Watch me jumpstart

Détective checks in at South Park Tavern

By Zach Rogers
Photo: L.A. trio Détective [l to r] Chris Dunn, James Greer and Guylaine Vivarat; photo credit: Mike Postalakis

The first song on However Strange, the debut album from the Los Angeles-based group Détective, has singer/bassist Guylaine Vivarat humming gently into the mic, putting the listener’s ears at ease next to a simple, pacing beat. The song in question, “Man Near the Surface of the Earth,” goes from simple mellowness to an engulfing grumble of guitar, all with Vivarat singing as if she doesn’t even notice that someone’s stepped on the distortion pedal.

Formed in early 2012, Détective will be making their way through Dayton on Friday, March 29 playing a show at South Park Tavern on a spring tour in conjunction with the full-length LP. As singer/guitarist James Greer put it, “This is the first release where we had a definite idea going in. We wanted the sound to be heavier. We’ve always thought of ourselves as heavier than what come across on records thus far. Certainly we’re a lot louder and more raucous live.”

The idea for Détective happened almost by accident, depending whom you ask. “It really started around September 2011, after imbibing many drinks one night at the Beauty Bar up in Chicago,” recalled Vivarat hazily. Vivarat and Greer came up with the idea because at the time, “Jim was asked to play a show in Chicago for an upcoming literary conference, but didn’t have a band. I had been writing a bunch of songs and Jim had a bunch of songs, too, so we pretended to start a band for this conference. It was fun and didn’t sound too bad and now here we are one year later.”

Greer’s explanation is slightly altered. “I have no memory of any of this, except the drinking.”

With the help of drummer Chris Dunn, whose hard-hitting chops add the right amount of weight behind each song, Détective is a trio whose dynamic balances loud, rambunctious rock with melodic indie pop, whether it’s from one song to the next or crammed inside a single two-to-four minute chunk. The band’s vocal duties flop back and forth between Greer and Vivarat, depending on who pens the lyrics. “We sing our own songs and sometimes I do harmonies on Jim’s too,” said Vivarat. “There are a couple exceptions to this rule. On the upcoming album, we actually wrote a song together and we may end up doing more of that in the future, who knows.”

That “upcoming” album is a pretty ambitious project. Entitled Hilarious Heaven, the record will be a double album worth of material that should see completion soon. “We have 12 songs so far, and we plan on finishing it up in April after the tour,” said Vivarat. “We’re excited because people don’t do double albums anymore.” The new release finds the band experimenting with different sounds than before. “We have one song that’s about ten minutes long and has a free jazz saxophone part in the middle, which I played,” said Greer.

Their stop in Dayton will be a homecoming of sorts for Greer, who played bass in the mid-‘90s for a kind-of-sort-of famous band from the area, Guided by Voices. Contributing to the albums Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars, Greer lived in Dayton throughout much of his time with the band. “Playing in GBV was a total blast. Living in Dayton was great, too. It’s the one place that feels like home whenever I come back.” There seems to be little animosity between Greer and his old bandmates, as Détective went on tour with the guys last fall. “They’re still the greatest rock band in the world,” said Greer.

Before his untamed days (nights?) with GBV, Greer worked as a writer/editor at Spin magazine. “When I worked at Spin it was a very loose, unprofessional environment,” said Greer. “We were just struggling to stay afloat. I ran the record review section for a while before moving to Dayton and afterwards I just wrote about whatever they threw my way. Once, I interviewed Captain Beefheart. That was a particular highlight.” Pretty soon, Greer moved on from music journalism to focus on both his career as a novelist/screenwriter and his own music, and noted how the business of music writing today affected his decision. “The main difference with that now is the money involved. The music industry barely exists anymore and the knock-off effect is that jobs where you actually get paid to write about music barely exist anymore either.”

For what it’s worth, the band probably doesn’t care too much about the state of the music industry right now. It certainly hasn’t stopped them from creating a ton of great music in a year’s time and it probably won’t stop them from creating more in the future. The industry can’t stop creative individuals from producing exceptional work – it’s just not possible. All we can do is keep forging ahead and see what happens and hopefully the results will impress. For a band like Détective, the results always do.

Détective will perform on Friday, March 29 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are King Elk and Kyle Sowash. Admission is $5 for all ages. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information on Détective visit 

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