It’s not that Denali broke up because it ran out of ideas. No, the Richmond, Virginia quartet had plenty of those—enough to fuel several band’s worth of melancholy indie-rock. Having enough time for those projects, on the other hand, was a problem. Founding members Keeley Davis and Jonathan Fuller departed from the band in ’03 to concentrate on their other band, Engine Down, full-time. Unable to recapture the chemistry of the original line-up lead singer/songwriter Maura Davis eventually split the group up and moved on to form Ambulette.
But five years later those other bands are over—Engine Down called it quits in ’05 and Ambulette threw in the towel two years later—and the members have moved back Richmond. So, there’s isn’t much of a reason for Denali to stay broken up these days. After reuniting for a few shows last year Denali decided to make a go of it again, at least part time basis. Singer Maura Davis spoke with City Paper about the band, being back in school, and why it finally made sense to get Denali back together.
Denali, KI: Theory, Pygmy Lush @Black Cat 1811 14th St. NW Sat., June 5, 9 PM, $13
Washington City Paper: So, you just got out of a big test. What are you studying?
Davis: I’m in nursing school.
WCP: Denali broke up in 2004, but you played some reunion shows last year. Are you guys officially back to being a band again?
Davis: Um, we’re kind of playing for fun now. We want to write some new songs and put out a record eventually but everybody’s lives have been so busy. We haven’t gotten a lot of that done. We just kind of do shows when they come up, which is not very often lately. I guess we’re officially back together.
WCP: What made you decide to do it again?
Davis: Cam (DiNunzio, guitarist) moved back here from New York and I was wasn’t doing my other band anymore. We were all here (in Richmond). We figured, “What the hey, we should get back together.”
WCP: Do you miss playing music now that you’re back in school full-time?
Davis: I do miss playing, but I don’t miss touring. The last band that I was in (Ambulette) kept going on a roller coaster ride of excitement and let-downs. I was just over it. I felt like my life wasn’t stable. I never knew when I would have any money. So I decided that music, right now, is probably not the safest thing to be in if I wanted to pay rent.
WCP: Was that a tough call to make?
Davis: Not really. I think I was kind of ready. I always dreamed of moving up to that level where you were on a tour bus, but we never got there.
WCP: You were saying that your last band was a bit of a roller coaster ride, what happened?
Davis: Well, we got on Capitol Records, which was a huge big deal. We went out to California and recorded a record for two months, then the whole process of it took so long—getting money to record, money to tour. Then Capitol got bought out and lots of people got fired, they had to drop a lot of bands, and we were on of the bands that got cut. I didn’t know if I could start over again.
WCP: Why did Denali break up in 2004? Davis: Jonathan (Fuller) and Keeley (Davis) were in Engine Down, too, at the time. They left Denali to concentrate on that. After that Cam and I had problems keeping Denali together. We got some new members but it wasn’t the same.
WCP: But now you’re back to the original line-up?
WCP: Did it feel good to play those reunion shows last year?
Davis: It was amazing. I didn’t think anyone really cared anymore. But we played at the national here in Richmond and so many people came out and we had a bunch of friends help us with lighting. We had video screens behind us with projections. It was a really fun time.
WCP: Was it hard to get back into band-mode after being back in school and out of that world for a while?
Davis: No. But when we did the reunion show I was working as a nurse’s aide at a retirement home where I had to clean people’s poop up all the time. Then I played this amazing show where we all felt like superstars and had to go back to cleaning poop again. It was very humbling for me.