Lonesome highway grooves

The Devil Doves’ Dayton debut at Trolley

By Gary Spencer

Photo: The Devil Doves perform Jan. 15 at The Trolley Stop

If you’ve ever made the drive from Dayton to Columbus, you know the scenery well (or lack thereof). Once you get past Springfield, there isn’t much to look at until you get closer to our state capitol—flat acres of grass, cornrows, farm houses, gas stations, rocks and dirt populate the majority of the views from the highway. These rough-hewn, country-esque settings of mid-Ohio have certainly informed the music and aesthetics of The Devil Doves. Hailing from the Columbus suburb of Worthington, a place that the band has characterized in a YouTube interview with Lydia Brownfield as a “hard knock place” with “fightin’ in the streets,” The Devil Doves play gritty, stripped down tunes that sonically resemble some of the elements of life living on that stretch of I-71. When asked about the band’s sound, the group has developed a catchphrase that memorably explains what they do.

“We tell people [it’s] ‘clusterfolk,’” says Devil Doves guitarist, singer and songwriter Junior Kauffman. “It’s hard to describe what we do so I wanted to make something up to describe our sound. We don’t have a drum kit or big electric guitars but we have an aggression and a punk sensibility. It’s all rock and roll, man.”

Indeed, listening to clips of The Devil Doves’ songs online, their music is an inspired amalgamation of genres including old school country, acoustic blues and folk that are chock full of lyrics about drinking, hard luck, relationships gone awry and the like. The Devil Doves haven’t reinvented the wheel here, but do what they do with gusto and have created a soundtrack that reflects the yin and yang of everyday life.

“I like the idea of The Devil Dove—good and bad, light and dark, that universal theme,” explains Kauffman. “So I go after [subjects like] drinking and murder, sex and love, apathy and ambition, etc. I do a lot of character sketches. Some [songs] have a linear storyline but I like the idea of the listener getting a glimpse of what the story is about but having the freedom to create their own world.”

In addition to Kauffman, the band is comprised of Eric “Thunderstorm” Nassau on electric bass, Jeff Straw on keys, Kristin Green on backing vocals and Kyle “Headband” Davis who provides percussion. In fact, that’s one of the first things that people notice about the band when people see The Devil Doves—the lack of drums. But to the group, Davis’s no-frills, stripped-down approach to providing the beats for the quartet fits like a glove.

“What [Headband] does with the box fits really well with the songs I write,” Kauffman explains. “We lose no intensity and it’s another way we differ from traditional rock and roll acts. Make no mistake, Headband is who people come out to see.”

It is apparent that audiences are liking what they see and hear out of The Devil Doves as they gig regularly in the Columbus area and were recently signed to self proclaimed “Central Ohio’s premier music label,” Mingo Town Music, who issued the band’s first long player in May 2015. The signing makes sense to everyone involved based on a mutual spirit of doing things on a do-it-yourself, community-based, grassroots level.

“I had heard about The Devil Doves from a number of friends around town,” says John Joseph, founder of Mingo Town Music. “Not only are they very talented, they are great guys, and I’m proud to say we’re all close friends now.”

“Mingo Town Music includes many friends of ours in Columbus who we regularly play shows with,” bassist Nassau continues. “It’s a DIY label of sorts in that everyone is allowed to contribute to, and we all support each other by drawing attention to the label. The Devil Doves do all of our own booking and promoting so we very much embody [the same] DIY spirit.”

While joining forces with Mingo Town Music has certainly helped expose The Devil Doves to new audiences, performing live on stage is where the band continues to thrive in developing new fans.

“[Our] live shows are pretty high energy,” Nassau says. “Watching Kyle’s blurred hands whack his box or listening to Junior scream his face off are always gonna sound more authentic in a live setting.”

“The guys are all talented musicians and singers that always give 110 percent,” Joseph adds. “I just think that people connect with them.”

The groups has no shortage of plans to connect with listeners, create new fans and maybe involve some shenanigans when they make their Gem City debut this weekend at The Trolley Stop.

“We have been successfully building fan bases in other Ohio cities and we didn’t want to leave Dayton out!” exclaims Nassau. “We have been hearing great things about The Trolley Stop so we are looking forward to building a relationship with them and a fan base in the area.”

“And Kyle gives sweaty hugs and Nassau is studying to be a massage therapist, so we’ve got all your bases covered,” adds Kauffman.

The Devil Doves perform Friday, Jan. 15 at The Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in downtown Dayton. Admission is $5 for patrons 21 and over. Show begins at 9:30 p.m. For more information please visit devildoves.com.
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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