Denali reunites this Saturday at the National.
It’s hard to consider Denali a local band. They didn’t hone their craft playing some bar on Wednesday nights; we didn’t celebrate their new albums at Friday Cheers; they didn’t get signed to a deal on a major label only to have it sell poorly and come back home to wait around to open for bigger dinosaur acts at Innsbrook After Hours. They didn’t need our grassroots support, but they also went above our heads to become one of the more notable indie bands of the double-oughts.
The four members have enough bands on their resumes to make an online media search engine explode, including Lazy Cain, Engine Down, Sparta, glos, and Ambulette. Formed in 2000, Denali – Maura Davis, Keeley Davis, Jonathan Fuller, and Cam DiNunzio – released two albums on Jade Tree Records and a DVD of live material. They broke up in 2004 and are reuniting to play a show at the National now that all members live in Richmond again. And they are nervous.
The folks at the revitalized theater approached Denali about reuniting, and together they put together the Style Weekly-approved roster of Tulsa Drone, The Great White Jenkins, and Prabir and the Substitutes. Getting ready for one show is different than getting ready for a national tour, but Denali is working on a longer set list than they have usually done, including one new song.
Jonathan said that while in the past they could play a rough show in a series of dates and make up for it the next night in a different city, their one-show reunion this Saturday has a different feel to it – “We can’t suck tonight because this is it.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Maura agreed.
When asked if it’s been different playing with each other since their hiatus, Jonathan said that there wasn’t much of a change. “It was like we did a semester abroad – it’s the same, except I have a slightly French accent.’”
Though the attention and out-of-town fan interest in the reunion is causing some pressure, the overall attitude of the direction of the band is more laid-back.
“We don’t have to do anything,” Keeley said. Being in a band doesn’t support them or help them make rent. They might consider touring again if the conditions are better (“An amazing European tour, for instance,” Maura said).
“We just enjoy playing with each other and would play more shows if it’s lucrative enough to make it enjoyable,” Cam said.
The band has been asked to play a festival in California this September, along with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Strike Anywhere, and Superchunk, and they will be bringing along their families. Their old label, Jade Tree, no longer releases new material, but Denali is exploring the need for something official with upcoming recordings. Cam jokes that maybe future technology will allow them to “think records and people will hear it,” cutting out the need for label involvement.
In the meantime, Denali is available in the old-timey format, in concert on July 5th at the National.
Denali, Tulsa Drone, The Great White Jenkins, and Prabir and the Substitutes play the National on July 5th. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.