Fate and faith. Since forming almost 10 years ago, Austin-based quartet Dexter Freebish has always been a band with which fate and faith have had a close association. Hearing parts of the story of how the members came together, it?s hard not to acknowledge the power of predestination.
?I was just looking in the Austin Chronicle and had never been in a band or called an ad,? recalls Dexter Freebish lead singer Kyle. ?At the time I wasn?t really a singer except for in school chorus, though I kept notebooks of lyrics. But that day I saw an ad that read, ?Singer Wanted. Influences Bono and Sting,? and I said what the heck and called. And because of that I met Chris [Lowe, Dexter Freebish?s bassist/vocalist] and Scott [Romig, the group?s guitarist/keyboardist]. It was the first ad I ever called and it?s still the only band I?ve ever been in.?
It took more than divine intervention for the group to develop a reputation as a hard-working, crowd-pleasuring pop band, however. Joined by drummer Rob Schliz, Dexter Freebish played around Texas, paying dues while carving a niche for three-minute pop in venues geared towards blues/funk jamming. That?s one place where the faith came in.
?We just get together and something happens,? says Lowe. ?We play best off each other, letting ideas develop naturally. We?ve found when we try to force it in any one direction it never works. If you try to set a specific time to write a hit song, it won?t happen; it?s something you stumble on when you least expect it.?
That determination lead to ?Leaving Town,? Dexter Freebish?s 1999 John Lennon Songwriting Contest Song of the Year (picked from 27,000 entries), which lead to a deal with Capitol Records for the band?s 2000 full-length debut A Life of Saturdays. However, after exuberantly received radio play (for ?Leaving Town? and ?My Madonna?) and enthusiastic tours both domestic and abroad (invited to play for the Navy in Spain, Italy and Bahrain) something happened that might rattle anybody?s faith. Dexter Freebish and Capitol, experiencing a regime change that would not allow the band to get the attention it deserved, decided to part ways.
This only proved to strengthen Dexter Freebish?s resolve, however. A decision was quickly made that this was fate?s way of telling the group to independently release the four musicians? sophomore album, Tripped Into Divine, with the help of the group?s management, SIXTHMAN (also home to like-minded independent artists Sister Hazel, with whom Dexter Freebish has performed annually on the sold-out Rock Boat concert cruise three years running).
Pressed by producer Matthew Wilder [No Doubt] to achieve their maximum potential, Dexter Freebish labored successfully to capture a vibe familiar to fans of the melody of the Beatles, bombast of Led Zeppelin, sincerity of U2, dexterity of The Police, introspection of Coldplay and showmanship of Neil Diamond. That is to say, with Tripped Into Divine Dexter Freebish has bridged the gap between the wide-eyed wonder of unbridled youth and the contemplative fortitude of experience.
After writing nearly 70 songs, the four members of Dexter Freebish cut 12 handpicked tracks for Tripped Into Divine. But while recorded near Venice Beach, Tripped Into Divine is not all sun-drenched harmony. While A Life of Saturdays was a whimsical, relaxed collection, Tripped Into Divine is the work of a more experienced, road-tested ensemble delving into spirited spirituality. Alongside the insistent bob of rocksteady power pop such as ?Prozak? and ?Ghosts? (so infectious it was immediately licensed to EA Sports? Tiger Woods Golf and NHL games) are the plaintive pleas of ?How Do I Get Through To You? and ?Breathe.? Tripped Into Divine is an album at its core dealing with, what else, faith and fate.
?We?ve become more serious, realizing the music business takes your whole heart and soul and you have to take it seriously,? declares Kyle. ?Tripped Into Divine is about realizing that what is important is what?s in front of you; what you?re doing at any moment is the right place to be. Uncertainty can?t get you down because at any time you could stumble into the place you want to be.?
?We named ourselves after a [now closed] roller coaster in Houston [the Dexter Freebish Electric Roller Ride],? reveals Lowe, ?and in hindsight it couldn?t be any more appropriate. This album is a trip running the gamut of emotions from the heights of complete joy to the depths of complete depression; it thrills you before it puts you firmly on your feet. It?s a good ride.?
With respect, humor and a lack of hubris, the four members of Dexter Freebish have developed over 10 years to assemble their strongest effort to date, 12 hook-laden tracks that inspire the everyman while being far from ordinary, that look in but whose animated instrumentation is meant to be played out.
?So many times it?s the artists thrown in jail, the ones who cuss and say all the negative and nasty things that get printed, and that?s their way to break it, to make it,? reflects Kyle in conclusion. ?We may not be the flashiest band, but we?re good guys who play heartfelt music for a living. And we want to get our album out and get back on the road to prove good guys can finish first.? Anyone looking to have his or her faith restored, this is the band and album fated to you.