“We are basically a band of drummers,” says John Dufilho of Dallas-based group, Cantina.
Accurate, but when considering that Dufilho (guitar, vocals) also plays with Elephant 6 co-founders The Apples In Stereo (as well as his beloved solo project, The Deathray Davies), bassist Jason Garner (Dufilho’s friend of a quarter-century) can be found among the throng that is The Polyphonic Spree, and Philip Peeples (the only drummer in Cantina who actually drums in Cantina) is member of The Old 97’s, maybe not basic? Rounding out Cantina’s lineup is Dufilho’s Deathray Davies cohort Andy Lester, along with banjo player, Marcus Hollar (late of Dropkick Murphys singer Mike McColgan’s punk band, Street Dogs.)
Cantina, having previously released two albums under the name I Love Math before the addition of Hollar, will now bring out its debut album "A Sea of Keys" on July 22nd via Dallas-based We Know Better Records. Dufilho notes that while 60% of the members of Cantina are drummers (“three of us make a living playing music, the other two are the smart ones”), as a hard and fast rule, no cymbals are ever used on "A Sea of Keys." So, don’t listen for that, and don’t listen for these guys to perform “that song” from “Star Wars” either.
Seriously, "A Sea of Keys" arrives with a pedigree: AllMusic previously referred to the band as a “supergroup,” and the masterful sensitivity of the songs on "A Sea of Keys" do little to detract from that notion. Dufilho’s thoughtful tunes – the Austin Chronicle previously described him as “a ravenous songwriter working without a net” – take cues from country-rock, power pop, and the charming harmonies of the Everly Brothers. The songs never overstay their welcome; each is a conversation that never suffers an awkward beat. No pun intended.
A perfect example is the album’s first single and video, “Bulletproof,” which captures both the ability and the obvious humor of this band.
Dufilho explains, saying, “I woke up drunk, with the worst cold I can remember. So I did what I always do when my voice is much lower than usual – I started singing Johnny Cash and Magnetic Fields songs.” Before sobriety could kick in, Dufilho hit play on a banjo riff that Hollar had sent the day before, then hit record on his vocals, and presto, “it was ‘Bulletproof.’ Start to finish, a first and final take. I got in my car and drove home and I’ve never been able to sing it in that key since.”
No need, as the song is perfectly captured in its raw state here forever, along with fourteen other similarly free-jamming gems.
“A lot of these songs are based on a short story I wrote, also titled “A Sea of Keys,” Dufilho explains, making sense of why these tunes sound so intimate. It’s an effortless listen from a band that, despite its modest claim, isn’t basic.
"A Sea of Keys" by Cantina arrives on July 22nd, 2016 via Dallas-based We Know Better Records. The album’s first single and video “Bulletproof” is streaming now.
- Folk & Singer-Songwriter