"I'VE NEVER BEEN a contemporary. I've always been in the shadows," says Dusty Sparkles. The lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, and visionary of Portland-based rock band Danava is rapidly becoming a hot property now, though. After a US tour with Glass Candy (Sparkles does double duty as their drummer), Danava is coming to national attention as a retro-metal glam act. Their live intensity and progressive aesthetic makes them a modern classic right out of the gate.
It's all too rare in this era for a deserving band to write great music, put on devastating concerts, and then promptly get discovered. But the savvy folks at NYC label Kemado Records (who also had a recent hit with stoner metallists the Sword) heard sonic gold in Danava's epic rock and signed them before much of a feeding frenzy could even begin. Sparkles has made it clear that he's mistrustful of the industry in general, but not of his new business partners.
The quandary for Sparkles is that he's worked so hard for so long for so little, and now that things are finally going his way, there's concern on his part that he stay grounded in the midst of rapid change. "I didn't expect anything. I thought people would think we were wanking. I didn't care anymore. I was like 'fuck it.' Just crank the guitars up!" Speaking about Tuesday's upcoming show with Witchcraft, he is pained that his friends might not be able to afford the price. "I don't want it to be $8 a show. I don't want to get into those realms." Truly, he'd prefer all their shows were a few dollars or free. But there is a practical sensibility at work too. "Us getting signed is the only way we can stay together or go further."
The debut self-titled album is one of the most listenable hard-rock records to ever come out of the Northwest. Musically, the record takes liberally from the Sabbath catalog; riffs strafe overhead like bombers raiding a city in flames. It's not hard to imagine it sitting alongside early Nirvana or the Sonics. These five songs simply do not quit or bullshit you for a second. It still has its share of quirks, but all the texture and originality work in its favor, rather than making it more difficult. Thanks to an honest recording by Johnny Jewel of Glass Candy, all the sounds are fully in the red, but never slick or overproduced.
The album has a heavy sci-fi element, referencing Galactic Gods and Eyes in Disguise. But there are both metaphysical angles and personal aspects to these lyrics. "'By the Mark' is kinda like being afraid of being sent to hell as a kid. Hearing about Satan and God, light and dark, was frightening," says Sparkles. He is able to simultaneously draw from his childhood, from literature, and from personal relationships. Ultimately, it is the questions he asks that continue to inspire him. "Why do I have bad posture? Why can't I quit smoking? I'm probably worried about a year from now or running out of money. Dumb shit. What's my deal? For some reason I feel like if I get too damn comfy, it might make the music go away."