FRIENDS OF DEAN MARTINEZ
A surreal collision of south-western lounge, desert surf rock, and Tex-Mex guitar, the "Friends of Dean Martinez" are a distinctive instrumental band that uniquely captures the desert landscape with a healthy dose of wit and tongue-in-cheek irony. The band was originally formed in Tucson, Arizona as an experimental side project by various members of Giant Sand, Calexico, and Naked Prey. Originally called "The Friends of Dean Martin," they were forced to change their name after Dean Martin refused to give his blessing. It worked out for the best, as "Martinez" provided a south-western spin to the retro lounge. They released their debut album The Shadow of Your Smile with Sub Pop in 1995.
The band has evolved several times since then, with different lineups, a move to Los Angeles, and an eventual settlement in Austin, Texas. The trio includes Bill Elm on steel guitar and organ, Mike Semple on guitar, and Andrew Gerfers on drums. Originally a guitar player, Elm first started experimenting on the steel guitar with the formation of "Friends." Pushing beyond the instrument's country twang traditions, he pioneered a distinctive new sound for the pedal steel guitar, by playing it more like a voice rather than merely as a background instrument.
With a distinctive filmic sensibility that is able to create images and mood without words, the "Friends" eventually embarked on a project to perform a live score to the silent film masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Calagari at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Part performance and part film, the band began to redefine the boundaries of the conventional film music score. Upon seeing PLAGUES & PLEASURES for the first time, Elm recollects, "I felt I could really write music for this. It was a nice fit for what we do, the images, and the story. It felt natural to watch it and want to write music. It was inspiring and thats the most you can ask for when you score something or write music."
"The music we play supports things well," adds Semple, "and I think that [the Salton Sea] is very compatible with that because of the vastness, the openness and the people that live there - there are certain qualities to them that leaves space for interpretation. I think leaving things open and not entirely filling up all the spaces is the commonality between the music and the desert."