De novo – a Latin phrase which roughly translates into “the new.”
Roald Dahl – a British short story author, best known for his stories, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, which proved that children’s literature could be both intelligent and entertaining.
Put those two together and you’ve got a band which strive to be “the new Dahl;” only this time, one that brings wonder and magic to music instead of literature.
“It’s just that creative way that [Roald Dahl] writes and just the endless imagination that he has,” De Novo Dahl’s vocalist Serai Zaffiro said of the band’s namesake. “We wanted to have that within our name.” And in the few years since the band’s birth, it looks like they’ve achieved all that and more.
Formed in Nashville in 2001, De Novo Dahl got their start thanks to an unlikely source: Jessica Simpson. One of the friends of their manager at the time got the males in De Novo Dahl jobs as Jessica’s roadies for a “tour of mall parking lots” across America. This dirty job netted the boys enough cash to pay for a tour bus and enough gas to travel the nation–this time in support of music worth hearing.
Soon after, De Novo Dahl were able to complete their debut double album, 2003’s Cats and Kittens. Cats was the traditional album of pop/rock gems, while its sister disc, Kittens, was comprised of those same songs remixed, reworked and retitled to the point where they might as well have been different songs. You might say that such an undertaking is an ambitious project for a band’s debut album, and you’d most likely be right. But this effort played off in spades, as it allowed the then six-piece to win accolades from several major outlets, including Pitchfork Media and CMJ.
As it seems all happy stories must eventually do, De Novo Dahl’s blissful journey met with a bit of a bump late last year when three of the founding members left the group to pursue other interests. This left Joel J. Dahl (his stage name), Serai and Joey Andrews to fill in the pieces in time to begin work on their second full length album. Help came in the form of two friends of the band, Keith Lowen and Arlo Hall, who filled in on bass and keyboards, respectively. For Keith, this was an especially big jump, because he was not only friends with the band, but one of the group’s most dedicated followers at this point. As you might imagine, it was an interesting transition to say the least.
“I had been one of their biggest fans since 2002 and I’m really good friends with Joel and Serai already,” Keith said. “So it wasn’t that uncomfortable, but it’s definitely big shoes to fill.”
Even so, it seems that Keith and Arlo have fit well within the tight-knit group. Since they joined De Novo Dahl in late 2005, the group has already recorded three new songs and offered them online for fans to download. “Shout,” “Subject of The Kill” and “Market Place” can all be downloaded from the band’s web site, denovodahl.com Fans have especially noted the relevance of one of the new songs, “Shout,” to what the band has been going through as of late. It’s easy to see the writing of a song which encourages the listener to “let all your feelings out” as a cathartic experience for a band that recently lost half of its original members.
“Those three songs can really portray what we’ve gone through last year and what we could be saying to our fans right now,” Serai said. “It wasn’t planned or written specifically for that, but we’ve noticed that it works really well with what we’re going through.”
This past weekend De Novo Dahl wrapped up recording for their second full length album, a process which has included a cellist, DJ and an assortment of other instruments new to the band. While they aren’t sure as to a release date yet (“it’ll be out sometime at the end of this year,” Keith said), the album will undoubtedly contain more of what De Novo Dahl’s fans have come to expect: brilliantly smart pop songs that would certainly make their namesake proud.