Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
The Donkeys have stumbled into our studio twice now - once in the late spring of 2006, before the weather had started to heat itself - and once this past summer, when the air was of their preferable toasty condition, but they weren't allowed to rest in it. They were shooed by the local authorities from a nearby park, told to take their exhausted bumming ways elsewhere. It's the kind of inhospitability that could make someone never want to return, never set feet again in your city, but the affinity that the band feels for our room is of no small consequence. It's been good to them and they seem intent on being good back to it. There's a love affair a brewing. I wasn't there when they left this time, but they could very well have blown kisses to the room and hugged its walls as a goodbye and see ya next time.
Without really having to try that hard, all of the rusticity that adorns the music of this slowly galloping bunch of parishioners to the temple of Gram Parsons and all of the countrified legends of rock and roll is blazoned right out front, like an ancient marquee sign outfitted with lights of olden yellow - the kind you see at the edges of black and white photographs that have been hoarded and boxed up for decades.
The songs on their self-titled Antenna Farm Records debut have that soft feel of sleepy eyes and a brunch of toast, coffee, eggs and the morning newspaper. They're songs that feel like all of the nostalgic American things that have slowly gone by the wayside, been made either foolishly irrelevant, obsolete or almost extinct. They're rotary phones, these songs. They are the distant shine of a drive-in movie theater's double-feature way out in the countryside, shooting that beam of white light straight up to the dark heavens as peaceful quietude engulfs the smell of the tubs of popcorn being buttered and the clicking of the projector running over the rolls of film. They write about desperate measures, destitution, drinking booze and love as if they were all just part of the same silhouette. The loves come and go, but they're always strong as smelling salts and touchable - they feel so immediate and yet sometimes they're so impossible to reach. Someone's always skimping to get by, to make the ends meet. There are no big pockets to be found, just pockets with holes in them or simply no familiarity with fat wallets. It's music for the rest of us. They make songs that feel like ballroom dances between hayrack rides, smoke rings, drunken rounds of enlightening conversation and the prettiest girl in the room.
The Daytrotter interview:
*Do you always feel tired because every time I've seen you, you look it?*
Tito DeNardo: We look tired? That can't be good. We should look energetic and full of vigor. Well, last time you saw us we were pretty tired. We had the bone-head idea to drive through the night and sleep in Rock Island so as to avoid being late. There is nowhere to sleep in Rock Island. We got the cops called on us for crashing a park so we all just went our separate ways trying to kill time until the session. But that was one time. The other time we looked great right?
Sam Sprague: I hope we will get to see you guys next time a little more spry. We would've been more rested last visit but Rock Island PD doesn't like Californians sleeping in their parks at dawn.
Anthony Luken: Your geographical location prohibits The Donkeys from properly resting and grooming for you and Pat.
*What do you all individually eat way too much of on the road?*
I find that the road is a terrible place to eat. I'm sure this comes as no surprise. But what good there is in this fine country to eat is rarely right off the freeway. At home I try to avoid the
over-prossesed nonsense that america calls food but on the road that is not nearly as easy. So what do I eat way to much of on the road? Industrialized bullshit. (I'm sure there is a collective band eye rolling as I type.)
SS: On tour, we all eat a wide array of junk food plus pizza, burgers and tacos. Just to keep it healthy, we get to the Pilates and spin class when we get home.
AL: Pizza or burritos -- it's not that simple.
*Is the picture on your MySpace page you guys this Halloween or last Halloween? What's the preferred candy of the band?*
TD: Oh, that picture is actually from last Halloween. We were to busy this year to pull anything together. We usually like to put some kind of party on and do a festive cover set in costume. I'm not sure there is a collective candy agreement, but Tony and I like Skors bars (any dark chocolate is good by me)
SS: We dressed up like zombies last year. Unfortunately/fortunately we were mixing all day and night this Halloween, so no parties for us this year. We had fun though and are one more holiday closer to having a finished album. And we had our favorite candy -- tacos and burritos.
* When you've been out on the road with Casiotone Owen, have you had any wagers or challenges?*
TD: Owen isn't to competitive of a guy. The Donkeys on the other hand are kinda ridiculous. We'll bet about any and everything of little to no importance. From how long it takes to drive from Prunedale to San Juan Capistrano to whether or not Sam can keep down a whole gallon of milk. Give us a reason to argue and we are off to the races. I would imagine it to be a little tiring to an outsider.
SS: Out on tour, Owen and I arm, leg, thumb and an occasionally wrestle wrestle. Blue man tickets on the line.
AL: We don't like to bet with Owen because he's recovering from a serious and debilitating gambling problem. He once wagered his mother's house cat on a game of dice.
*Donkeys or Elephants in '08? Should be easy...*
TD: '08 huh? Best case scenario, neither the donkeys nor the elephants. But you know what they say, shit in one hand wish in the other, right.
SS: I'm voting for The Monkees this year.
*Do you still use the Daytrotter session-coined phrase, "Tick tock motherfucker"?*
TD: Tick-tock-mother-fucker yeah, that pretty much sum's it up. If we could make Pat our spiritual adviser I think we would.
SS: Oh that Pat has such a way with words doesn't he? You give him a kiss for us and please tell him the recordings sound great.
AL: Tick tock mother fucker's right...We did our whole session in under twenty five minutes!