I got a chance to talk to Vazquez (bass), Noelle (vocals, guitar), and Dustin Hengst (drums) from RCA’s up and coming new kids on the block-Damone. We sat down to talk before their set at the Echo Lounge in East Atlanta. Here is what they had to say-
MI-What is your birth date?
Noelle: September 4th
Dustin: October 14th
MI-So tell me the story of how the band got together.
Vazquez: Well, Noelle knows. You guys were there a lot earlier than I was.
Noelle: Originally we started recording four years ago. Then we became a live band. I played with Vazquez and a different drummer at that time. –We got Dustin to replace to replace our drummer about a year and a half into it.
Dustin: Coming out of a town like Boston, there are so many bands that there that you know about each other. When I found out that I had an opportunity to work with these guys, I just jumped into it. –It sort of just happened by having mutual friends.
MI-Tell me a joke.
Vazquez: I got one. Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? -It was dead.
Noelle: I got a dirty one-Three white horses jumped into the mud. I am not a very funny person (laughing).
Dustin: I got one. What is worse than a cardboard box? Paper tits.
MI-Who were your musical influences growing up?
Vazquez: I guess I would have to say Led Zepplin and Kiss-bands like that. Motley Crue, Van Halen-those kind of bands. That was what my older brothers were listening to and it just kind of soaked into my brain.
Dustin: When I first started listening, it was radio rock stuff. The first things I learned how to play were Def Leppard and The Cars and stuff like that-and then I went through a progressive rock phase with bands like Rush and Yes. –I guess I wound up listening to classic rock more than anything-like late seventies power pop bands, like Big Star and the Raspberries-it got me really thinking about playing song oriented music which is really helpful.
Noelle: The first music I really listened to was oldies, because that is what my mom would play. When I first started playing, it was Weezer, Green Day, and Dinosaur Jr.-stuff like that.
MI-How do your parents feel about your career?
Vazquez: I think they are happy about it, at least that is what they tell me to my face-Behind my back, they probably think I should get a real job.
Dustin: I think my folks are pretty cool with it at this point. I think they have grown accustomed to the fact that I am probably never going to make any money. I think they are finally at ease with it and keeping their fingers crossed for my little brother and sister.
Noelle: My parents are very supportive.
MI-Have you guys ever inhaled?
Vazquez: Yes, I have inhaled.
Dustin: Yeah, I would say so,
Noelle: Oh yes (nodding to Vazquez) because you worked at a gas station (laughing).
MI-Describe your music to me.
Vazquez: I guess I would describe it as pop rock music to make you feel good. I am so bad at that question, shit.
Dustin: Exactly like Celine Dion and stuff in that genre is what Vazquez is trying to say. You know popular rock-Shania Twain.
Vazquez: They don’t call Celine Dion pop rock though.
Dustin: What would they call her?
Vazquez: I don’t know, crap? They don’t call her pop rock though dude.
Dustin: I think a better term to use would be hard pop, because the writing of more of a popular style but we play it in more of an exciting rock and roll way. It is like an upbeat version of some of the earlier Weezer stuff. It is a song form like maybe The Cars would have used.
That is a pretty easy description.
Noelle: I concur. It is very Weezer influenced, I’ll give you that.
MI-If there was a nuclear bomb, and it was to wipe out everybody but you and three people, who would those people be and why?
Vazquez: These two assholes right here, and I would have to keep my ex girlfriend alive. MI-To torture her? Vazquez: Pretty much.
Noelle: I would pick George Bush, so I could kill him myself (that was just a joke.) –I would have to say Will Ferrell to keep me comically entertained, a musician that I could play with like Pete Townsend, and the third one would be my cat Izzy.
Dustin: My grandfather, my girlfriend, and Jack Black from Tenacious D. I could play music with him AND he would be funny. We could hang out and joke around and stuff, then I would get a little bit of both. I think I would have fun listening to him and my grandfather talk about stuff.
MI-If you could play anyplace in he world, where would it be and why?
Vazquez: I would have to say Japan again. It is so friendly to bands. The people are into it. The toilet seats are heated. They have good days, what more could you really ask for?
Dustin: I think I would like to play in one of those HUGE rock festivals they have in Rio or Brazil. They have these huge festivals where all of these Brazilian girls run around in bikinis. I think that would be really cool. The weather would be really awesome too. People down there are really into dancing and partying and shit. Maybe during one of those carnival festivals.
Noelle: I would say MTV’s spring break.
MI-What was your worst job?
Vazquez: I worked at this Mexican restaurant called Cha Cha Cha’s. I used to cut hot peppers and onions for seven hours at a time. I would just keep cutting them thinking about how much everything sucked. It was such a mindless job. –And it was called Cha Cha Cha’s. How can you say you work at a place like that?
Dustin: I worked as a garbage man during the summer in South Texas. Just picking up trash, and picking up an outdoor basket of a homeless mans turds-It was pretty brutal.
Noelle: I worked at a restaurant as a bus girl, and the only reason it stunk so bad was because I did it on weekends during the school year. I had to wake up on Saturday and Sunday at seven in the morning, and it was just like going to school. It kinda sucked.
MI-What made you decide to become a musician?
Vazquez: I would have to say-I had a friend that played guitar. He played in front of our class when I was a kid, and the girls liked it. I thought-maybe if I do that, I will impress those girls too.
Dustin: It was definitely one of those Napoleon complex things. I grew up in a town where football was a really big deal. I remember feeling like a total wuss because I couldn’t participate in that sort of thing and I would get my ass kicked. –I thought maybe if I got into playing music and playing drums it would be easier for me to get a date in high school. That is kind of where it started.
Noelle: Me and my brother just kind of fucked around with music when we were little. Then we started getting lessons. My brother is a couple of years older than me, so when he started playing drums I started playing guitars.
MI-How do you think that you are different than anybody else in the business today?
Vazquez: I don’t think we take ourselves as seriously as other bands might. We don’t have the hot topic punk uniform either. We don’t have short haircuts and wear eyeliner-or whatever is popular these days.
Dustin: I think a lot of people these days are trying to reinvent the wheel with what they are doing. I think we just try to keep the wheel rolling.
Noelle: We never have really tried to be incredibly different. We are totally honest with the way that we play and the music that we play. If it comes across differently, I am not sure why. –A lot of people explain it as pop punk, and that’s the description of every other band out there. –We have guitar solos, and that’s different.
MI-What was the greatest thing that ever happened to you?
Vazquez: Just being able to play music for a living. I don’t have to go to a job everyday. All I really think about is music. I don’t have to focus on some office job.
Dustin: I still think the time that I felt the most excited, and the time that I felt the most sense of freedom was when I first got a car when I was a teenager. –The first time when I went on a date in a car. I know that that sounds kind of stupid, but that is one of the greatest feelings I remember having. I don’t think anything compares to that yet, because when you are that young it seems like such a new, optimistic thing. I still think about that a lot.
Noelle: I think it has been a huge privilege for me and us to tour and meet other bands. -Also, I didn’t have to go to my senior year in high school. I just didn’t like school very much. –I am making friends with people that I can relate to, because we have the same understanding. We are all doing the same thing. –Like Matthew James Sheldon. We have a very good understanding.
MI-Who is your hero?
Vazquez: The Bandit. Burt Reynolds. In the movie Smokey and the Bandit, there is that line where Sally Field asks him what he does, and he says show off. I don’t know why, but that is the coolest fucking thing in the world.
Dustin: There are a lot of heroes in movies, but I really like Bruce Lee. He played a hero in the movies, but he could beat the shit out of you in real life if he wanted to. I always thought that was kind of cool.
Noelle: It’s Danny, my brother-he’s my hero. Musically its Jay Mascus.
His music to me is very creative. He just seems like he is a really cool guy. He doesn’t give a shit.
MI-If you could open for anyone, who would it be?
Vazquez: Tenacious D. Just hanging out with those guys before and after every night would be awesome, and then getting to see their set-that would just kick ass. That would be so cool. Everyday-Jack Black. That would just be amazing.
Dustin: I don’t know if it would be such a good match up-but I would like to open for Earth, Wind, and Fire or Kool and the Gang, or Parliament in their heyday because I think the biggest sort of party atmosphere you could get into a room. I don’t know if we would be that well received, but I think it would be fun to be involved in a performance with one of those bands.
Noelle: I think we should open up for Staind so we can kick the shit out of them playing wise.
MI-If you could bring anybody back from the dead, who would it be?
Vazquez: I would want to bring back my grandfather, because he seemed like he was a really cool guy when I was a kid. He had a really good attitude about things. He put up with my grandmother and everything. I would like to have him back to have conversations with him about life.
Dustin: Michael Hutchence. We could ask him, did you hang yourself? Or did you do that thing where you kind of hang yourself and jerk off-like they thought he might have been doing. I would like to ask him what happened there.
Noelle: John Netwhistle, so he could teach me the bass, or some techniques on the bass.
MI-What pisses you off about the world the most today, and what would you do to change it?
Vazquez-This religious fundamentalism. These people that run around and bomb people for god. It is insane. Christian fundamentalists have to go to.
Dustin: Bush is quoting the book of Revelations and stuff and letting that guide his foreign policy. That type of shit has to end. It is one thing to kill each other because you are into politics and into war, but to do that sort of thing in the name of religion-it has been around for thousands of years-but it just blows. Those types of people can’t be talked to. They can’t be reasoned with.
Noelle: I totally agree.
MI-If a genie came to you and granted you three wishes, what would they be?
Dustin: This might be a stupid answer, but I would just keep wishing for five more wishes.
Vazquez: I would wish that the band would be bigger than The Beatles. I would get my ex girlfriend back, and I would wish my dead grandparents back so they could see how I am doing and I could talk to them.
Noelle: I would wish that reality television would end. I would wish for some sort of contraption where I could have a tv that played brand new episodes of The Simpsons all of the time, and my third wish would be to kill Staind (laughing). We look so good because of all the bad bands out there-so I would wish for more bad bands (laughing).
MI-If you were not a musician, what do you think you would be doing with your life right now?
Vazquez: Maybe I would join a biker gang.
Dustin: I really don’t know how to do anything else. I would probably just have a stupid office job again.
Noelle: I would probably be taking college courses and working at McDonalds.
MI-Tell me about the new album.
Dustin: I think it is a record that will help people feel better. The cool thing about our record is that it has been in the making for a few years. A lot of it was done in a home studio. So there was a lot of trial and error and a lot of experimentation trying to get the arrangements and songs down. We put a lot of it together and produced it ourselves, and I think that makes it a unique record. –It has a highly refined and polished sound to it, but there is a spark there.
Vazquez: I would say it has a song for every kind of mix tape that you are going to make for somebody else.
Noelle: I think it has some diversity, and a lot of people say it is very youthful.
MI-Who would you compare yourself vocally to and why?
Noelle: Vazquez reminds me of Vince Neil.
Dustin: Vazquez reminds me of a male Janis Joplin, but he is not there yet. Noelle, I don’t know who to compare who her to. She has a very distinct voice.
Vazquez: I think Noelle sounds like-if Ace Frehley had a daughter and she sang. That’s what I think Noelle sounds like. If you ever listen to the way he sings Shock Me on Kiss Alive 2, there’s something about that that reminds me of Noelle.
Vazquez: I would compare myself to a little of Paul Stanley. Ace and Paul, those are my two favorites.
MI-What inspires your lyrics?
Dustin: The lyrics on the record have to do with going through weird relationship situations. They aren’t grandiose. They are almost childish and that keeps them innocent which is nice.
Noelle: The business of relationships. They are very to the point about the object of your affections. The songs on the record were written by our old guitar player.
Vazquez: There’s not a lot of drawing parallels and metaphors.
MI-Who do you think the greatest rock star of all time is?
Vazquez: I really feel like it is Jimmy Page. He had the whole mystique going. He had the underage girls going. He had the amazing songs, and did all this crazy production on his records. Led Zepplin never seemed cheap, because he kept it on a proper course.
Dustin: I have to say Little Richard. He was the one who brought out the earliest elements of boogie woogie music and rock and roll. He put it together with the image and the whole ambiguous sexual identity-is he straight, is he gay? He was totally flamboyant, and at the same time he was kicking ass. He inspired everyone. Everyone that has came since should at least credit him in some way. That fact that he is still around working amazes me to no end.
Noelle: Our friend Adrian is one of the best rock stars. He plays in a band called Kingsize, but I think they are changing their name.
MI-Do you believe in reincarnation, and if so who would you like to have been?
Dustin: I think I kind of do. It seems to me if you could be born once, it could happen again. You wouldn’t know that you had been here before. I would have liked to be Genghis Khan.
Noelle: I do believe in reincarnation. I think there is a purpose and connection between the life that you have now and past lives. If I were to choose who I was to be, I would want to be a giraffe so I could see what it is like to be taller.
Vasquez: I’ll say JFK.
MI-If you could have lunch with anybody in the world, who would it be?
Vazquez: Bob Dylan.
Dustin: I would like to talk to Richard Pryor. I don’t know if he is in any condition to talk, but I think that would be really nice. I have a lot of questions for him.
Noelle: I would like to say Johnny Deep because he is so handsome.
MI-If you could invite three people out for drinks, who would they be?
Vazquez: I would have to say Jimmy Hendrix, Lucille Ball, and Rick Ocasek.
Noelle: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, and Dave Grohl.
Dustin: Hank Williams Sr., Slash, and Clint Eastwood.
MI-If you were stuck on a desert island, and could bring one book, one person, and one cd-what would they be?
Vazquez: The book would be The Little Prince. The cd would be Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks, and the person would be my ex girlfriend. She couldn’t say no then could she? We would be the only people there.
Noelle: The book would be Never Where. The cd would be The Beatles White album, and my friend (laughing).
Dustin: I would want a book all about survival skills. The only record I don’t ever get tired of is Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, I could listen to that over and over. I would bring my girlfriend-easy answer.
MI-What is your favorite all time quote?
Vazquez: My dad told me when I was five that ‘all good things come to an end.’
Dustin: I got one from my dad too. ‘Can’t never could do shit.’
Noelle: ‘Good things happen over a long period of time, but great things happen all at once.’
MI-Where do you see this band in five to ten years?
Vasquez: I say playing the state fair circuit (laughing). Maybe they will give us one of those MTV Icon things.
Dustin: We will probably still be playing clubs like this, but I will have a neck brace by that time.
Noelle: I see us taking over the world. I hope we evolve into a band that is able to go as far as The Beatles have while still doing lots of experimentation. I see us progressing.
MI-Do you have a message for your present and future fans?
Dustin: You should all go out and start bands too. We need more good bands out there, and it is not as hard as you think. Just focus on having fun.
Noelle: I am very grateful to them for giving us a chance. If you ever want to hang out, just come to our trailer.
Vazquez: We are very grateful to anybody that’s paying attention to what we are doing. I wish we could play all of their birthday parties.
If we could we would. To anybody that hasn’t heard us, give us a chance you might like us.
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