My history with Elliot Blair and Alex Tucker is a long and influential one. In 2011, I wrote my first show review following a show at the Grog Shop featuring Bayside, The Sleeping, and Terrible Things. The openers for that show was a local band called Call It Fiction, a band I would soon befriend and stay in contact with for years to come.
Since that gig, I’ve been to every release show the band has held, booked them for a gig at my college, and caught them at least five additional times in various north-eastern Ohio venues. That made the final Call It Fiction show earlier this year tough for me. Singing the pop-punk songs I received on a demo CD-R so long ago for the very last time in a live setting was an emotional experience. The room was full of Call It Fiction fans that weren’t ready for the band to be over, but understood that it needed to be and why.
You see, despite their considerable hometown fan-base, Call It Fiction never took off. Perhaps their brand of Pop-Punk just wasn’t what the genre needed. Maybe their inconsistent lineup made it too difficult to tour regularly. It’s hard to say, but fair to guess that both of those things were probable causes. Thus, CIF called it a day and everyone was sad.
Like most projects that fall to the wayside, a new one rose from the ashes of the defunct band shortly after. Dead Leaves was born from singer Elliot Blair’s need to continue writing and Alex Tucker’s desire to continue playing. The two bandmates pushed forward with a new direction and new membership to create the self-titled EP we are premiering today.
The new material is mature, well-produced, and ultimately the single greatest piece of work either of the Cleveland natives have ever produced. You’ll feel the intimacy from the beginning moments of track one to the end of closer, two of the EP’s strongest offerings. Fans of American Football, Misser, Into It. Over It. and other Emo-Revival acts will surely tuck Dead Leaves into the folds of their personal favorites.
I interviewed Elliot Blair about the creation of the EP and the formation of the new band. Hit play on our exclusive stream of the EP at the bottom of this post and scroll back up to read the conversation below.
Substream Magazine: Let’s talk Dead Leaves. Your self-titled EP is technically the project’s second release, but it you’re pitching it as the debut. Is that fair to say?
Elliot Blair: Yes, we are releasing this EP as a debut because we feel like our sound has changed so much from the first release. We sometimes feel like we may have jumped the gun too early on the name change because our first release as Dead Leaves would have been a much better follow up to the CIF EP, and we wrote and recorded all of the songs as Call it Fiction anyway. It was only directly before the first Dead Leaves release that we had changed our names.
SM: Dead Leaves includes yourself, Alex Tucker (ex-CiF), and who else?
EB: Our two new members include Gene Bernardo, who plays drums, and Vinny Defillipo who plays guitar. They are both long time friends of Alex. I had also met Gene and Vin back in 2008, and me, Gene, Vin, and Alex all jammed together back at that time (before Alex was even in Call it Fiction.) It’s crazy to think that we would all be playing together again, especially since I hadn’t seen Gene or Vin much past the point when we first played music together.
SM: When and where did you record the EP?
EB: We recorded our new EP in June of this year, but I demoed the first song for this EP, “I Was Once an Extrovert,” in October 2013. I finished the demos and had been content with the songs one month before we started recording. We ended up going to this really great audio engineer/ producer, Dave Piatek. Dave recorded Light Years’ Just Between Us record and Pat from Light Years had referred us to him. We did have some other options in mind for audio engineers, but Dave stuck out to us because, besides the Light Years release, he had mainly done heavier recordings, with a lot of drums, a lot of distortion, and a lot of screaming. Dave knew that he would be stepping out of his comfort zone by taking us on, and we we’re stepping outside of our comfort zone because we were forming a certain sound that we had never done before. I think the insecurity of not knowing how everything will turn out just pushes you to go to the next level, and that’s why we chose Dave.
SM: If Dead Leaves is leaving the pop-punk sound behind, what is it that you’re going for now? Who inspired you to go that direction?
EB: When I started to record the first demos I didn’t necessarily plan on leaving pop-punk behind, I just wanted to write songs that felt more natural and organic to me. At the time, I didn’t even know if we were going to record the songs and release them, or even play them live. We didn’t even really have a full band. I think maybe it took the pressure off to make songs sound like a certain band or genre, because at the time I thought no one would hear them. Before the demos, I really got into American Football, Cap’n Jazz, and really all the Kinsella bands. I’ve also always found inspiration in bands like Say Anything and Brand New. There’s something in the lyrics and the way the songs are presented vocally, that shows they’ve had painful experiences, and I think if you can show raw emotion like that through a pair of speakers, that’s how you get people to relate. That’s what we’re going for.