The Dull Blue Lights are a band in between. Drawing from influences as varied as Motown soul, Nuggets psychedelia, and Jamaican rocksteady, the Philadelphia-based group’s definitive blend of cascading harmonies, screaming guitars, and relentlessly grooving rhythms lives somewhere between each one. The band calls this in-between sound Basement Soul. That sound has been eight years in the making, and is only the latest in the band’s long series of transformations.
Originally deemed The Snails, the group was formed in 2009 as a quartet by singer and lead guitarist Todd Fausnacht and played in the styles of punk, blues, and rockabilly music. Fausnacht’s affinity for British rockers The Clash quickly pointed his attention toward Jamaican styles of music — ska, rocksteady, and reggae. The band had begun establishing themselves as The Clash’s increasingly Jamaican-inspired would-be heirs by the time of their first large-scale release, 2011’s From Kingston to Memphis. That record, which Boston Ska writer Alex Chiasson called “more abrasive and energetic than almost anything else available in the genre,” featured a surprisingly cohesive blending of seemingly incompatible genres — Clash-inspired punk, traditional ska and roots reggae, and Chuck Berry-esque rock n roll — that would remain a defining trait of the band through its many transformations.
The Snails (soon to be The Dull Blue Lights) delved deeper into their Jamaican influences following From Kingston to Memphis with two EPs released in 2012, The Snails Meet The Heavy Beat at the Underground Echo Cellar and The River with Stubborn Records. Their cultivation of Jamaican influence culminated in the 2014 double EP Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox Vol. 1-2, released on Asbestos Records. A deliberate exploration of traditional ska and rocksteady that also features the group’s characteristic smashing together of genres, the EPs were praised by reviewers as an example of “a relaxation in tone [that] gives way to a much more mature style of writing” (Boston Ska’s Alex Chiasson) and having “some strength in the songwriting and production that I [Reggae Steady Ska writer Jaochim Uerschels] haven’t heard for quite some time.”
While their records have been well-received, The Dull Blue Lights are best known for their electrifying live performance. Philadelphia radio personality John Vetesse called the band “an incredibly tight unit … that can walk that precarious balance beam between practiced performances and unhinged spontaneity.” Mathieu Perrier writing for Bucketlist Music Reviews explained, “If their recorded material has even a shred of the energy that their live show does, [The Dull Blue Lights] could very well be one of my new favourite bands.”
The Dull Blue Lights are Todd Fausnacht on guitar and lead vocals, Ben Parry on bass and lead vocals, Matt MacLeod on organ, Tim Hildebrand on guitar, and Josh Parry on drums.
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