The deadbeat spirit: Everthus the Deadbeats


Everthus the Deadbeats release new CD

The five members of the Indianapolis glam rock band Everthus the Deadbeats are gathered in the living room of what could be Deadbeat Central, a two story house just a block away from Butler University. They sit on two mismatched couches of the post-college variety. Drummer Dan Fahrner and keyboardist/vocalist Lisa Berlin are full of energy, not unlike when they are performing on stage. Guitarist Allen Banister is quiet and somewhat uncomfortable. Bassist Benny Sanders has drifted off into his own world, doodling on a piece of paper. Keyboardist/guitarist/lead vocalist John Muylle is reserved and contemplative, so far removed from his explosive, unpredictable madman stage persona of John Kill.

A trail of yellow clothing spreads between the two couches, moving from one side of the room to the other, from the small stand shouldering a large television to the worn white upright piano. “We’re planning on dressing all in yellow for the press photos,” explains Fahrner, wearing a pair of yellow scrubs over his jeans. “We went out and bought as much as we could find.” Two other Deadbeats also model their thrift store finds: Berlin wears a yellow shirt with a matching blazer while Sanders sports a blouse that’s more earwax bronze than yellow.

Fahrner jumps from the couch, playing the part of a glam rock Moses, parting the yellow clothing to pull out what could be a floor rug. He unfurls it to reveal a hand-painted banner 4 feet wide and at least 8 feet long, featuring a surreal double portrait of Sanders. It’s one of a set the band plans to hang up during their Feb. 23 CD release shows for their new album, John Kill & the Microscopic Lullaby, a concept album with the potential to be the best local album of 2008. Everthus the Deadbeats will play not one but two shows that night, beginning with an all-ages performance at 6 p.m. at Indy CD and Vinyl with Arrah and the Ferns. At 9 both bands move around the corner to Spin Nightclub where they will join up with Everything Now! Early Day Miners and Mason Proper.

A shit-ton of work

This is what it looks like — the river of clothes, the rug-sized hand-painted banners — for a band masterminding the release of their new album, a band that’s ready to take its place among the Indianapolis elite. Fahrner has spent the last few weeks booking the release shows and a tour that will culminate in a headlining performance during the official Standard Recording Company showcase at South by Southwest in March. There’s also been the promotional artwork and a music video shoot. Maybe someday, possibly in the late stages of Feb. 24 when the sun begins to slip and the skies grow grayer, when they’ve finally awakened with celebratory hangovers, maybe then they will have a moment of clarity, a moment to realize what they’ve created, a moment to savor their triumph. But right now, all there is time for is preparation.

In fact, there seems to be an awful lot of talk about planning from the Deadbeat camp these days. “I did a proposal with Allen the first week of January 2007,” Fahrner says. “I met with Mark Latta and Kevin Phillips, who run our label — Standard Recording Company — at the IHOP downtown and talked about the new album. We basically have been pushing [it] all the way since last January. So the cycle of this record is over a year long at this part. There is a lot of planning like going down to Bloomington to record for five days. And then coming home and recording here for a month and a half. And touring.”

Recent evidence of the band’s planning is the music video for their first single, “Organics Mechanics.” It was shot at Ball State in the Pruis Auditorium just days before Christmas with director friend Travis Abels at the helm and a professional crew who count the Smashing Pumpkins and Nikki Sixx as past clients. “It’s surprising how hard he worked on it,” says Fahrner of Abels’ contributions. “He wrote a story board and then sent it to us. We kind of gave him ideas and then he made a more complex storyboard and started filming some animations. It was cool to be able to do something like this with someone who works professionally in Los Angeles.”

“For free,” Berlin adds.

“Yeah,” Fahrner continues. “He did it for free, basically. We paid for his plane ticket to get here.”

Berlin estimates the cost of the video would have reached nearly $10,000 had so many people not chipped in their time to help out. The location and equipment were also donated. All that was left was for the band and their friends to craft the scenery, most of which was made from cardboard, fabric and hot glue. “The week before the video shoot I went up to Muncie with Lisa and we just ran around gathering up all the stuff and trying to find it for really cheap. It was quite an experience. You learn a lot about being resourceful,” Fahrner says. “I would imagine it took 75 to 80 hours to do all of it.”

The Deadbeats found an easy way to recoup the costs for the material they purchased themselves: the time-honored tradition of returning your purchase. “The fake grass carpet was $250. But we took that back after we used it,” he admits. “And they returned it. It was all cut up but we rolled it up so it looked like it was good. Man, that’s mean. But the key is if you’re really resourceful you can do something like this.”

The band spent 30 hours filming the video, planning to ship it around to MTVU and VH-1. The video tells the story of a lonely plant girl (Bannister in white leotards, underwear and a mass of plastic leaves and flowers covering his upper body) befriending a robot boy (Fahrner in a silver-painted cardboard box) who sneaks out of his parents’ spaceship to visit Earth. The two teeter-totter together and frolic amongst the fake grass and flowers until both sets of parents meet up and spoil their fun by brawling across the stage.

“Dan and Lisa did a shit-ton of work,” Muylle says. “I went and was just completely amazed. I knew the storyboard but I didn’t really know what was going on with the sets and costumes. When I walked into all of that I felt like I was in this big Hollywood movie set. It was an awesome thing to be a part of.”

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of people to shoot a music video,” Berlin says.

“And a lot of patience,” Muylle adds. “They had to have some patience with us because … we are not actors.”

The evolution

Many in the Muncie music scene, both musicians and spectators, suggest the town’s depressing demeanor is what makes it thrive as a musical hot spot. There is nothing else to do but make music.

Dan Fahrner, having moved from Chicago to Muncie to earn a business degree, met Benny Sanders their freshman year in the DeHority Residence Hall in 2002. They moved off-campus their sophomore year and began playing around with the idea of starting a band. Sanders met Allen Banister, a fellow art student, and invited him to join in on one of their jam sessions. Together, they took the name Sparkle Motion and began playing grungy instrumental numbers, performing for the first time during a Ball State student television show called BSU Late Night. “We played one song and played it horribly,” Fahrner admits.

After the disastrous debut, Fahrner decided it was time to change gears. The first step was a new name. “I felt the word ‘deadbeat’ summed up our ideas about the band,” he explains. “The same day I decided on the word, I was watching The Big Lebowski. During the scene where the Chinese guy pisses on the Dude’s rug, he says, ‘Everthus to deadbeats, Lebowski.’ It was perfect. The idea that there will always be people like us everywhere that share our ideals and quirky, offbeat attitude seems perfect. The city of Muncie itself embodies the deadbeat spirit — strange and wild, with not much to do. It’s a melting pot where bored people act out and get creative. That’s where these ideas came from: Muncie.”

After a year together, the band wasn’t evolving into anything more than a supplement to partying, Fahrner says.

Enter John Muylle. “They played this kind of jammy, surfy rock music and I told them they needed a singer,” Muylle recalls. “I auditioned and they didn’t like me. Dan was the only one who wanted me in the band.”

“Everybody was like, ‘Forget it. We can do it ourselves.’ Which wasn’t true because we were awful,” Fahrner confesses. “I took it upon myself to bring him in.”

A musical mastermind, Muylle added a new dimension to the music, taking previously recorded songs and adding his own lyrics, creating twisted landscapes populated with insanity and characters of questionable reputation. Muylle himself was a demented pied piper, capable of hypnotizing an audience with an addictive “la-la-la” and luring them into his absurdist visions. “There has always been a sort of crooner aspect to the music,” Muylle says. “There has always been this loungey, sleazy, kind of circus aspect and I think that’s just our personalities showing through.”

Muylle still felt something was missing. He’d find the last ingredient in his friend and fellow art student, Lisa Berlin. “I was in a class with John and I had them play at a student art gallery,” Berlin says. “When we hung out he would play guitar and I would sing harmonies with him. The way he writes music, there is always a lot of backing vocals. When he joined the band he asked if he could bring in a back-up singer.”

In January of 2005, the band accepted Berlin into their fold. “I went over to John’s and he said, ‘I have a surprise for you. I talked to the guys and they want you in the band.’ I had no idea he was even going to ask them and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. OK.’”

Muylle soon decided to move to Bloomington, causing the band to split. Muylle started a new band called Hot Fighter with Dave Adamson — of BIGBIGcar and Grampall Jookabox. When that band failed, he performed solo under the name John Kill, crafting a series of songs that would become Deadbeat classics. Fahrner and Sanders remained in Muncie playing in the Belle Ends. Berlin returned home to Dayton and Banister concentrated on finishing school.

In the fall of 2005, Adamson asked the Deadbeats to perform at the BIGBIGcar album release show. From that reunion performance, the band began to work on some of the songs Muylle had started. In the summer of 2006 the Deadbeats released a six-song EP entitled Addicts Stuck in Traffic. They spent hours crafting handmade CD covers, each an original collage made from magazine photos.

Fahrner, Sanders, Muylle and Berlin soon moved to Indianapolis while Banister stayed behind to finish school. “Dan said, ‘Instead of graduating and deciding right away what we wanted to do with our lives, let’s buy some time and keep playing in the band,’” Berlin says. “When we saw the house in Indy and thought of all we could do together, we just decided it was a good career no matter how long it lasts.”

Standard Recording Company gave Addicts Stuck in Traffic its official release in December 2006. One month later, the Deadbeats were opening for the Lemonheads at the Vogue. They were also planning the next album. “Months before we started recording I began to jot down any idea that popped into my head about the album or how songs could flow together or transitions between the songs,” Muylle says.

Thirteen months later all the planning would pay off with John Kill & the Microscopic Lullaby.

Love (and madness)

Microscopic Lullaby begins with a lullaby, a simple floating melody ushered in by the beep-beep-beeping of interstellar Morse code — “I see the moon and the moon sees me,” it says. What follows is a far cry from the opening of Addicts Stuck in Traffic, that desperate scream dwindling to a hopeless moan. Instead, Berlin’s lilting voice sings of being up among the stars with the Lord. The song is called “Les Etoiles” and was written by a French nun named Jeanine Deckers and nicknamed Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile). She appeared on Ed Sullivan and starred in a 1966 film entitled The Singing Nun. In 1982 she committed suicide.

“I remember the first time she played ‘Les Etoiles’ for me,” Muylle says. “I said, ‘That’s the first song on the album.’”

“‘Les Etoiles’ is what my mom used to sing to me when she was putting me to sleep,” Berlin explains, also noting that the Morse code is a nursery rhyme she would recite with her mother. “It’s a nice thought to put a kid to bed with, I think, going to sleep up in space with the moon and the stars and the Lord. And that was when the concept of the Lord was coolest too — when I was a kid.”

And thus, one of the central themes of the album is set: childhood innocence eroding into the stresses of adult life. It’s a theme that unites the album from beginning to end, coming full circle with another Berlin track, “Sing Off Key.” While a soft song sung with beauty, it’s also a vision of late night bar scenes and fighting off a “drunk man looking for a mate.” The song ends with the repeating line “home at dawn to sing off key.” It closes a dreamlike journey often bordering on nightmare, a journey where one begins as a comforted child but by the album’s end is very much alone.

“I think it’s a really good reflection of what we have been going through since we left college,” Berlin says. “There it was like, ‘Pour booze into my mouth all the time,’ and now we’re like, ‘Fuck. We have jobs and …’”

“… can’t pay the bills and rent,” Fahrner jumps in.

“We’ve all been hungry at times,” Berlin continues. “We’re trying for the love of everything to stay out of debt because we don’t want to have to quit this. If we get in over our heads we can go without food every now and then. This album is about all of that. It just sounds like that.”

“It’s a personal album,” Muylle says. “It’s not fluff.”

Adding to the nightmarish feelings are songs like “John Kill Visits the Doctor,” where Muylle manages to capture the feelings of depression with lyrics such as “Stop, I want to get off at the next life. It’s mine to take whenever I want,” and “I’m too young to feel this old” without ever delving into the realm of melodramatic angst. And despite its darkness, the cabaret-like nature of the song begs to be sung along with.

Adding to the musical nervous breakdown are Berlin’s “Whudya” and Banister’s “Ignatious,” two songs that crack into tumultuous chaos. “Whudya” culminates in an explosion of noise with Muylle’s rambling gibberish in the background while the two crawling verses of “Ignatious” are split up by a bass driven interlude containing echoes of the album’s previous songs and audience prodding the breakdown along with applause.

But Microscopic Lullaby is more than just one traumatic experience after another. Love songs pepper the album, creating moments of hope and redemption. One such moment comes with “Sweetie,” another Berlin number. It’s a story about a woman offering to help her stubborn lover out. Berlin worked on the track with Muylle, but received some surprise assistance from Sanders.

“Benny recorded little answer parts,” Berlin says. “It shocked me when I listened to it.”

“I didn’t even remember doing it because I was so drunk,” Sanders responds.

“But it was so awesome,” Muylle adds. “It worked so perfectly.”

Always a competent keyboardist and backing vocalist, Berlin gets to show she has the musical potential to be a star with four of the finest tracks on the album. But it’s not just Berlin who gets to shine, both Banister and Sanders coat the music with guitars that can be gritty like the Beatles at their most intense on “Abbey Road” or atmospheric like the Electric Light Orchestra. Fahrner’s drumming, like his business savvy mind, seems to keep everything under control and moving forward. Muylle tones down the theatrics — which are always entertaining and work well on the album when needed — but the vulnerability he brings is what takes Microscopic Lullaby to the next level. It makes the album’s absurdity human and allows the listener to emotionally connect with the music.

If Addicts Stuck in Traffic had a flaw, it was that the band didn’t bring the same intensity to the album that they brought to the stage. It was something you listened to while waiting to see the band perform live. That’s not the case here. They bring all of their intensity and charisma. John Kill and the Microscopic Lullaby is an album you want to listen to over and over. It’s an album full of mysteries you want to solve, an album full of pain you want to remedy, an album with enough sweetness to revel in.

A better album may come along this year, but right now Indianapolis belongs to the Deadbeats.

WHAT: Everthus the Deadbeats CD Release Parties

WHEN: Feb. 23 6 p.m. at Indy CD and Vinyl (with Arrah and the Ferns), 9 p.m. at Spin Nightclub (with Arrah and the Ferns, Mason Proper, Everything Now! and Early Day Miners)

Meet Everthus

Lisa Berlin

Age: 25

Instruments played: piano, keys, guitar (not very well)

Biographical fact: In my autumn years, you can find me singing in the last smoking establishment in the country, under yellow lights, in pearls, the song “Lush Life.”

Influences: Storytelling, soft-core

John “Kill” Muylle

Age: 25 ... or 6 to 4

Role with band: Ovation acoustic electric guitar, Yamaha electric piano, MicroKorg, Poopy Yamaha Cheepo, all-range human voice box

Biographical fact: I spend most of my time listening to the conversations between the different aspects of my personality as they try to understand the true nature of light/energy/love and the role that observation and awareness play in the multiple directions of a specific consciousness’ supposed fortune. I am also separating myself from my senses and emotions as a means of better controlling them.

Influences: I would say mostly my short and long term memory combined with subconscious instinct ... and Bob Seger.

Allen James Bannister

Age: 23

Role with band: guitar, percussion, vocals

Biographical fact: Interested in primitive art, painting, prints. I paint and make prints. I have a wife, Kelly.

Influences: Captain Beefheart, David Byrne, George Harrison, Syd Barret, Paul Klee

Benny Sanders, aka “Nasty,” “Chuck Chill Out,” “Triple B,” “Mr. Hirsute”

Age: I’ve been here for thousands and thousand and thousands of years.

Role with band: bass guitar, aka “The Meat,” “The Axe,” “The Stallion,” “The Low-rider,” “The Heavy Ganter”

Biographical fact: My father’s family is in prison. My mother’s family is Mormon. I look like I’m Mormon and will probably go to prison.

Influences: drugs, crystals, minotaurs, knives, Dubai, Cadillacs, the Internet, bump and grind, songs over 11 minutes, kittens, soft-core, taxidermy, serial killers, infinite darkness, things that smell funny, blood, fog machines, large mouth bass, death cults, fake jewelry, stuff like that

Daniel “Cutes” Fahrner

Age: 23

Role with band: drums, management, keen fashion sense, morning breath, sock lines on ankles, chest hair, back flips, low-rider bicycles

Biographical fact: I am rich.

Influences: the seven continents, bossa nova, velour sweaters, elegance, glamour, T-pain, kitties, PE class (middle school), William H. Macy, sports, outer space, celebrities, soft-core porn