Nashville psych-rock band DEDSA are on the come-up. Made up of guitarist/vocalist Stephen DeWitt, keyboardist Robbie Ward, bassist/keyboardist Ben Carreon, and drummer Grant Bramlett, the band works together to fuse psychedelic vibes with catchy riffs and hard rock sensibilities. Before their concert at the Mercy Lounge on March 2nd, DEDSA sat down with the Vanderbilt Hustler to talk about their new album Salmon Velocity, out now.
Vanderbilt Hustler: So are all of you from Nashville?
DEDSA: Actually none of us are. Grant and [Stephen] are both from Birmingham, and Rob and Ben are both from Colorado.
VH: So then how did you meet?
DEDSA: Stephen and [Rob] moved up here separately just on a whim. Stephen was hanging out with a band that [Rob] was playing with temporarily, who ended up just ditching us and leaving just us behind, leaving us experimenting on our own. Ben joined us in roughly 2011, and Grant joined us about three years ago, which is when we really consider the true start.
We were making a lot of compromises back then, just playing along with tracks on an iPhone. It’s just not quite the same as playing with a human behind a drum kit.
VH: Where did you get the name “DEDSA”?
DEDSA: It started as a joke; we can’t tell you [laughs], but it’s really just an acronym for whatever you want. We encourage everyone to make up their own.
It’s graphical, symmetrical, it sounds like NASA, like a weird government organization, maybe potentially evil. It was just funny to us, and it’s the only thing that comes up when you google “DEDSA”.
VH: So tell me about Salmon Velocity.
DEDSA: We’ve had the name for years. We love naming things [laughs]. When we were working on the first album, we were writing a lot of MIDI back then, since we didn’t have a drummer. You can set the MIDI velocity in the computer and color coordinate it, so everything for that album we set to the color salmon. It was a perfect level; heavy enough, but not maxed out. We were like, “That’s what we’ll call our next album, Salmon Velocity!” And we actually did it!
[Rob] ran with it for the album artwork, thinking about salmon spawning and swimming up river, loving that image in nature of things mindlessly following their instincts to their possible death, with a huge predator waiting for them under the waterfall.
VH: The music of Salmon Velocity is all over the place. What’s the inspiration behind that?
DEDSA: We like to be as disparate as possible while still seeming continuous. Some of the songs on the album that we dug out were more like the first album where they’re more studio creations. Songs like “CS80” and “Don’t Open the Door” were tracks we’ve had for a long time that we ended up developing. Some were born from us trying to play together, and some were even just sitting at a computer attacking it from the opposite end.
Really I think it’s just because we all love so many different types of music, we’re trying to draw from as many influences as possible.
VH: Who in particular?
DEDSA: We love classical music, like the dynamics of a really great symphony or an opera. We love a lot of jazz, as well all the classic rock staples like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, or modern electronic stuff like Crystal Castles or Daft Punk. We know where we won’t go, like we’re not about to write a country song or something, but for the most part everything is up for grabs. If we want to do something, we just do it.
VH: What do you think was the hardest part about making Salmon Velocity?
DEDSA: Self-producing can be really tricky sometimes, since we’re so emotionally close to the songs. It’s a very long process for us. There were a ton of mixes and remixes and more remixes. We do produce in our basement, so we have the luxury of being able to come back the next day to keep working. It is a curse and a blessing [laughs], but mostly a blessing.
VH: Your last release was Thrash Plastik in 2013. How do you think you’ve matured since then?
DEDSA: The number one thing is that it’s been great to write with a drummer. It’s much more dynamic, emotional, and we work faster. We’ve also all improved as players, after touring, playing, and rehearsing all the time. We also look a lot older [laughs].
On Thrash Plastik we wrote as we recorded, but this time around we were a lot more systematic when we wrote. I think we’re just more confident as songwriters. The overall theme of Salmon Velocity seems more thought out, with sort of a narrative arc to it, about a crises and self-discovery and finding a new way to live your life.
VH: Where will you be in five years?
DEDSA: We’ll probably be on Mars. There’s a lot less competition up there; this is actually our last show on earth, we’re heading to train with NASA after this.
In all seriousness, hopefully we’ll be making enough money to keep supporting ourselves. We want to keep up the slow progression of bigger crowds, better pay, and some festivals for sure.
VH: What would you be doing if the music didn’t work out?
DEDSA: We’d definitely be dead [laughs]. Though Rob would probably still be doing illustrations. But if it all fails we have suicide pact.
Or maybe we’d go be hermits, and live in the mountains. We’d go crazy!
Salmon Velocity is available on all streaming platforms.