(Greetings. This is Brian No Funeral, ATX music journalist and the latest addition to the Super Happy Death Cvlt. This interview was conducted back in January and was intended for another publication. Stuff happens, I’m over here, and I brought this with me. The only thing to consider when reading this interview is that a couple of the big events DSGNS hints at during the interview have already happened. The band opened for the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN in May and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME in June. Both shows were at The Mohawk in Austin. I mention this because DSGNS is a band on the rise, so you should get into this band now, you know, before your friends do.)
Keith Hernandez (drums)
Jeremy Hrabal (bass)
Jake Raines (vocals)
Ian Sabo (guitar)
Stephen Sanchez (guitar)
The middle of January brought an end to Austin’s grim, harsh, frost-bitten, three-week-long winter so the benches out front of The Music Lab on St. Elmo Rd. served as an appropriate yet casual location for the interview with Austin’s own noisecore specialist DSGNS. This particular evening was a cause for celebration, for the band had just successfully finished its first practice with new guitarist IAN SABO.
“Recently, we took a break to write our first full-length record. This is the first break we as a band have had in three years. I don’t think we went longer than 30 days between shows during that run”, drummer KEITH HERNANDEZ explained of the time DSGNS has spent hunkered down in the Music Lab.
DSGNS is poised to have a big year in 2014. After three years of gigging around the state and self-releasing three EPs (WSTLND, LXCN, and the split CD with UGLY TWIN), the band has refocused its energies on crafting an even more mind-twisting blend of technical metalcore and noise-rock than before. Not bad for a Do-It-Yourself band from Austin.
Guitarist STEPHEN SANCHEZ said, “Everything we do is DIY. Keith (Hernandez) is an engineer by trade. He records and produces all of our music alone. Jeremy (Hrabal) designs most of our merch and flyers and he also builds our stage equipment. I manage the band’s affairs and we all contribute ideas and music.”
(From left to right: Hrabel, Raines, Hernandez, and Sanchez)
Formed in 2010, DSGNS has forged its own identity in the Austin metal/hardcore community by writing thoughtful and original music, playing passionate live shows, and ignoring the prevailing trends of the day in order to articulate its own unique band-voice. That voice would be a mixture of DEADGUY, RORSCHACH, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, and perennial band favorite BOTCH.
Said Sanchez of the band’s origin, “I was in a different band with Jeremy. I was asked do a JUDGE cover band for a Halloween show with mutual friends of Keith and mine. While practicing for our show as Judge, we were jamming Botch and Death songs and it clicked. After about a year of constant jamming, we were officially DSGNS in 2011.”
(Drummer Keith Hernandez and guitarist Stephen Sanchez)
“I joined the band via Craiglist. After meeting them, practicing with them, and discovering that they’re all Botch fans, I knew this would work”, added vocalist JAKE RAINES.
Guitarist IAN SABO echoed the sentiment, “We all like ‘out there’ heavy music. Stephen and Keith came to hardcore from the metal world and that’s our common bond. We listen to weird metal like CYNIC, UNSANE, and lots of DEATH.”
A certain manner of kismet surrounds DSGNS that extends beyond similar taste in music. The state of Virginia figures into the band’s equation. Hernandez and Sabo knew of each other through playing in bands back East but they never met or hung out until moving to Austin. Raines was born in Virginia but grew up in Austin.
(Vocalist Jake Raines and bassist Jeremy Hrabal)
While the members of DSGNS may have grown up elsewhere, the band was absolutely born in (and of) the Capital City. In addition to regularly playing out in its hometown, DSGNS is beginning to warrant attention throughout the state of Texas.
“We’ve played about a half-dozen shows each in Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio. We had our best crowd response in Houston and in Bryan/College Station”, said Sanchez. “Touring plans are in the works for after our new album is released.”
(LXCN EP by DSGNS)
That question of releasing records in the current economic climate is on the mind of every artist and DSGNS is no different. When asked if there were any plans to release the previous DSGNS EPs on vinyl, Sanchez said, “All of our current records would look great and sound great as 7” records but the financial issues prevents it for the moment. We all work and we fund this ourselves. It will come with time.”
“It would be great if we could team up with a record label to do more ambitious things with our records but we as a band are unwilling to sign our lives away to make it happen. We would rather have people listen to our music than worry about making money all the time”, said Raines.
(Sanchez and Hernandez will see your brutal and raise you)
Speaking of the future goals of DSGNS, Hernandez added, “Ideally, we’d like to do this full-time. We’d like to tour full-time and have our records available everywhere but we’re at a point where we can exist and continue right now. Besides, the recorded music is a way for us to attract attention to our live shows.”
“We pay money to play music. We’d like to eventually earn some money playing music”, said bassist JEREMY HRABAL.
(Guitarist Ian Sabo)
In the meantime, DSGNS can always lean on that killer live show. It’s the band’s secret weapon. Sanchez insists that the band give the same electrifying performance each show, whether it’s for five people or 500.
“We’ve played all different kind of shows and clubs around the city”, said Raines. “When they call Austin a music city, it’s true in that there’s live music every night of the week. Now, is Austin the capital of good live music? No.”
(Guitarist Ian Sabo, bassist Jeremy Hrabal, and guitarist Stephen Sanchez)
Yes, Austin has more band than ever clogging the Entertainment District but DSGNS has done a terrific job of standing out from the crowd. The most readily apparent way this is achieved is through the band’s curious spelling of its name.
“I chose the name DSGNS so that it wouldn’t give away our sound or pigeonhole us. We didn’t want a name like Brutal DeathFace or anything that could be interpreted as typical”, said Sanchez.
Hernandez also said, “When DSGNS is spelled without the vowels, it just looks cool. We did the ‘no vowels’ thing on our first two EPs but it won’t be on the full-length. We’re going to keep the DSGNS name the same but we, as a band, are no longer at war with vowels.”
(Raines, Hrabal, and Hernandez bring in the noise; not that much funk)
With a new record on the horizon, DSGNS will spend the rest of the year fulfilling its mission. That mission is the realistic, achievable goal of being an original band awash in an ocean of pretenders. Sabo offers the sensible advice of listening to Deadguy and Rorschach but Raines offers a different challenge to Austin musicians.
“Just be yourself and stop copying everyone you see”, said Raines. “On second thought, don’t. Keep doing what you’re doing and let us stand out more.”
(the DSGNS/UglyTwin split EP)
*Photos provided by DSGNS. All images are owned by their respective copyright owners.