What was supposed to be a simple get together fast escalated into a full-fledged line up, which has resulted in a debut record for Newburgh’s, Dead Ahead.
“All the symptoms seem to be coming back again…” is the opening admission that crackles from the adjacent speakers, and then continues to open up its heart, albeit in a subtle fashion, to relationships that once existed but are now nothing but cold memories. Such an entrance is to be admired for its honesty, but also for the immediate impact of the gritty yet often melodic and driving urgency of the punk rock sounds new outfit, Dead Ahead has created with their debut EP of the same name.
There will no doubt be some detractors who will keenly point out that there is nothing new to observe when it comes to Dead Ahead, but that’s not really the issue because despite the familiarity of their punk rock sounds, there’s just something essential about this four-piece band that is required right now. Whether that’s the aforementioned honesty of the lyrics, or the impassioned vocals, or the dynamic and raw instrumentation that gives way to sweeter passages of music, then that is open for discussion, but Famous Last Words (FLW) is willing to hedge its bets that the likely answer is a combined effort of all of these ingredients that make Dead Ahead the force that they are.
With Dead Ahead having formed in 2013 after periods of inactivity from the routines of their normal band line-ups, the four members of Jesse Vadala (lead vocals), Rob Kucharek (bass), Johnny Keane (guitar) and Dennis O’ Brien (drums) decided to get together out of a necessity to simply start playing again, rather than with anything serious in mind involving releasing new material.
Two years later, the modest intentions held by Dead Ahead from the outset remain intact, but the realisation that they might be on to something once the four songs making up their debut EP began to formulate into something nearing a whole, then there was only really one way to go.
With the ‘Dead Ahead’ EP still fresh in the minds of those fortunate enough to have heard it after last week’s official release date, the levels of excitement have been riding high, and understandably so once the likes of ‘Cold Truth’ and ‘Exit Letters’ planted their tales of broken relationships right under the listener’s fingernails, due to the sincere emotions expressed and compelling sounds powering these songs.
After such an impressive start, the urge to know more about this four-piece band from Newburgh, New York, was simply irresistible as FLW decided to investigate and found bass player, Rob Kucharek willing to provide the answers regarding all things Dead Ahead.
Where did this all begin for Dead Ahead, and what were the reasons for starting the band?
“When Autopilot Off (APO) called it quits in early 2005, I decided to wind things down by putting playing music on the back burner for quite a few years. We (APO) started writing songs again for a bit in 2011, which was a blast, but our schedules were very tough to line up to make it a regularly occurring thing. After having that taste of writing again, I was itching to play music regularly, so when my friends, Chris (Dead Ahead’s original guitarist) and Dennis [O’ Brien] (drums) asked me to start jamming, I jumped on it. Soon after, Jesse [Vadala] joined us on vocals. His old band, With The Punches, had been inactive for over a year at that point, so he had the itch to start playing and writing music again. Therefore, it all just fell into place, and we officially became a band.”
Who do you regard as influences in terms of your music?
“For me, I have always been most influenced by Descendents, Face To Face, Samiam, and Hot Water Music. Although, Alkaline Trio has definitely been a big influence for us as whole in terms of writing with Dead Ahead.”
How would you describe the Dead Ahead sound?
“I would consider us to be a melodic punk rock band.”
Where do you see the band and your music in terms of the current state of the music industry?
“I think we fall outside of the music business as a whole, as this band is really just a creative outlet for all four of us.”
Where was the debut EP ‘Dead Ahead’ recorded, and how long did the whole process take?
“We recorded our debut EP with our good friend Brendan Williams at Gain Stage Recording, which is not too far from us up in New Paltz, NY. We tracked the bass and drums the first day, then hit all the guitars in an evening a few days later. After this, we popped in the studio for four or five more short sessions to do all the main and backup vocals. I’ve had a number of studio recording experiences over the last 20 years of playing in bands, but this, by far, was my favourite. Brendan has a great ear, and is a super-efficient engineer, which kept things flowing nicely throughout the entire process.”
What were the reasons for deciding to release an EP as your first release as Dead Ahead?
“By the time we had finished recording, we had been playing as a band for about a year and a half. We really wanted to focus on the best of what we had written thus far; hence the four-song EP vs a full-length record. Also, we felt that, in the current state of the music world, we’d be better suited to put out multiple EPs over time, to keep things fresh for both ourselves and fans of the band.”
Were there any problems and frustrating experiences encountered when writing and recording the new EP, or was it a relatively smooth experience?
“Writing the songs was a really smooth process. I had been coming up with instrumental demos of song structures for most of the songs, and we would hash them out as a band in the practice space. Then Jesse would write melodies and lyrics to the songs. The one curveball that we had was that our original guitarist, Chris Lindstrom, had been losing interest in the band leading up to the recording, and decided to move on from the band after the first day in the studio. Chris is a great guitarist, and a guy we all became close with, so we completely understood his decision as he was looking to go in a different musical direction than the rest of us. With that obstacle in front of us, we decided that we didn’t want to lose the momentum we had going in the studio, so I quickly brushed up on all the guitar parts, and wound up playing both bass and guitar on the EP as we simultaneously looked for a new guitarist. Luckily that came along within a few days with Johnny Keane joining the band. Jesse and Johnny have been friends for years, and his current band had just called it quits, so it was perfect timing. Dennis and I had also been acquaintances of Johnny’s through mutual friends, so it was a nearly seamless transition for the band. It came along quickly enough that he was able to do most of the backup vocals for the EP, and since joining the band we have already written a handful of new songs with both Jesse and Johnny taking lead vocals.”
Can you provide some details as to what the songs ‘Cold Truth’ and ‘Rose Lenses’ from the ‘Dead Ahead’ EP are about, as they are particular favourites here at Famous Last Words (FLW)?
“Glad that you guys dig on those songs! Jesse is the man behind all the lyrics, so I don’t want to speak for him on that. Overall, I would say that making your own interpretation of the songs, and what they mean to you, is the best road to go down.”
Is there a favourite track for Dead Ahead at the moment from the new EP and, if so, why?
“I would have to say, for me personally, it’s ‘Exit Letters’. That song was a turning point for the band where we had really honed in on what we wanted the overall sound of the band to be.”
FLW could wax lyrical about the merits of this chosen track from Dead Ahead’s EP as the atmosphere generated is one of complete unison, with all band members coming together, especially in the vocals that give the impression of fighting for the same corner. In fact, it’s these fleeting moments when the lead and second vocal combine, or flip between the two, that really captures the senses where one voice is slightly more mellifluous sounding than the other, the rough with the smooth if you like, and it’s a Bill Janovitz – Chris Colbourn thing from punk grunge merchants Buffalo Tom, who excelled during such vocal exchanges and made it a main feature of their band, that immediately springs to mind. Of course, others will interpret this one particular song by Dead Ahead in different ways, and rightly so as Rob Kucharek suggested when responding to interpretations of the band’s songs earlier.
If you could have one thing right now, what would it be and why?
“I always just hope for everything to go smooth and productive every day, so that’s what I want, a smooth and productive day tomorrow!”
What has been one of the strangest experiences for Dead Ahead in the short time that the band has been together?
“I would say the whole thing mentioned previously with our original guitarist leaving the band, then finding a guy looking for a band through a craigslist ad, who turned out to be Johnny [Keane], who we all knew. It’s a small world for sure!”
What’s next for Dead Ahead?
“We are just continuing to get together every week to work on new songs, as that had really been the focus of the band from the get-go. Show wise, we will be playing at The Loft in Poughkeepsie, NY, with H2O on November 17th (Donations gladly accepted for a flight ticket for this event! FLW).”
Is there a Dead Ahead philosophy that you live by?
“Zero pressure. Get together every week, write songs, drink beers, and have fun with it.”
Dead Ahead is an honest band with four magnificent tunes to their credit in the short duration their creative motor has been running. Full of dynamism, passionate vocals and scuffed edges to the pain and loss held in their songs, our money is on this New York four piece to produce a series of fine outputs come this time next year. Eyes focused dead ahead on the future of this band? You bet!
The ‘Dead Ahead’ EP is out now and available on Panic State Records
I would have to say, for me personally, it's 'Exit Letters'. That song was a turning point for the band where we had really honed in on what we wanted the overall sound of the band to be."
Rob Kucharek, Dead Ahead
FLW - From the Tapes
For those curious to learn of a few of the members of Dead Ahead’s previous exploits in bands, then the following brief snippets of information will provide some guidance:
With The Punches: Links to Dead Ahead – Jesse Vadala (vocals)
With The Punches is a pop punk band from Newsburgh, NY, who started out in 2008 and released a succession of EPs over the years, and then a full-length album via Doghouse Records in 2012 titled ‘Seams and Stitches’.
Autopilot Off : Links to Dead Ahead – Rob Kucharek (bass)
Autopilot Off is a punk rock band from Orange County, New York. The band has been active since 1996, although they started out under the name Cooter but changed in 2002 after a legal dispute with another American band called, The Cooters. Autopilot Off has issued a number of EPs, in addition to a couple of albums. The band is currently on hiatus.
Measured In Grey: Links to Dead Ahead – Johnny Keane (guitar)
Measured In Grey is a five-piece punk band stemming from Orange County, New York. The band formed in 2006 by the brothers, Johnny and Ian Keane, with the former performing vocal duties and Ian covering on guitar. Measured In Grey recorded a full-length album back in 2008, which has not received a formal release as well as the band remaining unsigned.