By: Lauren Jonik (email@example.com)
The high school years, however they are experienced, play a defining
role in our lives. At the time, those few short years can alternate
between feeling swiftly immediate and dramatically endless. The
intense growth that comes from every new emotion and event is elevated
to being simultaneously frivolous and significant--- and there in
lies the beauty. The music of Damone
captures the frenetic energy of this time with youthful exuberance,
subtle sweetness and irresistible charm.
The process of a band
discovering their collective sound is much like one discovering
who she is as a person. Both are evolutions that can't be rushed
and thrive in the spirit of being open to new things, having fun
and simply relishing the experience of being alive. For the Waltham,
Massachusetts based Damone enjoying what they do is
an integral element to who they are. And, it is through the mutually
supportive musical relationship of seventeen year old lead singer
Noelle and her bandmates, bassist Vazquez and drummer Dustin Hengst
that Damone is sharing their sound--- literally--- with the world.
Several months ago, the band had the opportunity to travel to China.
"It was like a whole different world and we got probably the
best crowd reactions we have ever gotten," explained Noelle.
"There is a lot of change going on there, so it was an honor
to be a small part of that change and we could definitely get that
vibe from the audience. They were appreciative of the fact that
we were there," said Vazquez. Travelling to a land so far from
home and from the familiar suburban Boston audiences they cut their
musical teeth on had another unexpected benefit, deduced Dustin
Hengst. "They didn't necessarily understand the lyrics or the
material and to see them react so positively was amazing to us.
Hopefully, that is a good standard to see if the music is working
or not." And, by all accounts it is.
The eleven tracks of
Damone's RCA Records debut, From The Attic, which was released
in May 2003, were written by guitarist Dave Pino (who has decided
not to tour with the band) in the mid to late 1990s. It was an attempt
to win back an ex-girlfriend, while coping with the confusion and
pain of newly broken heart, but by fast forwarding a few years and
changing a few pronouns, it has become a collection of songs perfectly
matched to win over audiences. Both Frustrated, Unnoticed
and Your Girlfriends have been crowd favorites, as the band
has observed that people tend to respond to the high energy songs
and those with guitar solos. "If audiences are giving us energy,
it is easier for us to give it back," said Noelle with a pause,
"but we have to give it to them first." While their personal
favorites to play live vary within the band, the commitment to giving
one hundred percent on stage remains unified. "I think about
the show all day. I try to focus all energy on that half hour,"
enthused Vazquez. It is through that dedication that a certain kind
of joy is evoked. "The actual act of performing is certainly
something I would miss if I didn't do it. Even though there is a
lot that goes with it that some would say is a pain, it is all worth
it for that small amount you get to be completely loud and to hold
everyone's attention," said Dustin. "The test is to see
how long you can stop playing music for. If it is in your blood,
you won't go that long without getting the itch again. At least
for me, that was when I knew I had to keep trying to do it. . .
Everything else just seems to be something I can do without. Music
is something I can't let go of."
When collaborating, there
are often benefits that transcend merely having a finished product.
"If you can stand to let other people scrutinize what you do
and if you have good relationships, it can be a really intimate
that is really rewarding. You trust their taste," continued
Dustin. Sometimes, that process of bouncing ideas off of each other
yields even more unexpected results, as Mike explained in the example
of how their CD gained its title. "It was a total accident.
We were trying to come up with a track listing, so I emailed a possible
list and put "from the attic" just to have a title in
the place of where a title would be . . . and it just stuck."
But, when it comes to creating, Noelle said that, "You can
find inspiration in anything." Without hesitating, she added
with a smirk, "Vazquez's main inspiration is girls."
In his own defense, Vazquez protested, "It's not just girls,
it is relationships. Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan is
about relationships--- to get to that kind of depth in a pop song
is my goal. I want it to be like this: I was laying in my room and
I had a certain feeling. I made up a song and the band and I recorded
and arranged it and then, somebody buys it and they listen to it
in their room and have that same feeling."
Having an emotion come
full circle between the artist and the listener is just one of the
ways Damone, whose name was inspired by a character in the movie
Fast Times At Ridgemont High, views career fulfillment. "Success
is how happy you are with the relationships you have, the people
you're working with and who you are friends with in general. If
you have good friends who you respect and who respect you and everybody's
happy, that is success," said Dustin with a knowing succinctness.
"Success," Vazquez said, "is when Weird Al covers
one of your songs," as if to counterbalance Dustin's wisdom
with wit. "He was just on The Simpsons," interjected
Noelle. Dustin thought for a just a moment before adding with a
laugh, "That's a better definition of success: having
your band be on The Simpsons. That is the American measure
by Lauren Jonik