The Strafing Run: Dead Channel Goes Off the Air, But Not Before Releasing a Killer Debut

Dead Channel

Lead singer of Dead Channel, Devin William Daniels, playing in State College, Pa at The Darkhorse Tavern. | Photo by Michael Palmer

Hi there, readerfaces!

A while back, The Strafing Run column introduced our readers at a great local band in State College, Pa., Dead Channel. Recently, they released their debut album, Last of the Big Time Splendors. Most bands follow up a quality debut album with touring, interviews, and celebration. Dead Channel has skipped past all that straight to the breaking up. Wait, it’s ok. This is actually a happy story.

It isn’t drama, artistic differences or David Lee Roth-esque levels of drug use that have caused this promising band to break up right after the release of their first album. It’s a matter of distance. Devin William Daniels, guitarist and singer for the band, is moving to South Korea. Kevin Clair, the band’s talented bassist, is moving to Colorado. (Stephen Mattes, drummer and singer for Dead Channel, is staying put for now.)

Knowing that everyone was going to go his separate way, Dead Channel decided to put together an album of all the songs they’d been working on since they formed. Produced by “The Quincy Jones of State College” Ben Wentz, Last of the Big Time Splendors is a solid, pleasing album you can spend time with. When I say it sounds like it could’ve came from the late ’80s, it’s a compliment. Sparse and sleazy, aloof yet grabby, filled with strong rhythms and well-fitting vocals, Last of the Big Time Splendors is not only a good album, but a great tease as well. These three were clearly in sync when they put this album together. We’re left to wonder what Devin, Kevin and Stephen could’ve created with more time together. Give it a listen yourself:

THE BOMBER JACKET asked the members of Dead Channel a few questions about the album, the band, and their future plans. They were nice enough to talk to me, and I’m nice enough to share it with you here:

TBJ: Now that it’s finally out, how do you feel about this album?

Devin William Daniels: I’m pretty happy with it. Dead Channel is definitely the most personally fulfilling band I’ve played in. I really like how these songs developed over the year we were playing them, and I’m glad we were able to preserve them as a document of the band before we called it quits.

Kevin and Steve are really incredibly talented guys, so playing with such good musicians really gave me a lot of license to explore as a guitar player and find the kinds of sounds I’ve always wanted to make.

Wish we didn’t have to call it quits since I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m hoping the momentum can sustain into future projects.

If the opportunity presented itself I would play with either of these guys in a heartbeat. We’re going to be several time zones apart between Kevin’s going to Denver and my going to Korea so who knows if it would ever happen but I can’t imagine a collaborative situation more seamless and intuitive.

Kevin Clair: I’m really happy with it. I could have devoted more time to the process and really perfected each song, but I think getting each song done in two or three takes preserved the live feeling that we were going for. Also recording it with Ben introduced me to a ton of new pedals I want to buy, which will help the local economy.

Stephen Mattes: I’m absolutely thrilled with the album. I’m proud of the music we put together as a band, and I’m proud of what I’ve done on the album as a drummer. Ben Wentz made the recording process really easy for us, and made everything sound great.

What was your favorite memory from your time with Dead Channel?

Devin: A lot of moments come to mind; there was the show in the middle of the woods we did with all those other great bands, the final performance, the recording of the album, the co-op show where we did an impromptu cover of “Black Diamond,” despite Kevin and Steve not knowing the song, but I think it definitely has to be opening for the Dum Dum Girls at Chronic Town. I had wanted to play at Chronic Town since I was a kid at Penn State, and getting to open for a band we love as much as them (we actually covered a Dum Dum Girls song at our first couple shows) was really an amazing experience, and I thought with a lot of pressure on our psyches we really delivered at that performance. Then getting to watch the band afterward and go nuts with a great crowd just put it over the top.

Kevin: There’s lots, but the show we played on Tussey has to be my favorite. Everything about that night was great, but especially seeing it come together in a week from nothing to six awesome local bands playing under the power lines. It shows how far the music scene here has come from a year ago, when nothing like that would have ever happened. I’m proud and humbled to have been even a tiny part of that.

Stephen: Dead Channel was together for a little over a year, and we did a lot of fun stuff in that time, like Arts Crawl + afterparty at Houseasaurus, a mountaintop generator show, and a few gigs at the Darkhorse. The highlight though was definitely opening for Dum Dum Girls at Chronic Town. Opening for such a big band gave us a little extra motivation, and their performance was great.

What are your plans musically in your new locations?

Devin: I’m not entirely sure. I’d like to do more with home recording, as I have tons of unfinished songs I’ve been neglecting, and I want to learn more about the production and arrangement side of things, but I’d also really love to find some musicians over there and form a new band (I’m open-minded in terms of direction but this sort of post-punk style is certainly my bag) ’cause there’s a lot of great music there and I want to be a part of it.

Kevin: I’m moving to Denver next week, so that’s the main new project I have planned. We’ll see how it goes from there. I’ll probably end up making bedsit electronic music for a little while until I find some people in Colorado to play music with.

Stephen: I am actively seeking new bands now that Kevin & Devin are leaving town. It’s frustrating to start from scratch, but I’ll be out and playing again soon enough. I am a bit sad that I’m missing out on the application period for this year’s Arts Crawl. If you know anyone that needs a new drummer, let me know!


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