“The Home album really was the classic indie-record success story,” says Todd Pipes. Deep Blue Something began to blast out of Denton, TX in 1995, when “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” slowly began to dominate radio. “In Denton in 1991,” says Pipes, “there were a ton of bands around, and everybody had this DIY attitude. We figured that’s what we’d do, too—start making records and going on the road.” DBS self-released 11th Song (1993) and Home (1994), and a rigorous tour schedule financed their widening reach into new cities and band merchandise.
DBS made Home for the bargain price of $2500. Gil Pena, a roommate of singer-guitarist Toby Pipes, did the cover art. They had an indie budget, indie resources, and a dozen tight indie/alt-rock songs. “At the time, record companies were obviously looking for the next big grunge act,” Todd recalls. “If you weren’t grunge, you were on your own.” They also had that indie work ethic: “We played 250 shows a year because that’s what everybody seemed to be doing.”
When a local rock club in Lubbock, Texas used a snippet of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in a radio ad, listeners besieged stations with calls asking about the tune. The demand was so great that programmers put the song in regular rotation. A similar situation occurred in Dallas and other cities. That’s when DBS CDs began to sell. “When this started happening, we had labels fighting over us,” says Todd.
After remixing a couple of songs, Interscope released a new version of Home. Despite having major-label backing, the band retained their hardworking ethos. So much so, in fact, that DBS can’t complain about the label being whip-cracking overseers. “It was us,” explains Todd. “By doing everything ourselves, we knew that any day off—if you have crew, bus, hotel—costs you. So unless we were driving from Phoenix to Philadelphia, we played seven nights a week. It was brutal.”
It didn’t help matters that every radio station wanted DBS to do breakfast interviews. This meant that the band would walk offstage at 2 a.m., drive overnight, wake up in the station’s parking lot, and then field questions and play an acoustic set. “We continued this schedule all over the world,” says Todd. “Just because you do ‘Breakfast with DBS and WZZZ’ in Delaware, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the same in Munich or Copenhagen.”
When DBS finally circled back to Dallas, “our friends said, ‘Wow… you look bad.’” A year of nearly non-stop touring—and truck-stop cafeteria food—had taken a toll on them. Also, coming home after so long was like a time warp. “All this time had passed,” Todd says. “Rap-Metal all over the radio, then the craziness with Napster; all these record companies were panicking, everyone was getting fired… We were in an endless holding pattern.”
Interscope “didn’t know what to do” with Deep Blue Something’s next album, Byzantium. It languished until 1998, when DBS got the rights to release it themselves on Arizona-based Aezra Records. A self-titled album followed in 2001, but the music industry was mired in post-9/11 muck. “Everybody wasn’t fully into it anymore. We drifted apart and that was that.”
Todd and Toby opened Bass Propulsion Laboratories in Dallas, where they’ve produced bands like Flickerstick, Drowning Pool, Calhoun, and The Nadas. Todd released two solo albums while Toby started another band, Little Black Dress. John runs his own record label, Kirtland Records, whose roster includes The Toadies, Sarah Jaffe and The Polyphonic Spree. “I absolutely fell in love with production,” Todd says. “I turned into a workaholic. When you’re in a band, you live and die by one record at a time. When you’re a producer, you get to go on to the next project.”
Their passions redirected, Todd and Toby worked and worked. “One day we realized we’d worked seven days a week for three years,” says Todd. “But that’s good when you’re doing something you love.” But after wrapping up a project, Toby asked Todd if he happened to have any Deep Blue Something material, saying it might be fun to get the band back together. “I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely!’” Toby reached out to Kirk, inquiring about a couple of songs they’d written previously. Clay Bergus was also enthusiastic about playing with DBS again. John Kirtland also had immediate ideas for songs to be included.
Since the members live far apart from each other, and have families, they decided to do an EP instead of a full-length. “It would have been too difficult, logistically, to do a full record.” Although they’d traditionally recorded live in the studio, they exchanged demos of the songs online, refining them and learning their respective parts. “I didn’t think it was gonna work,” Todd says, “but I’m amazed; it turned out fantastically.”
DBS wound up with five new songs for the EP, titled Locust House. “All Make Believe Off” kicks off the record with a crunchy jangle, anthemic chorus and a great line: “Hands in the air if you’ve ever been sick of someone.” Todd says, “It’s a standard breakup song… but I can’t for the life of me remember who I wrote it about . . .”
Toby contributed the bulk of the driving, infectious mid-tempo number, “Outta My Head,” with Todd adding a pre-chorus, and Kirk adding the bridge vocals. John suggested the string section.
“Fuzzy” dwells in the watery, Cure-ish territory DBS loves, but has a happy, hand-clappy chorus like you’d hear in early 1980s power pop.
“War Song,” says Todd, “is like the quintessential fast, jangly, Deep Blue Something sound—juxtaposed with heavy lyrics.
The final track, “Winsome,” was actually the first of the new songs to come together. “That’s one that John really wanted to record,” Todd says. “It’s about my fascination with people and their relationship to cars, how getting into a car transforms them. Being at a red light, it’s impossible to resist the urge to race people. And on the highway, you have to get out in front of other cars. It’s bizarre, what that does to people. The title is also a play on words.
The strength and focus of Locust House belies Deep Blue Something’s 14-year hiatus—and it’s certainly a win. It’s also a logical progression for the band, demonstrating that they haven’t lost the connection they built in their early days. Does this mean they’ll go head-on into a full-fledged, touring reunion? “Even halfway through recording the EP, even though I was so completely into it, I’d have said ‘no,’” says Todd. “But now I cannot wait to tour with this band. I hope we hit it hard. After all these years, it’s still an uplifting experience working with these guys again.”
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