An indie band with Catholic roots

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The Duskwhales began with a simple premise. Seth Flynn, Chris Baker and Brian Majewski — classmates from Seton School in Manassas — knew they wanted to form a band, even before they really knew how to play instruments. So they did. Their group’s curious name, and their upbeat, psychedelic sound, evolved while hanging out in Baker’s parent’s basement. 

“We needed a band name, so we put those two words together and thought it sounded good,” said Baker, the drummer. A few weeks later, the teens saw a picture of a whale in front of a sunset on the school’s photocopier, cementing their decision. That image now adorns Baker’s bass drum. 

“We’re swindling our way into a punk scene. Little do they know that we’re just these dorky, Catholic kids who are singing about God.”

“(The name Duskwhales) is equally majestic and goofy-sounding,” said Baker. “And it's too late to change it.”

The band began by playing at a friend’s Sweet 16 birthday party and at a “spiritual teen night at Seton,” said Majewski, the keyboardist. Now in their 20s, the guys play at hipster coffee shops, bars, and venues such as the 9:30 Club in Washington and the State Theatre in Falls Church.

 On a recent Thursday evening, they played at World of Beer in Reston to chatty patrons enjoying a night out. 

Their set list seamlessly moved from their own songs, such as recent single “Emerald Skates,” to a cover of “Devil in Disguise” by Elvis Presley, “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader and several Beatles tunes. 

They wore button-down shirts with loud prints, skinny jeans and floppy hair. “(Style-wise), we’re really influenced by the ‘60s and ‘70s, kind of like the flower power (era). It just fits the music,” said Majewski. “It’s a lot of fun just to flail the hair around and pound on some keys.”

Though the guys are all Catholic, they don't market their music that way, said Majewski. “Because it’s part of who we were growing up, it’s hard for it not to influence the way we express ourselves,” he said.

Baker added, “In the recent years, it would've been really easy to depart from that, as we had been playing to people who aren't necessarily interested in faith. (But) it’s the only way we know how to make music,” he said. 

Scattered throughout the band’s lyrics are Biblical references and quotes from the saints. The cover of their last album featured St. Therese of Lisieux, and their song “Young Things” was inspired by her life. While practicing the song, a friend of Baker’s brother happened to be carrying a first-class relic of St. Therese.

 

 

“So we got to play the song to St. Therese in the relic, and then we got it to bless our instruments,” said Baker. “It was really affirming of what we were doing for that moment.” 

Their next album, which they hope to release this fall, is called “Sorrowful Mysteries.” While on the way to Friday night gigs, the band would recite a rosary and they soon grew a devotion for the sorrowful mysteries. Appropriately, the CD has 10 tracks, just like a decade, and is the first album they’ve recorded in a real studio. 

“(It’s) very much about the struggles of growing up and trying to retain that innocence and inner (youthfulness),” said Flynn, the guitarist.

Most of their fans are probably unaware of the religious allusions within the music. “We’re swindling our way into a punk scene,” said Baker. “Little do they know that we’re just these dorky, Catholic kids who are singing about God.”

Majewski is glad they get a chance to reach people who might not otherwise hear about the faith.

“We end up playing alongside people who do a lot of drugs and that are really far away from God,” he said. “Then they get our CD and little do they realize they’re bringing an icon of St. Therese home.”

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In some ways, musicians are an easy evangelization target, said Baker. “Anyone who is really serious about music is inherently religious, whether or not they’re aware of it,” he said. 

Majeswki added, “My older brother James says that all artists are natural mystics. If you’re creating art … you’re hearing or seeing something other people haven’t or can’t because it's coming from God, straight to you,” he said.

In the midst of the rock and roll culture and the business of being a band, the members depend on each other. 

“Having been in the band has deepened my faith because I have these guys who also are both trying to deepen their faith and live in the music world,” said Majewski. “We hold each other accountable.”

“I just love getting to put on a good show, (and) to do it with my best friends,” said Flynn. 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

@ZoeyMaraistACH