Any young band knows that an opportunity to open for someone as well-known and worshipped as Billy Corgan is a mixed blessing: it’s the exposure opportunity of a lifetime, but…no one is there to see you, and fans can sometimes get pretty mean about it.
Opening for Billy Corgan and The Crimea on Thursday, July 7th in St. Louis at the Pageant, Kansas City’s goofy-named indie-pop band, Doris Henson (who has no members by that name—or of the female persuasion), took the stage all smiles, despite the tough Corgan-only crowd who threw out a couple heckles. And with a sound this good, they had reason to smile. All traces of negativity soon dissolved the minute Doris Henson got going, and the shouts turned to praise and compliments such as, “I like your tie!” to lead singer, Matthew Dunehoo.
Backstage, guitarist Jamie Zoeller said, “Yeah, at Webster Hall in New York City, there was this kid who shouted, ‘We want Billy!’ After the first two or three songs, he shouted, ‘You guys are actually alright!’ That’s not the highest compliment, I realize, but at least they gave us a chance!” he laughs.
Matthew, with a grinning, onstage face that looks like he’s successfully charmed his way out of middle school detention after throwing firecrackers in the girl’s room, has an unexpectedly different vibe offstage. The guy has an intensity. He sits back on the sofa, smoking a cigarette, looking directly in your eyes with a level of concentration that’s almost unnerving. Suddenly, the roots of the melancholy behind that poppy fun sound of Doris Henson begin to make sense. Matthew Dunehoo is not all play. Matthew Dunehoo is, in fact, a thinker--even if onstage he’s wiggling his ass, making faces, and basically, exploding with joy.
“Well of course a lot of it is for the show,” he says. “But it’s fun to have reactions, and look for reactions, and I like to artfully push that.”
It seems like Matt has always pushed the envelope, creatively and otherwise. After writing an album’s worth of material on his own and then booking a tour without a band in place, Dunehoo handpicked his dream band from his favorite locals, including the regionally famous bassist, Byron Collum, from KC’s Giant’s Chair, and the talented Mike Walker on trombone.
With the easy, fun, oftentimes beautiful, and occasionally somber vibes of Doris Henson’s music—of which Dunehoo is the mastermind writer and lyricist--it’s hard to believe he came from more musically aggressive roots fronting a Lawrence-based band called ‘Proudentall.’ Why the change in musical style?
“I just started feeling okay with pop,” he says, matter of factly.
Just okay with it? With all the best qualities of old REM, the dreaminess of indie greats like Death Cab for Cutie and the weird fun of Guided By Voices, Doris Henson seems a little more than okay with pop. Songs like "The Most," their energetic closer for their Corgan set, had the entire floor moving.
“If we can get success, and reaffirm what we’re doing on a professional level, that’s all that counts,” says Dunehoo. “Nights like our first night on this tour, in Atlanta, are what do it for me. Just showing up with gusto and getting applause.”
Dunehoo claims that he’s not bothered by the occasional reviewer who just doesn’t get it. After all, this is Art. He’s not doing this for fame, or money, or groupies. He’s doing it for the audience, and as a vehicle for his own wide range of artistic expression.
So, has the success of a tour like this gone to their heads?
Byron and Jamie laugh. “No! We’re not like that. The high point for me, was last night in Chicago at the Vic. I played in front of my fiancée, my mother, and my brother. It’s my home town and it was a very good night for me,” said Byron.
It’s almost disconcerting to accept that a rock band today can still consist of really nice guys—guys who believe in using manners, guys who show no signs of being intoxicated or stoned, guys who met their parents at Blueberry Hill for hamburgers before the show, in fact. Finally, they only recently met Billy Corgan, and seem quite humbled by the fact. [It should be noted here that this interview was abruptly derailed when handsome drummer, Wes Gartner, was asked to autograph breasts and other body parts. To his credit, he was blushing and seemed somewhat embarrassed over the whole matter. Still, the boobs got signed.]
Tough work, that band stuff. And occasionally worth enduring a heckle or two.
Rock and roll is not dead.
Read NT's Doris Henson Give Me All Your Money CD review.
Visit Doris Henson online at www.dorishenson.com.