Phrase and fable

Dark Backward CD release at Oregon Express

 By Gary Spencer

Photo: Local artpunk quartet Dark Backward release their new album at Oregon Express Nov. 30

Dark Backward know their music and they know Dayton. Made up of guitarists Eric Purtle and Jeff Brelsford, bassist Max Nye and drummer Jim Ingram, the quartet are all scene veterans, some of whom have been playing music in the Gem City for more than 20 years. While trends have come and gone, the musicians as individuals and as a collective have a fierce commitment to honing their art on their own self-professed “anything-goes ethos” ever since the band’s inception in the early 2000s.

Since then, the band has gone from an experimental recording project to fully functioning live act that has wrecked eardrums and blown minds over the past several years. And that’s what they’ve done with their third and newest full-length opus entitled Phrase and Fable – a joint release between Waggletone Records out of North Carolina and Dayton’s own Worst Case Scenario Records. The songs on Phrase and Fable effortlessly shift from frantic, post-punk ruckus to strangely infectious choruses to artsy alt rock to fist in the air punk rock energy – sometimes all within the same song. Dark Backward’s seeming refusal to neatly fit into any one musical genre or style is indeed one of the most outstanding things about what they do and truly sets them apart from many other bands in Dayton and gives them an identity of intrigue most bands only dream about. I recently spoke with Dark Backward guitarist and vocalist Eric Purtle about the band and their new album, and here’s what he had to say about it all …

I see on your new disc Phrase and Fable that the band shares songwriting credits. How does your songwriting process go?

Under no circumstances do we “jam” in the traditional sense. Sometimes I’ll bring a fully-formed song to the table, but generally speaking – and particularly so with this record – we’ll start in Max’s home studio with a few drum patterns on an old Boss Dr. Rhythm and build a structure with the parts. We’ll ad hoc additional instrumentation from there, then I’ll take the resulting piece home and write the vocal lines, which we’ll layer back onto the piece to complete the demo. We work like an electronic band in that regard. It’s all very collaborative and democratic. -Eric Purtle

If you were to name some influences and/or inspirations for what you guys do, what/who would they be either musically and/or lyrically?

We’re all really into Wire, and I think their artistic trajectory is admirable and, to a degree, something we use as a sonic touchstone. They’ve had three distinctly different phases, all of which were equally great despite the sonic disparities between them. Also, Bowie, Eno, Motorhead, Birthday Party. Somebody recently said we sounded “like Huggy Bear with Bowie singing for ‘em …” which I’ll take all day, natch. Lyrically, I’m really into Todd A. from Cop Shoot Cop/Firewater, Nick Cave and Jim “Foetus” Thirlwell. -EP

What was the process for Phrase and Fable? 

We did this record with the incomparable Fred Vahldiek of Fredzo’s out in Kettering. This recording process was a lot more protracted than our previous efforts (it took a year), but ultimately worth it. We had it mastered by Carl Saff up in Chicago. He does Thurston Moore, GBV, etc. The guy’s all aces. -EP

What is your live show all about?

Despite all the artsy leanings, we’re a fairly balls-out rock band, live. Obviously, nobody wants to disappear up their own butt, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Also, we’re very loud to the point that the volume itself becomes part of the overall approach. -EP

I know you guys are all long-time veterans of the Dayton music scene. What’s your opinion of the current state of Dayton original music? 

I think, as has long been the case, Dayton’s music scene is disproportionately vibrant considering our city’s size and generally we all get along nicely. I’d like to see more bands doing obtuse variations on the “rock” and “punk” formulas, but that’s just personal preference. Obviously, there can never be too many venues, either. But, all in all, we’re in rude health and well poised for the future! -EP

I see that your CD release party will be streamed live by Radio Pure Gently. How did that come about? What’s your opinion on this being a way for new people to be able to hear your music and see you perform live if they can’t attend in person?

The irrepressible Gretchen Kelly (booker at Oregon Express) lined the Internet radio deal up for us, and for that we’re particularly grateful. Needless to say, I’m all for any media or method that gets us to a wider audience, not to mention friends and family across the country. It’s awesome, in the literal send-a-man-to-the-moon sense, and if you’d have told me anything like that was possible when I first got started back in ’84, I’d have rolled my eyes at you. I remember Robert Fripp predicted something similar back then when he said, “In the future, musicians will come to your house and perform,” or the like. I remember thinking, “That’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard,” but NOW who’s the idiot, huh? -EP

Are there any particular goals or aspirations that you guys have for the band?

Our goal is to continually strive to make good art as its own reward. “Art-punk for art-punk’s sake,” you might say. Like Bukowski opined, “Make sure you’ve got the little things covered, like having enough toilet paper, and everything else will take care of itself.” -EP

Dark Backward will celebrate the release of their Phrase and Fable CD on Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Oregon Express, 336 E. Fifth St.  Also on the bill are Feathered Serpent and Paige Beller. Doors at 10 p.m. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. For more information, please visit  

 Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at


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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

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