For years John Muylle played a pied piper on local stages, building audiences into frenzy as frontman for the absurdist glam rock band Everthus the Deadbeats. Then one day, Muylle found he was losing followers, even within his own band. First, drummer Dan Fahrner grew tired of touring. Then Lisa Berlin and Benny Sanders joined Jookabox. Finally, Allen Banister left for Everything Now.
"I took it hard at first," Muylle says. "I'm just going to keep playing music regardless. If I can find some good people who want to play music with me that's awesome but I am just going to keep going."
And go ahead he did. Muylle could have shut things down during the transition and gone solo. He's proven he has the talent to perform alone. But in true pied piper fashion, he found new band mates. And the band - now known as Dead Beats - eventually worked up a new album, Wake Up (Standard Recording Company). And it's appropriate the first words heard on Wake Up serve as a clarion call: "Dead Beats unite."
The first new member of the Dead Beats was Joe Fawcett, a roommate of Muylle's who was accompanying the band on tours and acting as a roadie. A native of Texas from the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area, Fawcett took 12 years worth of piano lessons, studied music theory, learned violin and clarinet. When he arrived at Ball State for college he was burnt out on music and gave it up for over four years. He rediscovered his love for it by jamming with friend, playing violin while they played guitar. When Sanders left, he picked up the bass and helped to reshape the band.
"When I first joined the band I realized I'm not the same guy as Benny," Fawcett says. "My personality onstage—I have to learn how to cultivate that. Benny always brought a strong power to the stage. At first I was intimidated to play his old bass lines."
Muylle was nervous about debuting the new line up. But he took comfort in knowing that another Muncie-born band, Everything, Now!, had a history of revolving membership. If that band's frontman Jon Rogers could keep things going for so long, Muylle reflected, why couldn't he? They performed their first show as a trio with Banister on drums. "It was part of the 'we're going to keep going no matter what,' thing," says Muylle.
And when his temporary drummer Banister left, Muylle realized he could approach the experience of rebuilding the band in a positive manner. He could find freedom in it. Together with Fawcett, he could visit any musical landscape he desired.
They found two more musicians to flesh out the band. Michael Foster had been a Deadbeats fan. He took over on keyboard and backing vocals and also brought an artistic background to the band — a common trait among members both past and present. They found Evan Blackmore via Craigslist. The drummer is a full time musician who makes his living by teaching lessons and working as a session musician.
"It feels like a brand new thing now instead of an extension," Muylle says of the changes. They were no longer Everthus the Deadbeats, however, and a name change was in order. "If we had completely changed the name it would have put to shame all the work that was done before," Muylle says. So they would instead be Dead Beats.
Wake Up is more of a straightforward rock album than 2008's concept driven John Kill and the Microscopic Lullaby. "There is no point in making [the band] sound like it did before because it's all new people," Muylle says. "It's not all that different of a sound really but everyone has their own flavor they brought [to the band]." Similar themes from previous releases pop up — loneliness, rebirth and — Muylle's off-kilter humor is also still present in the music, as in a song like "Humming Cows," which at the end of the human race from the perspective of the cows that survive.
The album resembles a late sixties pop gem from an alternate reality where the Beach Boys surfed apocalyptic fire instead of crystal clear ocean waves. And it's Muylle's most accessible work to date, though it still challenges its listeners the way his past work did. "Hi-Def Man" shares a musical lineage with The Beatles' "Mean Mr. Mustard" and Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man." "Tongue," the albums final track and a classic Dead Beats rocker, feels like a proclamation. It's the moment the new line-up finds itself, and a promise of great things to come. The Dead Beats will play on.
"Scorpio" from Wake Up (courtesy of Standard):
"Conveyor" from Wake Up (courtesy of Standard):