The Deadly Gentlemen: Eclectic Craziness and a Serious Side to Boot
Sure, the Deadly Gentlemen could tell you how they got their name. But then they’d have to kill you.
Seriously, though. While the members of the band tend to wear black a lot, they only knock people dead metaphorically, in their onstage performances–one of which will be at the Beartrap Summer Festival, scheduled for August 2 and 3.
The best way to get acquainted with the Deadly Gentlemen’s musical style is to check out their Rounder Records debut (and their third album) “Roll Me, Tumble Me.”
The title song opens with the plaintive sentiment, “Be good to me, be bad to me, beguile me / Be sunny to me, or be dull and sullen and rainy / Maybe be the ruin of me, be true to me, betray me / Just roll me, tumble me / Pop my bubble, baby / Humble me.”
If it sounds more like rock and roll than an old-time string band, there’s a good reason: the members bring a particularly eclectic mix of styles and genres to the mix. Violinist Mike Barnett toured with Bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds at age 15, and went on to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, the group’s home base. In contrast is guitarist Stash (short for Stanislaw) Wyslouch’s background in heavy metal.
“Wyslouch’s history in hard rock still manifests itself,” one reviewer writes, “in his propensity for wringing unexpected sounds out of his guitar and screaming at the top of his vocal range.”
Many of the members have distinguished credentials in a range of fields, both musical and non-. Vocalist, songwriter, and banjoist Greg Liszt earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from M.I.T., and his distinctive four-finger picking style earned him a spot in Bruce Springsteen’s live band for its Seeger Sessions tour.
So far, each of their albums has been a departure from what went before. Their inaugural effort bore the provocative name “The Bastard Masterpiece,” and frontman Liszt describes its overall feel as “Eminem meets the Soggy Bottom Boys.” One critic described it as “An experimental mix of spoken-word vocals and banjo-driven grooves.”
It’s a far cry from their 2011 follow-up “Carry Me to Home,” which served as a stylistic bridge to the Gentlemen’s latest incarnation on “Roll Me, Tumble Me.”
The instrumental tracks for the new album were recorded, eclectically enough, at a home studio in the town of Eclectic, Alabama (population 1,037) and then taken back home to Boston for vocals and mixing, in a collaboration with Nashville engineer Erick Jaskowiak.
“This album definitely feels like a big turning point for us,” says Liszt. “One of our main priorities was to capture our serious side and our humorous side, because both those things are equally important to us. Music, on its most fundamental level, has to be fun, and we always have a lot of fun when we play together. But at the same time, we want the music and lyrics to have some substance and speak to people on an emotional level.
“I think ‘Roll Me, Tumble Me’ shows that we’ve done a little bit of maturing, but at the same time we’ve maintained some of the craziness of our earlier records. We really went through every song and every performance with a fine-toothed comb, to make sure all the pieces fit together. And that’s something we’ve never done before.”
This just in: band member Greg Liszt gives us the straight lowdown on how the Deadly Gentlemen’s name came about. “A good band name has to have a certain ring to it,” Liszt says, “as well as being easy to say out loud. I made up the name ‘The Deadly Gentlemen’ years before it was even a band! When we got the band together, somehow the name just fit.” Now, the truth is known.