Denver Dalley wants the world, but says there’s nothing like sleeping in his own bed.
The singer/songwriter is amidst his first tour with Statistics, and he’s responsible for the entire band. Lucky for him, he is the entire band. And he’s taking the best intentions with him.
“Touring is the best thing in the world,” he says. “It’s not really that scary, but it’s sometimes like, Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
Dalley could be the widest-eyed 22-year-old you’d ever encounter. Perhaps it has something to do with his small-town roots, or just the adrenaline of heading out on a path away from home. He hails from the low-key Nebraskan city of Omaha — which has in the last few years become the epicenter of indie rock music, based around Saddle Creek Records and Dalley’s high school buddy and sometimes bandmate Conor Oberst — where he spent the earlier part of his life. Growing up in Omaha has given him hometown values that have led to bigger things, as he’s proven.
“There’s not like a ton of stuff going on, to be honest,” he says. “It’s not like it’s a huge metropolis, but for some reason, it just feels right.”
It’s where he met wunderkind Oberst, his best friend since the fourth grade. Enter: high school, and the formation of their emo-punk project, Desaparecidos.
Last year, Desaparecidos (Spanish for “the disappeared”) called a hiatus so Oberst could focus on his much lauded primary project Bright Eyes. Fed up with waiting, Dalley went to form his own side project. Statisctics is the result. Under that moniker, Dalley made an eccentric and challenging five-track, self-titled EP in his basement. Soon, Delaware-based Jade Tree records, famous for their roster that includes Pedro the Lion and Jets to Brazil, signed him. Last month, the label released Leave Your Name, Dalley’s debut full-length as Statistics.
At times, the album sounds like a mix between the radio-friendly Weezer and the reverbed halls of Mogwai. But as the album’s mood shifts from track to track, Dalley’s downtrodden vocals pull it all together with whisper-soft crooning. Simply put, Dalley’s need to explore every path rings true through his songs.
Fans waiting for the new Desaparecidos material best not hold their breath. Still, Leave Your Name is satisfying enough to tide them over.
“We’re waiting on Conor’s schedule than anyone else’s,” Dalley says. “He’s got a lot on his plate right now, between some upcoming Bright Eyes tours and some new material. There’s no solid plans to get into the studio and record, but we all want to do it.”
For now, Dalley is ecstatic to be oot and aboot, seeing the world for what it is. He’s been across the country already, but wants to make the trek to Europe soon. But he admits it can get lonely on the road. Sometimes he longs to hear something familiar, and says there’s little worse than calling home from the road and getting a recording.
“An answering machine is the epitome of missing each other,” he says. “More so than an e-mail is. With a phone call, you’re really trying to directly connect with someone. To get their answering machine is the typical letdown.”
One thing Dalley likes about statistics is that they’re open to interpretation. But when people hear the name of his band, he says free association calls to mind words like “rational” and “left brain.” Does this mean his artistic side is duking it out with his realistic one?
“There’s a yin and a yang,” he says. “There’s a rational side of me, but there’s also this romantic idealist. The same way people are worried about long-distance relationships. They feel like they’re going to romanticize the person and fall in love with the idea of falling in love.”
That could be why he doesn’t base his songs around the “universality of love.” Plus, he just doesn’t think he has anything new to add to that subject.
“I think that there are so many amazing songs out there where the lyricist has brought something new to the table,” he says. “The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ is a creative way to express that touring/catch-22 thing. You wanna go out, but you long for the comforts of home.”
Instead, on Leave Your Name he chooses to talk about other subjects, including the press. Dalley admits he keeps pretty up to date with what music critics have to say about his projects. The album’s opener, “Sing a Song,” even challenges lazy reviewers. When one of these reviewers struck back, saying Dalley “overlooks that writing about lazy critics has been the providence of lazy songwriting for years,” he parries.
“Ultimately, I wasn’t trying to insult anyone as much as I thought it’d be fuel for the fire,” he says. “I feel as if critics are giving me suggestions on my music. It’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.”
It’s vague, but that whimsical tone is cast throughout most of the album. It’s mellow and at some points, banters at times like Death Cab for Cutie, and isn’t quite electronic enough to be Postal Service. Dalley said he listened to Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the new Nada Surf’s Let Go in abundance while he was composing Leave Your Name.
Statistics will finish touring in April. Then Dalley has an electronic project lined up, similar to — surprise — the Postal Service.
“I want to put another EP, but more like a mixtape,” he says. “Songs that inspired me over the years. Something like the Get Up Kids’ Eudora (a collection that included David Bowie, the Pixies and Motley Crue covers). There’s this song by Jawbox called ‘Savoury,’ and maybe even a Jimmy Eat World song, but we’ll see. There’s still a lot of time to decide.”
After all, there’s still a whole world out there waiting for Dalley to discover.