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D. Sablu: "I Think There Will Be People Who'll Probably Put Us In A Box and I'm Sure They'll Not Be Into This 'Sonic Leap' That I Speak Of, But At The End of The Day, This Is For Me"

Following up several demo tapes of mutated rock 'n' roll recorded on a Yamaha MT400, New Orleans rocker D. Sablu is back today with the announcement of his first proper LP No True Silence (Yes We Cannibal Records), eleven songs that explodes out of the speakers to smash your ear drums. Today, we're premiering the music video for its dynamite lead single "Scandalous" and also went into great depth with David Sabludowsky all about the beginnings of his involvement in the NOLA punk scene, the evolution of his oddball recording project, and the sonic leap behind the debut LP.

First tell me what you've been up to lately? What have you been listening to, reading, or spending a lot of time doing?

David Sabludowsky: I've been spending most of my free time working on music or doing things to help feed this project or my life with music. Recently, I did a ton of research and bought a synth after selling some old gear. I've spent countless hours practicing piano on the synth lately and trying to write songs with it. I've also been preparing for this record to come out as well as getting ready for our next tour. I'd say it's a lot of work but it's really kind of exciting to see it all fall into place. There's a lot of graphic design involved in doing all that yeah there's a lot of music and visual art for me these days. As far as books go, I just finished reading Ernest Becker's Escape from Evil, which I'm kind of in love with right now. I've also been glancing at Rick Rubin's The Creative Act here and there. I'll read a chapter from his book and then let it sit with me for a week or even longer before going back to it. There's also a book on mindfulness I read and liked a lot.  Lately I've been listening to: Krigshoder, Beherit, Die Letzten Ecken, The Cars, Dream Shake, Communist, Blue Dolphin, Timeout Room, Buio Omega, I.L.L.O., Butter Swamp, The Abdo Men, Adhesive. I try to keep it well rounded. Too much of one thing is boring to me.

Tell our readers a little about your background. Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like, and how did you get involved with playing in punk bands? 

My family has been in New Orleans for at least 100 years and I was raised in Metairie, Louisiana up until I left for college. I started being interested in music when I was seven. I knew, even at that age, that I wanted to play music. Just the sight of electric guitars alone turned me into an ecstatic child. When I was about eight or nine, my parents had me dress up like a young Elvis and sing "Hound Dog" to an auditorium of about 300 people at our synagogue. It went very well but maybe people were just being supportive. I went to a Hebrew camp named Camp Jacobs when I was going into sixth grade where I learned some power chords and played "When I Come Around" by Green Day to another full auditorium of Jewish peers. I, myself, have never felt religious or connected to any of that community however. After trying a few different guitar teachers from the age of seven to twelve, I finally landed on one that worked well for me. He asked me what songs I liked and played them for me. From then on I was entranced. My favorite bands were Metallica, Nirvana, and Limp Bizkit. My heroes were Kurt Cobain and Wes Borland. And Goku. And Vegeta. It was good timing. After being taken out of a private school that I was getting bullied at a lot I went to a boarding school where the bullying continued. One week I brought my guitar with me and started playing and people started being kind to me and showing me respect. It was amazing. However, back at home my parents were initiating a divorce that I thought I could somehow fix. I was not having a good time at the boarding school anyway so within a few months I just shut down and got myself let go from the school. My mom picked me up and she was pissed. I started going to public school soon after. Compared to the previous two schools, I loved public school. No one really knew that I could play guitar and with much greater diversity and a much higher population of students I sensed much less of a hierarchy of students. My days of being bullied were over and I graduated to more of a friendly outsider type that would bounce around between different friend groups. During this time, my mom would occasionally take me to a bar that had karaoke. I was allowed there before 9:00 p.m. which is when the minors had to leave. I would sing songs by The Offspring usually and the folks there would all applaud me. I guess maybe that sparked something because I must have loved the attention. I did a few talent shows in front of the whole middle school with some friends that I got together with too. My mom was a big fan of Elvis and my dad a big fan of The Beatles. Besides that, I don't think we talk about or agree on much music. Fast forward to being 15 in high school. I started hearing about an "underground" music scene in town and it was finally time to start a band. Musicians were sparse in Metairie as it is kind of a straight laced and generally conservative city. Before ever going to any shows I became friends with a boy named Saadyah that I met in my gym class. We had both gotten into the band Thrice (obsessively) around the same time. We also both spent earlier years loving Limp Bizkit. We started a post-hardcore band called Arcane Theory in which we quickly grew to be pretty cutthroat about. We wanted to find others who liked what we liked and who could keep up with us. Saadyah and I started going to some shows in Metairie together with some friends. The first shows we went to were punk shows at a DIY space called The Lions Home which was one of those hangouts for veterans. I started hearing about another venue close by called Cypress Hall. It was much more of a metal venue and the people that hung out there looked angrier and wore much more black. For the next four years, we played there A LOT as our sound gradually got heavier. Punks will hate reading this part but some of the notable bands we played with over those four years were: As Cities Burn (the very first show that I EVER played), Suicide Silence, The Warriors, Shai Hulud, Evergreen Terrace, Casey Jones, Foxy Shazam. Some of these are bands that people still talk about but my musical radar has evolved so much since then that it's lost its significance to me. We went through about ten different members and did one week long tour within that span of four years. We also released an EP that is very hard to locate. Eventually I grew really tired of that type of music and that "scene" and wanted to find something more seemingly intellectual, egalitarian, and more DIY. After four years of not going out to the city for shows I finally started to catch some of the shows that Brian Funck from Thou would put on. He used to come to shows in Metairie and pass out flyers for shows that I regrettably passed on for too long. If you know the band Thou then you can probably imagine the sphere of bands that he would book here. Months later I left for college at MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After a year and a half of not playing music and feeling very lost I made some friends that eventually asked me to play in a band with them. This band, one of my favorite bands to have been in, was called Daykids. It was my first punk inspired band and probably when I actually started listening to what more people would consider as punk. I dropped out of college and we went on tour for a week. I thought "This is it!" with that band. I was having one of the best times of my life and got very serious about the band. Maybe more serious than my bandmates. When the band broke up I was bitter for a while. I took that bitterness and started another project called SELF HELP. We played a handful of shows and I had released some music for it that I had recorded on my own. That lasted for about a year before breaking up. During that time I joined a post-hardcore band called The New Industry Standard and played bass for them for a short period. I also joined a space rock band called The Subnovas that lasted for a few years. My roommate at the time played in a few bands like The Thank You Ma'ams and Turtle Bangs. He and I started a project with a friend called Private Lives (not to be confused with the current bands with that name) that also lasted a few years and eventually fizzled out after making some merch and putting out two tapes.  The Subnovas, with the addition of a synth player, became a very exciting band for me and we were starting to really get some momentum after collectively moving to Nashville from Murfreesboro. After recording an album and a year-and-a-half of being in Nashville The Subnovas came to a sudden end when I moved back to New Orleans after meeting my future bandmate who I started the band Casual Burn with. Before Casual Burn I joined a collaborative band called Feverish. Feverish was the first band that I had that was like a "get things done" kind of band. Within the first few months of us being a band we had already recorded a demo and set out on our first tour. Soon after we recorded an EP and did another tour going up to New York and back over the span of two-three weeks. During this time, Casual Burn started up after a failed attempt to make a B-52s cover band for one of the two big cover shows that happen here in New Orleans. One day at work I got a call from Kallie from Gland who said that they already have a B-52s cover band and already had songs learned and all the members in it. So we had to let go of this ambition and go back to the drawing board. Casual Burn played our first show in October of 2015. It was so much fun and much more in line with my musical tastes and totally eclipsed Feverish to the point where it became my main focus and Feverish soon after disbanded. Casual Burn is the band that made me feel like my dreams were finally starting to come true. My fears of never touring again or not being a "real" musician started to waver. It was a tough dynamic and I have a lot of demands for bands that I play in. I can be a perfectionist when it comes to music and that's not for everyone. By 2019 we had enough of each other and went on hiatus after releasing our LP Mean Thing on Handstand Records. The band nearly started back up with a new drummer and that's right when Covid happened...leading to D.Sablu.

Photo by Caitlyn Ridenour

Exactly what are the origins of D. Sablu? How did it evolve into a band with Cole, Evan, and Shana? Also what's your involvement currently with Casual Burn and Primpce?

D.Sablu started when my former roommate's boyfriend let me use his four-track indefinitely. I started recording some songs around April of 2019 that ended up on Taken By Static but I really wrote the rest of it during the height of quarantine as a way to keep myself feeling sane and excited about life in the midst of so much bleakness. At the time I was living with Eric Martinez (the unofficial "Mayor" of New Orleans) who has been a staple in the New Orleans DIY community even before I was ever a part of it. I wanted to involve him in the writing process but he was busy with other projects. I did show him some of the stuff I had recorded and he was very encouraging. With not much to do we got pretty close and I asked him to play drums for a few of the songs that I wrote. Songs like "Here and Now" which feature Eric on drums started off with us just jamming while others were written with a drum loop on a drum machine at home using the four track. One of the times that Eric and I went to go play music together I decided we needed someone to play bass. Eric suggested his former bandmate Shana Applewhite from their shoegazy dream-pop band Keen Dreams. There were three other people in the band before Cole (Jones) and Evan (Cvitanovic) but whether it was differences in our approach to playing  in bands or just difficulties happening in life, things were not working out. In 2022 I met my current partner who wanted to go see her friend Cole's band (Coal) play. Cole was dating one of my friend's and I hadn't met him or seen his band yet so I was planning to go anyway.  His set was great and I was enamored by his stage presence. My partner suggested him as a guitarist in the midst of a very rocky period with the band and when we tried him out he fit in very quickly. I know Evan from when he was in a band called Glish that I absolutely loved after seeing them play around 2012. They had this one t-shirt that I wore all the time until I finally lost it. One day, having a long tour being booked ahead of me and no drummer, I texted Evan asking if he'd do the tour with us. I gave him either three or five songs to learn and we met three days later. He showed up and knew the ten songs that we were planning to play on tour, playing them almost flawlessly. I know Evan is a very quiet guy so I wasn't sure if he even liked playing the songs but he's still with us! He also played in a band called Sexy Dex and the Fresh that has an '80s electro R&B sound to it. Evan and Shana also currently play in Cole's project Fault. Casual Burn isn't really happening and Primpce ended up not working out for me but I think they're working on a new LP.  Music like theirs is daring and challenging and I'm glad it exists. With guitar...I was playing with Sick Thoughts for a little bit, we did two big tours and a few smaller things including a stint w/ Snooper and Prison Affair in the Southeast. Besides that, I recently did a Cars cover band and a Metallica cover band for the annual Community Printshop Valentines Day Show. Besides that I'm taking time away from it to start writing songs on the synth.

What are your thoughts on the current punk / rock 'n' roll circuit in NOLA? What are some bands there readers should check out?

The current punk / rock 'n' roll circuit in New's pretty divided but I'd like to think that's getting better. For a while, it seemed like there were just a few bands getting on the "good" shows and lately I've been seeing more bands have access to that. Though overall I'm proud of the music scene we have. I've never had so many friends who are releasing music on vinyl and going on tours. We also have more youngsters coming out to shows and starting bands too which is great. I'd probably THINK that I liked sports or cars and "man stuff" if I never had a place for playing music in my life. I'd probably not fit in anywhere otherwise. In New Orleans there's many kinds of punk, metal, grindcore, hardcore, noise, etc. We have it all. Though I'd love some more synth... so with that I'll say that Steef is a very good band from here with a synth player. Other good bands are Paprika, Dracula, TACK, Fault, Bodies, Big Smile, Spllit, Timeout Room, Brat. There's many more but I need to finish this interview. I also spent the past couple of months not going to many shows so I have a lot of catching up to do. Oh yeah, Dummy Dumpster!!!

After various tape releases of shredding noise, you'll be releasing your first proper album No True Silence in May. What can you tell me about how these tracks all came together and what fans can expect from the debut LP? 

The first couple of times I heard the album before it was completed I had the feeling that it would blow people away. With that said, it's a big sonic leap from our previous releases. It started with me hitting up my life-long (okay we met probably in 2006) friend Brian Pretus from PEARS who has a studio at the notorious Fontainebleau Storage Apartments. Initially, I was going to see if I could set up my four-track in the studio to get a clear and big room sound. That's when Brian offered to record us where we could work out a deal of some sort. If I was going to record in a studio I did want a bigger sound and I know Brian had heard us that way because he was our sound guy whenever we would play at Banks St. Bar. I think there will be people who'll probably put us in a box just like some people put their ideas of punk in a box and I'm sure they'll not be into this "sonic leap" that I speak of but at the end of the day, this is for me and if someone wants to put rules on something that was about breaking rules to begin with then that's on them. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and if I ever want to put out lo-fi material again I don't think anything or anyone is going to stop me from doing that. I love surprising people.

Photo by Mae Cravotta

Today we have the pleasure of premiering its lead single "Scandalous." What were the inspirations behind this song and how did its accompanying music video come about? 

As far as inspirations for the song "Scandalous" go... I was listening to a lot of Electric Chair around that time if I'm going to be honest. I can't exactly recall what else was coming to mind when I started working on that. The song ended up sounding a lot like Electric Chair, right? I do recall writing that one with the intent of being able to play it on guitar too if I ever needed to. The music video came about at a time where everything was feeling slow with the band. The whole year felt slow for me, and I felt like we needed something to get ourselves moving again. I proposed the idea to my bandmates initially with the intention of having a group project. One night I was hanging out with Shana and Ronni Marance (SPLLIT) and Ronni suggested helping us out with a music video. Ronni's band SPLLIT had just released a music video that I thought they did a great job on and was eager to work with them on it. We first met up in November of 2023 and again in early January. We met up two or three more times after coming up with plot points and a graph and all that professional video stuff. We shot it at my friend's house and Ronni and Matthew Urq (also in SPLLIT) edited it. I should also mention that Ronni shot about 95% of the video and it was all a collaborative effort. I think it came out to be just as good as I was hoping it would be.

One of my favorite cuts from the new LP is the pure rock 'n' roll barn-burner "Smut Date." What was the idea behind this song? 

I was on our first tour and my partner told me that she was ordering some old porn on VHS. At the time she was living in a camper on some strange weirdo neo hippy lot on the outskirts of the city. They had chickens and an outhouse where we needed to use the bathroom. She didn't have cable but just a small TV and a VCR. Anyone is welcome to fill in the gaps on anything else I'm leaving out of this explanation. I've tried to avoid common chord progressions but the "1, 4, 5" seemed appropriate based off the lyrics which were inspired by older R&B songs.

Which song from the record means the most to you (and why)? 

The most meaningful song on No True Silence to me is probably "69 Forever" because it's a very simple way to approach thinking about a philosophy of living that I've held onto for a very long time.

Aside from the new album, what else is on the horizon for the D. Sablu gang? Can fans expect a tour later this year?

We have another music video that we are planning to put out in about a month. We're planning an East Coast tour starting May 23rd and ending June 8th. I'm also planning on booking a West Coast tour for August. Besides that, I'm just writing and working on songs with the band.

No True Silence is out May 17th on Yes We Cannibal Records. Pre-order it here.


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