Pageantry, presence and control… The Dead Bolts ‘keep it movin’!

The Dead Bolts
The Dead Bolts (left to right): James Ryan (drums), Eddie Hennessy (lead vocals & rhythm guitar), Matt Paske (rhythm guitar), Tyler Hancock (bass), John Rolence (harmonies, lead & rhythm guitar)

It’s almost a teenager’s rite of passage to start their own band. Whether it’s their own material or a cover band, a lot of young kids will look up to artists they admire and want to live that type of lifestyle. They imagine going on to write and release their own albums, perform to adoring fans at sell out tours and live the good life! Sometimes this passion continues for the rest of their lives, but for so many talented artists, the reality is often a very different story. The responsibilities of ‘life’ hit and they’re forced to be a little more pragmatic about their future. But, what happens when two friends choose to push on through and follow their dreams of having a successful career in music? The Dead Bolts might be able to tell us a thing or two about that!

Founding members, John and James, had been in a band together previously, ‘The Bolts’ (also a back story for the band name), until some of the other members left to pursue other interests. The guys decided to carry on jamming together and eventually formed ‘The Dead Bolts’ after meeting Eddie, Matt, and Tyler… and, the rest is history, as they say!

The Dead Bolts can agree that they got lucky early on in their career when it came to touring and shows. Hailing from Chicago, the group were able to travel to different states in the Midwest, and things got more exciting upon the release of their 2021 debut album, “Pretty and Burnt Out”, when they started to sell out shows in their hometown… an exciting feat for any young band! Furthermore, their debut allowed them to work with producer, Mike Hagler (Wilco’s Summerteeth and Mermaid Avenue) who mentored the band and aided in making their songs bigger, bolder, and better. An inspiring story for a group of friends who came together over a shared love of music.

The Dead Bolts only put out their debut album in November last year and we’re already being treated to new music. Their latest single, The Throes, was released in May this year, and with the teasing of a new era on the horizon, we couldn’t be more excited to see what comes next. We sat down with the band to talk all things music, their influences and what cool things are planned for the future.

Watch the official music video for ‘The Throes’ by The Dead Bolts on YouTube:

Hey guys, thank you talking to IAMUR! So to start things off why don’t you all introduce yourselves.

Eddie: Hey I’m Eddie Hennessy – lead singer and rhythm guitarist.

John: And I’m John Rolence – I play both lead and rhythm guitar, and sing harmonies.

Matt: I’m Matt Paske, also known as Benny Mace – I play lead and rhythm guitar.

Tyler: I’m Tyler Hancock – I play bass in the group.

James: And I’m James Ryan – I’m the drummer.

John and James, you guys met though being in a band called ‘The Bolts’, and you mention in your Bandcamp bio that ‘The Dead Bolts’ came together in a garage back 2018. Can you talk us through the evolution of the band, how you all met, and how it all came together?

John: Yeah so when James and I were kids/early teens we were in a little cover band called “The Bolts” together with a few other kids from the neighborhood. We were pretty active, playing all over Chicago’s South Side at parties, fundraisers, events, etcetera, and got to be pretty well known. As we got older though, everyone’s schedules got a bit more complicated and we all just kind of grew out of it. James and I would still get together and play from time, but it wasn’t really until we got back from college one summer that the idea of starting a band became a reality.

James: I was out at a local bar one night called The Chieftain, it also had live music from time to time, and I was sitting at the bar talking to one of the venue owners that I know. There was some band playing on the little stage they had in there, and in my opinion, they weren’t the best. After a few drinks I started half bragging to the owner that my band was better than this (at the time I had no band), and the owner right there on the spot said “Oh yeah? Well I’ll book ya then and we’ll see. How about next weekend?”. So without checking with John or anyone else first, I agreed, and immediately got up from the bar to give John a call and let him know that we had a gig the next weekend at this bar. I knew he’d be up for it. We got a setlist together and started running practices all week. Just me on the drums, and John playing both rhythm and lead, and singing. We went by the name “Reduced to Two” at that first gig, and it went pretty well I’d say.

John: Yeah right after that we felt like we needed to get an actual band together and start playing out. Matt was the first guy we hit up to play lead guitar in the band. He was really the only other one we knew personally before we all got together because he went to the same grade school as us, and grew up practically around the corner (James and I both grew up on the same block). Then we still needed a bass player. Matt reached out to Tyler, who he had previously been in a hard rock band before this with, and I reached out to Eddie who I knew had been playing in the cover band circuit around town while he was in high school with another local musician. Eddie got back to me saying that he really wasn’t much of a bass player, but could play rhythm guitar and sing. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out with having three guitarists, but I figured we’d give it a shot. So Tyler ended up being our defacto bass player.

We all met up in Matt’s garage in June of 2018 for our first practice to run over a few songs I had sent out to rehearse. It went really well thanks to all of having had a good amount of experience playing live and in different groups beforehand. The only thing we were still trying to figure out was an official band name. We played our first gig together as “The Dead Bolts” at a local bar called Reilly’s Daughter, and never could think of a better name that we all agreed upon, so it stuck. Especially when people started recognizing us by the name, it became clear we couldn’t change it.

“…those shows were a blast. Just packed full of college kids, slugging cheap beer, and paying $5 at the door to hear us play rock and roll really loud for about three hours.”

The Dead Bolts

You guys hail from Chicago, a city renowned for having such variety when it comes to music. I’ve seen you’re influences include Blues, Rock, and Alternative. Which local artists are favourites of yours and, who would you say have been influences for the band?

Eddie: All of us are pretty heavy into our city’s music scene. We’re unbelievably lucky to have grown up and developed as musicians here because there is a ridiculous amount of talent. Especially in the Indie and DIY rock scene. We have a ton of favorites here on the south side – most of which have been friends of ours from the start, but some of our biggest influences that come from all around Chicago include bands like Twin Peaks, Whitney, Beach Bunny, Rookie, and Blue Dream (for Tyler mainly – he’s a been a fanatic for those guys for a long time now). Then we draw from the general Indie/Alternative/Garage Rock scene all around the country. We’re constantly searching for new bands everywhere we tour, and in turn, that leads us to discovering a lot of awesome new music.

After you released your first EP, “Part Time”, you guys expanded your reach with shows outside your usual stomping ground. Looking back, which would you say has been the most enjoyable gig for you to date? And have there been any mishaps along the way you’d like to share?

We really have been lucky enough to play a ton of great shows since we started traveling. Early on we had shows in Champaign/Urbana, IL at the University of Illinois, and up in Milwaukee at Marquette University. We were all still in college at the time, traveling from different schools around the Midwest here in the U.S., and both of those shows were a blast. Just packed full of college kids, slugging cheap beer, and paying $5 at the door to hear us play rock and roll really loud for about three hours. Our sets were long as hell back then cause we’d burn through our only 5 original songs, and the rest would be covers we knew the crowd would be into.

After dropping the record last Fall, we sold out Schubas Tavern here in Chicago for our record release show. We’ve had a ton of shows on the road and back here in the city since then, and all of them incredible. Especially Milwaukee, WI at Cactus Club, Athens, GA at Flicker Theatre, and Nashville, TN at The Basement. None of them how ever have really topped our experience at our record release show at Schubas. We had all grown up seeing and hearing about some of our biggest heroes in music gracing that stage. That was the first time we had ever really played a legitimate headlining gig at a legendary Chicago venue, and we sold the damn thing out. It was electric. And the sound was incredible there. We’ve grown a bit in the city since then, but we’ll never forget that show being the real start to this band making its way into the professional music scene.

Your debut LP, “Pretty and Burnt Out”, came out last year. How was the experience in recording and writing the record, and how do you feel about it now it’s been out for a year?

We started putting the record together right as we went into our our senior year of college in 2019/2020. The Summer before we went back to school for the last year, we were in the studio at Treehouse Records (another fantastic studio that some of the best acts in Chicago and the Midwest have recorded at) recording a few songs that we had cooked up over the year. We only had about 8 songs at the time, and initially we thought this would be the album. We got two of them recorded – “Stay” and “Keep It Movin” and put them out on Spotify right before we returned to school. Over that year we ended up writing a few more to make it a 13 track album in total. Every song had it’s tweaks in the studio, but it meant a lot to us, so we would sometimes spend hours making sure everything was coming out the way we wanted. This was also the first time we had ever really recorded it in the mindset of self producing the album, so we were a bit more calculated in trying to get specific sounds while recording. It feels extremely rewarding to have had this record out for almost a whole year now, and to see how receptive people have been to it. We’ve gained a lot of traction, and it’s been even more fun to play these songs live with people singing along because they’ve had these tracks saved and got to listen to everything before seeing us.

“Pageantry, stage presence, crowd control, it all factors in to a complete show. You’re going to see us in full form on these next tours.”

The Dead Bolts

You also got to work with Mike Hagler, how did that opportunity come about and what was it like to work with him?

We ended up getting in touch with Mike Hagler through some friends of ours on the South Side who had already been lucky enough to record with him. This was at a point where we had all recently graduated into a pandemic era music industry, and people were getting hit pretty hard with the effects of that. Our studio was taking some time to remodel and consolidate, and our engineer was busy trying to navigate all of that, so we were no longer able to get back into Treehouse. Our tracks actually sat there for quite a bit – mainly all of Spring and into early Summer before our engineer was able to get all of our material that we recorded there, and then reach out to Mike at Kingsize Studios and ask him to help us get this thing finished up, polished, and ready to debut.

Right off the bat it was great working with Mike. The guy is a class act, and very clearly a seasoned professional. Not only could we send him bare track stems to mix into a song, but he would provide insight, suggestions, and even add instrument tracks to help produce these songs into a complete wall of sound that we had set out to capture the first day we walked into a studio. We’re extremely fortunate to be able to work with such a talented engineer, musician, and producer, and can’t wait to get back into the studio.

The Dead Bolts put out a new single in May, ‘The Throes’, which I have to say is a stunning track. Is that a teaser of what we can expect from a future album release, and what made you decide to choose that track as a lead single?

Thank you! Yeah this is definitely a teaser to the new project we’ve been working on. Things have been extremely busy on the business side of things just trying to get plans in order for the near future for us to continue growing, but we’ve managed to write and compose songs that we’re getting really excited about. We have a few new ones that are ready to play, and few in the works. We really just wanted to get “The Throes” out there because it came together so quickly, and the reception it got the first time we played it live was fantastic, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get back in the studio and get it out there before we hit the road for our first tour this past Summer. It’s a high energy song and we felt it would be the perfect track to put out at the beginning of Summer when a lot of people are in a generally good mood.

I’ve read that the band have adopted a particular “creation process that worked both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Can you talk us through your song writing process, how it has developed or changed since the early days, and how your tracks typically come together?

Since we started writing music it’s pretty much always followed the same pattern of Eddie putting the song’s chord progression, lyrics, and structure together, and then presenting it to the group for everyone to compose their parts, and build the actual song with the sound of a full band. Occasionally we’ve had Matt or John bring a riff to the table, (Matt probably has about a thousand riffs recorded on his phone), and then Eddie will work the structure and lyrics out and we’ll build the song around that.

On this new project, we’re starting to see our ability to collaborate really develop. We’ve had the luxury of John using his skills with bedroom recording to make demos of song ideas that we generate at writing sessions. We just wrote a track where Matt had a riff that he brought to a writing session, and the rest of the band just started playing and working things out around it. By the end of the session we had a full fledged song idea. John got to work with recording a demo, and Eddie had the lyrics ready within about 3 to 4 days. We played it live at a gig later that week and it sounded real fresh – in a good way. This is a track that will definitely make the album, and with how quickly it all came together, we’re excited to see how many songs we end up with by the time we walk into the studio, and then which ones will actually make the cut.

Speaking of the pandemic, whilst it seems to be very much a thing of the past now… how challenging were those times for you, and how did you fill your time as a band?

The pandemic was obviously challenging for every single musician and band out there for a lot of reasons, but we were fortunate because we were still very much in the process of rewriting material, and working on finishing out new album. It gave us a chance to reflect and asses our music. We ended up fixing and changing a lot of our songs, and how they were recorded, and we’re overall pretty happy with the way things came out. This probably wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have that extra time we all spent cooped up and not playing shows. Before the pandemic we were a bit antsy, and in a bit of a rush to put this new stuff out there and grow our name as a band – even though there was no real reason for us not to do things the right way. Sometime you just get excited. But overall we were fortunate unlike a lot of bigger bands out there that really had a tough time not being able to play live shows – not only to keep the momentum going, but also to make a living. Everyone knows you can’t make a living off of recorded music anymore, unless you’re a top 40 pop star and that’s not nearly the case for any of us, so we felt terrible for a lot of the other bands we know out there on the road having to figure something out.

Watch the official music video for ‘What Gives’ by The Dead Bolts on YouTube:

Since you guys are going on tour soon, can we expect to hear any new music debuted live or are you planning to remain tight lipped on it for now?

Oh absolutely. We’ve already begun to play a few of them out, and we’ll continue to play brand new ones as we write them. We like road testing our stuff and playing it live a few times before we even walk into the studio with it. Helps us get a feel for what we want it to sound like.

What can we expect from these upcoming shows and what are you most looking forward to?

These upcoming shows are going to be real high energy. We’ve all grown quite a bit, especially after that first tour, and we’ve zeroed in on how important it is to not only sound good live- but you really gotta go out there an put on a show. Pageantry, stage presence, crowd control, it all factors in to a complete show. You’re going to see us in full form on these next tours. We are really looking forward to every single time we take the stage within the next year.

Thank you all so much for your time! We’ve really enjoyed learning more about you guys! Last question…can you tell us about your hopes and aspirations for the future?

We just want to continue to grow and get bigger in every city that we tour through. We’re having a blast, and in the grand scheme of our short lives, that’s what’s most important. If this thing blows up to the point where we’re able to make a full time living off of the band comfortably, that’s a pretty ideal scenario. Either way, we’re going to continue to go places we haven’t been yet, and put out good music.

Listen to more from The Dead Bolts on Spotify:

For more information about The Dead Bolts head over to their Linktree, here. And, if you enjoyed this, check out more from IAMUR here and here. You might just find your new favourite artist!

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