Dent May and Dead Gaze are two bands from Oxford, MS: a place where SEC football fans coexist alongside a surprisingly vibrant indie rock scene. The town is known for being home to successful independent label Fat Possum Records, and regularly plays host to rock acts making use of local Sweet Tea Recording Studio. Dent May and Dead Gaze are among the more established Oxford groups, the former having been exposed to the indie-rock spotlight after signing with Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label back in 2008.
Fresh off the release of his new critically-acclaimed full-length Warm Blanket, Dent May and his buddies Dead Gaze rolled into town last Thursday for a show at the new Freret Street venue Gasa Gasa. Dead Gaze recordings are washy, grungy, distorted pop songs flush with simple, catchy-as-hell hooks. Live, they re-focus their sound while making everything louder -- turned up distortion guitars with crisp tones and popping bass lines populated a set where songs were introduced with to-the-point banter such as: "This song is about being really stupid."
Dent May follows a similar trajectory when it comes to the transition between studio recordings and live performances. His new record is filled with carefully-crafted, clear pop songs that sound like they were written by a millennial Brian Wilson who got his hands on a drum machine. On stage, he sheds the tendency toward electronic drum sounds and reinvents his tunes with the help of a super-tight live band. This decision pays off, as it turns out his sound benefits greatly from the addition of a live drummer. His trio of band members, interestingly enough, is actually comprised of three out of the four members of Dead Gaze, the lead singer-songwriter of which handles bass guitar duties for his buddy May. This shared band member situation is not so much surprising as it is simply impressive. In close-knit indie rock scenes such as Oxford, and New Orleans for that matter, musicians tend to be involved with multiple groups. However, taking two bands out on the road when most of the musicians are going to be playing two sets a night, for days on end, is a big decision. Fortunately for Dent May and Dead Gaze, that choice seems to be going well thus far. The bands' back-to-back sets are a one-two punch of a couple decidedly different takes on contemporary indie-pop music - Dead Gaze's fuzz-grunge, and Dent May's psych-pop - that left the packed crowd of attendees, both young and old, all smiles.