde, his brother Jason and drummer Jessie Edgington must be firm believers in all of the various hopes that are out there fluttering around like fireflies - non-existent for all but a few hours every night and only during a couple months out of the year, in certain parts of the country. Most of the time, it would be easy to convince yourself that there's no such thing as a firefly and then the lights dim on a July night, the cicadas start to chirp their mating calls and pop go the shutters of the mysterious guests, arriving as hope does, briefly, but with more of a regularity. A lot of the songs on the band's debut full-length - In Deference To A Broken Back - an album that was produced by buddy and fellow Eau Claireian Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, carry with them allusions to the man upstairs or at least the things he's supposedly telling us to live by, the words that are of the scripture that apparently carry more weight and resiliency than anything else we can imagine.
These three guys stir their hopes with Beach Boys-y melodies that get kooky and do things that Interpol might try doing with more California raging through them, should they feel that they could roll up their pant legs and take a tan. Sunde sings that the love of a father (or The Father) is stronger than cancer and that someone finding out if that's true or not can teach him a lot about everything. The dimmer the outlook, the brighter the hope can be and there's a desire to make it so blinding that it has an effect. The passion that is inside every one of the Daredevil songs generates feelings of similar importance, similar tantalizing possibility - where the sky can break off from the dirt that holds its roots hostage.