by Joe Fielder w/ photo by Zoe Ruth Erwin
Here's a stream of the group's posthumously-released FREE final album, followed by said commentar -- which we like to think of less of a eulogy and more of a drunken Irish wake in a brawl with a goddamn Viking funeral pyre....
SARAH NEGAHDARI - THE HAPPY HOLLOWS
Death to Anders will always hold the most important place of any local band in my heart. Rob and Nick have been longtime friends, and it was their collaboration in Death to Anders, that so many years ago, inspired me to play music.
They wrote some of the most important and favorite songs of my whole life. Songs like, "Africa", "the Fall", "Heavyweight", and "Camera Lens", are better, and more genius, than almost any song I've heard come out in the world in the last decade.Why they were not world famous from their early days on, I just don't know.
Maybe it's Los Angeles, maybe because they didn't have the urban outfitters hipster "look" enough for people to really hear. I will tell you that it is not because of their music. The songs they made were pure genius, and that band deserved to be plucked out of this city and placed on the world's stage.
I am sad that Death to Anders is no more, but I feel good in the knowing that the songs they recorded are forever. Also, Im looking forward to everything they are doing in new projects to come! Thank you for sharing and expressing your genius guys. What a gift to my life. What a gift your music is to so many lives. Love, Sarah
BEN "MOUSE" MCSHANE - CLASSICAL GEEK THEATRE
I first saw Death to Anders at a Radio Free Silver Lake show at Bordello. My face melted. I got to know Rob, Nick, Pete, and John some over the years. Eventually I became Rob's roommate in Echo Park. We got drunk at Pehrspace. A lot. We put-on a show at Spaceland with D2A and The Mae Shi, and it was one of the best local shows I ever attended. (Rob's hands are in the promo video.) Rob was always bringing bands together, trying to put-on shows, pushing is music and passionately carrying on, even after his Collective imploded and not many people really cared about Death to Anders anymore. (Admittedly, myself included.) He was and is a great guy. I still play poker with Nick sometimes. He texts me about my Colts and I text him about his 49ers. Pete's daughter is adorable. I haven't seen John in years. I never met the new guys in the band.
Death to Anders was usually better than most bands, if not great, but they were always Doing A Good Thing. They were loud. Their music was weird. You could jump around to it. No goddamned facepaint or stupid fey nostalgia. I really liked that one song about the horse.
ANDREW SPITSER - RADARS TO THE SKY
At the beginning of the song, "Two Chords," the first track on the Don't Give Up e.p. Death to Anders put out last fall, Rob sings, "What'cha gonna do when you make it fall apart? / What'cha gonna do when it makes its way this far?" It's a question many artists of many kinds through many iterations have faced -- what do I do when I get here, when I've gotten this far into this thing that I love doing, and yet it seems on the verge of falling apart?
And truly, there is no perfect answer. Even the greats struggle with exits. Willie Mays, perhaps one of the greatest five baseball players of all time, famously held on too long, a paunchy 40-something spilling out of a strange-looking Mets uniform and struggling just to hold his spot on the team. Robert DeNiro has taken to playing the father in "comedies" whose major gag is that one of the characters has a last name that sounds like a swear word. Bill Clinton now seems like that dad in the stands at a Little League game clinging desperately to his old glories while yelling a little too vociferously about the umpire's bad calls. On the other hand, there's Hemingway who shoots himself when he can't muster another Nick Adams story he's happy with.
But, then again, those decisions of the greats are fraught with less implications than the question of when to pick up your chips and walk away a loser. Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards career may have sullied the outlines of his career, but nothing can destroy his greaness at his peak. You can't un-write The Sun Also Rises or erase the memory of Taxi Driver. But what about the kid drafted Jordan's rookie year who didn't even make the team and spent the next six years bouncing from one team in Spain to another in Israel. When is he ready to hang it up and go deliver the mail? How does he give up the dream? When does the young painter realize she's never going to get that Soho gallery show? And what does she do when she does -- does she keep painting; or take that job as a paralegal?
Thrillhouse Productions released the movie Pass the Music last year. Perhaps more than anything, it chronicled a moment in time, when a bunch of people who were friendly and supportive of each other came together to play shows and write blog posts and film videos and do Sunday night shows on famous music stations that all centered around the idea that all of those people had channeled something, some zeitgeist, some tidal wave of community that would lift all boats. And watching that movie projected on the side of a wall to a packed room in the back of the Bootleg Theatre a few months ago, the feeling that stuck out above all of the laughs and the claps and the knowing chuckles at one Siara brother putting another in a headlock, was -- for me, at least, and, I suspect, quite a few of the other people who were chroicled as having been part of that fleeting moment -- a feeling of having lost something. It was the ghost of Christmas past.
Because the fact is, that moment passed.
So what do you do? What do you when it's made its way this far? Do you have the strength to let it fall apart? Can you do that with dignity, before everyone has stopped even caring?
In Two Chords, Rob continues on to say, "when it's trite and ordinary...," but he misses the point, and he's far too self-deprecating. There was nothing trite or ordinary about Death to Anders. Indeed, they were a complicated enough band that they could lead to a disagreement between me and Kate, who believed that they would be more loved in the Hotel Cafe crowd, with me responding that, in fact, they should have focused on kids at The Smell. You couldn't ever make both of those arguments about any other band we know. We're probably both right (or both wrong).
No, there was nothing trite or ordinary about Death to Anders' songwriting. In fact, I've never been more challenged musically than I was in the few months that I played guitar in Death to Anders. Rob's song-writing -- and the remnants of Nick's contributions that still hung around by that point -- were unlike anything I'd had to grapple with before. This is not a band that did E and A. Every song has a right angle, every song has an unexpected twist, a minor 7th or an oddly played figure that doesn't even count as a chord. But none of it is done to showboat. There's no Satriani solo. Instead, in every case, Death to Anders songs use complicated patterns and well-thought-out intricacies borne of a Musician's Institute education in service of the song, in service of a narrative arc, in service of creating something greater than the sum of the parts. And lyrically, D2A songs are nothing if not fascinating character studies, little glimpses into twisted world views and scenic vistas of Great Plains States, Interstate 287 through Odessa right into Fort Worth, and arcane little corners of America (or Americana) like Ghost Rock.
They were, in short, a fascinating, challenging, creative, rollicking good band -- from their Rob, Nick, Peter, John initiation to the more recent Rob, Rob, Rob iteration.
But unfortunately, those twisted little vistas never found an audience. The truth is, even darlings of this website aren't really much more than a step and a half beyond nothing. As Rademacher might have put it, if a band plays a midnight spot at an eastside club on a weekday night and nobody hears it, did it really happen? And D2A was never really interested in the marketing. They didn't dress in snappy outfits. They didn't put on fancy shows. They didn't have a sound that could hook your 19 year old sister, or cross over onto KCRW. They found themselves trapped in that no mans' land -- not quite edgy or electronic enough to be Pitchfork darlings, but not quite Gibbard enough for fans who don't play guitar. Instead, they just played interesting, intricate, heartfelt songs built on chord changes most of us would have never thought of and chock full of guitar flourishes and bass arpeggios none of us could have pulled off.
And nobody but a few friends really cared. So now Death to Anders -- even in its second (or third, if I may be so bold) iteration -- is dead as well.
But I suspect that's okay. Because towards the end of "Two Chords," Rob writes:
"Two chords, I have loved you enough, enough to only love, enough to only sing,
Two chords, I have been out of touch, been down on my luck, been down with everything
Two chords, I will love you again, you are my soul, you are my friend,
Two chords, thanks for sticking around, my heart's been empty, now it's been found.
Now I am happy, now I am sound.
Now I am happy, now I am sound."
In the face of indifference, in the face of the struggle of personalities that keeping a band together always devolves into, there's always music. Even when there's indifference, there's still a dark room late at night with an acoustic guitar, slowly strummed. And even when you're a genius who knows how to add brilliant flourishes of guitar and banjo and keyboards to round out every recording, even when you're so talented that every song that starts with a repeated one-string riff evolves into a journey through odd time signatures to a soaring, lyrical coda, one suspects that Rob, alone in his room late at night, still returns to two chords, softly strummed, new melodies bouncing through his head, snippets of lines about odd misfits and normal feelings of strangeness jumping off of his tongue.
And I suspect that this won't be the last we hear from him. At least I hope not.
But even more, I hope that he's happy, I hope that soon he's found.
NICK CEGLIO - GEORGE GLASS (& formerly DEATH TO ANDERS)
I remember being in Fresno on tour with D2A back in 2009. Rob and I were passing time between shows and we wandered into a head shop and bought some Salvia. We were in our van when we decided to smoke it. It was just Rob and I. I must have smoked too much of it because my trip turned bad and Rob transformed into an ageless pixelated bird creature and he kept squawking and chirping so I burst out of the van, ran about 300 yards and clung to the leg of our drummer John. Eventually this event inspired a song. So thank you Rob Danson for morphing into a timeless beast for the benefit of our creativity.
RANDOLPH WILLIAMS - ONE TRICK PONY
when i would go watch Death to Anders at the echo and i would see that they were not getting the attention that other bands were, i was dissappointed but also validated. I imagine many people question themselves and rarely have any objective answer to self doubt, but when i saw D2A i could say "ok, i get it now. if people don't get that this is good then i'm absolutely uninterested in their opinions".
CHRISTIAN BIENNE - BRIGHT BEAST
It's really tough to quickly summarize what I love so much about a band that has been part of my life for over 7 years. I mean, almost everyone I am close to now, and my continued involvement in the Los Angeles local music scene is all really thanks to Death to Anders.
D2A was the first band that I met in Los Angeles that was actually making genuinely unique, interesting and challenging music. I came across them while playing in The Transmissions and found them through a jazz bar in Little Tokyo that put on indie rock shows under the name The Cocaine. It was through D2A that I met One Trick Pony and Happy Hollows, creating friendships between all of us that would last through 7 years of line up changes, breakups, reunions and new bands forming.
Bands that I had met prior to D2A, all seemed very self-centered and cut throat and there was very little sense of community. Rob Danson and Nick Ceglio, the two principle song writers in the band for a majority of it's existence, had a completely different spirit about them, which was genuine excitement for discovering new music and a spirit of community and friendship that always had them supporting bands they loved.
The collaboration between Rob and Nick was also one of my favorite things about the band. They were offering fairly different vocal styles and approaches to songwriting, yet they complemented each other so well. I've always been a fan of a band with multiple lead voices, and D2A really nailed it. I would be remiss if I left out how so many of the amazing musicians that have played with D2A over the years really shaped their songs and sound: from Anders (the original drummer back when they were briefly called The Guilders and T.L.S.P.) whose blend of jazz and rock drums gave the band such a unique rhythmic style and who played with the group during several periods, to Pete DiBiasio who played the most amazing melodic and bad ass bass lines, to John Broeckel who gave the band some of it's most driving, energetic and exciting beats, and to all the other musicians that kicked ass in D2A, making some cool fucking music.
The only thing that doesn't make me sad about the end of Death to Anders is that it is only the beginning of some exciting new music projects coming from Rob Danson, Nick Ceglio and the rest of the D2A alum! Looking forward to it...