NYC pulp-punk band Dalton Deschain & The Traveling Show, comprised of Dalton Deschain (vocals/guitar), Jo Kroger (vocals/keyboards), Day Clancy (bass) and Phil Harris (drums), are described as the perfect combination of Stephen King, Danny Elfman, Alkaline Trio and John Cameron Mitchell, performing a blend of dark but humorous experimental punk music and theatrical rock. With lyrics about circus freaks, dark rituals, nuclear war and demonic possession, the band has built an infectious and totally unique experience for their listeners and audiences. The band’s songs all tell a story about a circus ringleader possessed by a demon in the 1940s and feature a cast of characters that include circus freaks, femme fatales and psychic nuclear researchers, combining pulp fiction with modern social commentary. The band’s premise came about due to a nightmare that singer Dalton Deschain had in college in 2010, a nightmare that led him to create the story/comic that the band’s songs are based on. Deschain released The Collateral Vignettes EP in 2014, when it was just he and Jo. With a full band and concept in place, the band has since released three EPs-Roberta (2016), Catherine (2017) and the recently released Casey, as a part of their character trilogy. Each EP focused on a specific character that in turn fits into the larger band narrative. Casey is the band’s catchiest and high-energy EP to date, and as with each EP, is accompanied by a 60-page chapbook that features lyrics, illustrations and a short story written by Deschain about the characters in the album. The band will soon be releasing a full-length album that will feature 6 songs from the 3 EPs, as well as 6 new songs, and will be accompanied by an entire novel that binds the story as a whole together. The band recently released their newest music video for “Man/Thing”, all done in Deschain’s vision of an animated comic book. You can check out the video below. Aside from the band, Deschain has also released his own original comic called MONOCUL which blends the concepts of Tales From The Crypt and HBO’s Silicon Valley together. With a holiday show coming up on December 12th and then plans to finish their full-length album (which they hope to release by the end of next year), the band, and their fans, have plenty to look forward to in the months ahead. You can follow Dalton Deschain & The Traveling Show and stay up-to-date on all upcoming music, band and touring news, as well as stream and purchase their music, via the following links. Photo credit: Emily Assiran.
You recently released ‘Casey’, the third and final EP in your character trilogy. What can you tell me about the making of this EP, the goal of which was to make it your most fun EP to date?
Well you would think that because all of our songs are connected and tell one continuous story, that the songs would all be in the same style, but it actually has the opposite effect. We sort of jump all over the place genre-wise, based on what that moment in the story demands. So the first in the trilogy, Roberta, was pretty balanced with a big raucous dancey punk song on the A-side, and an emotional ballad on the B-side. Catherine got slower and more experimental because the story there was sadder. But with Casey, we finally get to lean heavily into the pulp-horror aspect of the story. It’s fast, catchy, and carries a lot of the same dark humor as the best pulp horror tales.
You have said that you wanted to let your horror flag fly with regards to the production of the EP, with different filters, sound effects and creepy reverb being used. What was the inspiration behind the production of the EP? What led you take this direction?
The story we’re telling is above all else a horror story. But until now, we’ve still been sort of setting the table and introducing characters, so we couldn’t get to a lot of the horror yet. Now we’re getting into the demons and murder, so I thought it would be a good time to start really flexing my film composer muscles.
Next year you will be releasing your first full-length album which will contain 6 songs from your 3 character EPs and 6 brand new songs. It will come with an accompanying novel that tells the overarching story that binds the songs together. What led you to want to focus on particular characters before telling the bigger story that the characters are a part of? How did you go about developing the characters that each of the 3 EPs focus on?
Well the thing is, we’re a fairly new band. At this point we’ve been around for about five years, but when we started this trilogy, nobody really knew who we were or what we were doing. We figured we should start by slowly bringing people into this world we were creating through these secondary characters. For those that have caught on to us through these three EPs and novellas, I think you get a good window into the world, and whether it’s your thing or not, and now we’re more ready to spill the whole story.
With plans to tell your story in 3 full-length albums, will you be releasing more EPs ahead of albums 2 and 3? Do you have more characters to introduce?
At this point we’ve done as much table-setting as either us or our fans can stand, and it’s time to get a move on with the rest of it. So the plan right now is three back to back full length albums. But that’s also a huge undertaking for a band with day jobs and other projects, so we might throw out some singles or EPs to tide people over along the way if we’re taking too long.
You have said that in the beginning you did all of the songwriting but in recent years have been more collaborative with the other band members. How do you feel that the collaborative process has helped evolve and grow the band’s sound?
Oh yeah! The more we collaborate the better we are. Everyone in the band is a phenomenal musician with incredibly different backgrounds. When I hear the songs in my head though, I often hear the whole band, not just my own parts, so I will dictate certain sections. But I used to feel like I had to write down their entire part front to back, and now I feel more comfortable with letting them fill in the blanks.
You recently released your music video for “Man/Thing”. What can you tell me about the idea behind the video? I read that you produced the video over the span of a year and a half. What can you tell me about the production process and working with graphic designer David Flamm?
The video depicts the main character of the story, Dalton Deschain, as he gradually succumbs to this demon living inside him that continues to take over his body and force him to hurt people. Plus there’s a weird trippy nightmare of the demon in the middle.
I’m always trying to think of ways to switch up our music videos, and I had this perhaps overly-ambitious idea to do it all as an animated comic book a couple years ago. I knew it would take a while, so I started scripting it long before we started really putting together the recording for “Man/Thing”. Then I recruited Dave, who I’ve known for a few years now and is just a killer illustrator. It was a huge undertaking, with something like the equivalent of 30 pages of fully inked and colored illustrations, so he just started chipping away at it, in addition to all of his other work. It took a lot of time but Dave did such cool work with it. I’m so proud of how it came out.
You wrote music in school, having received a Bachelor’s Of Music in Composition from Michigan State University, and have written scores for modern horror films, theme songs for web series and recorded music for theatre pieces. When did you develop an interest in composing music? What’s your favorite film score?
I started writing music in about 9th grade for my ska band at the time. I was really interested in music theory and orchestral music though, and so by the time I was a senior I was writing pieces for my high school’s symphonic band. One of my big gateways into orchestral music was the work of Danny Elfman. I remember I had a few compilations CDs of his various film scores that I would just play on repeat. It’s tough to choose a favorite, but I might have to go with Edward Scissorhands. The Finale cue from that film is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
You have said you would love to write a musical at some point? Would you want to go with a horror/Sci-Fi theme or write a musical with a different concept?
You know, I’m still not sure. Pulp and speculative fiction are sort of my wheelhouse, but I don’t know exactly how I would translate them to the stage. It’s interesting, because when I was in high school I always wanted to write a concept album but I never thought I’d have a good enough idea for one, and now look where I am. I assume it’s the same for musical theatre. I just have to wait for the right idea to come along.
What can you tell me about your home recording studio, Kill Infinity Studios in Astoria? What led you to open the studio? Do you find it challenging to juggle the band and studio schedules?
Well, I originally started it just so I could record our music, but people liked the production on the EPs enough that they started asking to record with me. I don’t take on too many clients because there’s not a lot of time between the band and my comic series, but generally if it’s someone whose music I’m excited about, I’ve always tried to find some way to make it work. As we start working on the full length albums though, I may scale back my outside recording work.
You recently launched your new, ongoing horror comic MONOCUL! What inspired its concept of Tales From The Crypt meets HBO’s Silicon Valley? What inspired you to start writing the comic and what can you tell me about the artists involved?
I love comic books, and I’ve always wanted to make them, but if you have zero illustration skills like myself, it can be hard (and expensive) to get into the scene. It made most sense for me to find a way to work in a shorter form, so I came up with this malleable idea for these short tech horror stories that would allow me to regularly release comics without going bankrupt. It also gives me the chance to work with a ton of amazing up-and-coming talent. We’ve had a different artist on every MONOCUL story so far, each with their own distinct style, and half the fun for me is just getting to see what amazing work they come up with every month.
You performed your annual Devil’s Night Party on October 26th. How did the yearly tradition begin and did you have anything special planned for this year’s show?
As I’m writing this, it’s been about a week since the show, and it was a blast this year. The first Devil’s Night was in 2014 and served as the release show for our first EP, The Collateral Vignettes. I didn’t even have the full band at that point, it was just me with an acoustic guitar and Jo singing on a few songs. Now it has evolved into this crazy fun Halloween party and showcase for some of our favorite bands in the city. It’s also the only time of year we break out our cryptic song “Where Are You, Mothman?”, which is one of our favorite songs to play. In fact, the band keeps trying to convince me we should play it all year long, but I’m too stubborn, haha.
What’s next for the band?
Well, we have yet ANOTHER holiday show coming up, the much sillier Honda Days Spectacular on December 11 at Sunnyvale. Past that, it’s all about buckling down and working on the full-length album, which will hopefully be out by the end of 2020! We hope people check out the current EP Casey, and let us know if you like it so we can try coming out to your town for a show sometime soon!