Premiere: Grab A Free Download Of Daniel Markham's New Single.
Daniel Markham isn't much of a planner.
Even still, his take-life-as-it-comes approach hasn't really been much of a hindrance for the Denton transplant: Just three years after relocating from Lubbock, Markham's not only been fully embraced by locals; he's become one of North Texas' most popular live acts.
In that short amount of time, Markham's gone from the new guy in town playing solo acoustic versions of his previous band One Wolf's tunes at Banter's open mic nights to becoming the frontman of a fully realized alt-rock band just weeks away from releasing its sophomore album.
To hear Markham tell it, that wasn't really the plan when he came to town. It all just kind of happened.
“I came to Denton for a weekend and I went and hung out with Warren [Jackson] Hearne and he was kinda selling me on Denton,” Markham says. “I saw Charlie Shafter at Dan's later that night and he informally asked me if I wanted to play bass in his band. And I was like, 'OK.' I also saw Grady [Sandlin] that night at Dan's and he was like, 'Are you thinking about moving here? You should do it.' And I was like, 'OK.'”
A week later, Markham decided to go for it.
Pretty soon, he found himself writing new tunes and playing solo at any place that'd let him — including a memorable song swap early on with Tony Ferraro — as well as gigging as part of Charlie Shafter's backing band. Even Markham's not quite sure how those early performances segued to the point where he began fronting a band featuring some of Denton's best players.
“I was playing with Grady [Sandlin] in Charlie's band,” he says. “Tony and [guitarist] Ryan [Thomas Becker] just kinda came along. I'm not really sure how it happened. I honestly didn't ask anybody to do it. They just came in and played with me. And I was like, 'OK, this will work.'”
Still, when it came time to record last year's Ruined My Life LP, Markham wound up recording most of the instruments himself — save for Sandlin's drum parts, some pedal steel courtesy of Hillary Early and Ferraro adding bass lines to a couple songs after the fact.
Much has changed since then, though. And the quartet that's since formed has certainly played its share of shows and done a good bit of touring since initially coming together — to the point that Markham now considers them his official band. So much so, even, that Markham says he considered adopting a new band name to better convey the idea that this band has now morphed into something more than just his solo project.
“We are definitely a band now,” Markham says. “Everything feels like we're a band. It takes awhile to get to that level with other people, but we've played so many shows and hung out so much that we're pretty much a unit. It's my name on the thing, but we're a band. I tried to get everybody to come up with a band name, but they were like, 'Daniel Markham sounds good.' That's just the way it's going to be.”
That shift in philosophy rears its head all over the band's upcoming sophomore record, Pretty Bitchin', which will earn its release on Halloween. This time around, the four-piece tracked most of its new album at the same time, giving the thing a noisier, more live feel.
It's a natural progression, really — and one that sees the late-'80s-, REM-mining sound of Ruined My Life moving ever-so-slightly towards an early-'90s-, grunge-leaning alt-rock thing this go around. Hell, the album's tenth track, the trudging “Disconnected and Flying,” could just as easily be an Alice in Chains B-side.
Says Markham of that tune: “I was trying to write a P.J. Harvey kind of thing, but it ended up being like Alice in Chains — which is OK. They're still a great band. Tony and Ryan have got a bunch of harmonies in there, too. It's not just me all over the place. It's very much a band record, which I'm totally stoked about. That's what I wanted to set out to do, kinda like the Neil Young approach of getting as much done live as possible.”
Further adding to the disc's looser, more rocking vibe is the quick nature in which it all came together. Says Markham, the bulk of the writing happened in just two or three days. Then the band rehearsed for another two days and the album was recorded over another three-day period. Unlike the solo vibe of Markham's debut, Pretty Bitchin' finds each player in the band injecting hints of their own personalities into the equation — which makes sense given the chemistry the rest of his band mates have developed during their own long history of playing together.
“We are not the Daniel Markham Band, but we are a band for sure,” Markham says. “I wrote all the songs pretty quickly and gave the demos to everybody. I had specific parts in mind for a lot of it still — just like melody lines on the guitar — but everybody came up with their own stuff. We just had a couple of practices and kinda fleshed it out and went straight into the studio.”
You can get a taste of what me mean via the album's third track, a straight-ahead rocker called “Night (Just One More),” which Markham has been kind enough to pass along as a free download to Central Track readers below.
Daniel Markham performs Thursday, October 30 at Dan's Silverleaf.