Dee and the Warlocks
Songwriter Naomi Dee befriends local music wizards and starts a rock band
Published: August 17, 2011
In a clean, spacious recording studio at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, three friends have not exhausted their enthusiasm for rock. Running her microphone through an amp on the floor, Naomi Dee, nee Davidoff, accompanied by bandmates Jacob Seaton and Luke Spicknall, tunes her polka-dot guitar and readies herself to sing “Secrets.” With a head of purple hair and undimmed happiness in her eyes, she wears a striped shirt and overalls ending in shorts. She demystifies what it is to be an indie rocker. Rock is still something genuine and fun you do with friends.
“I met my friends through playing music,” the 20-year-old Dee explains. “We all grew up going to local shows. That environment inspires you to start bands and have fun.” The members of Dee and the Warlocks encountered each other in this fashion. Seaton recalls accidentally attending one of Dee’s solo shows and liking what he heard. Dee’s old band Factors of Four played a show with Spicknall’s group the Sugarplums, and they noted each other’s talents. Now the three take up their instruments and laugh about the film TrollHunter. The familiarity is charming.
The song “Secrets” loudly spills its tenderly confessed melody and chords that yearn to be heard not in a church, but in a warehouse full of youth. And if this crunchy, dark pop transports listeners to rock of the ’90s, it is not to Nirvana but rather to Juliana Hatfield and the Blake Babies. Dee and the Warlocks have freed up their sound to be even noisier than the past, however, with Dee’s earnest singing falling slightly beneath the washout of well-intentioned surf-rock.
Seaton’s drums drive a winding road with the precision of a drunk who hasn’t been pulled over in years. Also in a striped shirt, with reddish brown hair, he wears a moustache and glasses. Seated at his kit, his body language and performance say that he knows what a song needs and will not give more or less. “I listen to a lot of different music, but for drums I just want to rock,” he asserts, mentioning Black Sabbath and ’90s bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana as the band’s shared influences.
Guitarist Spicknall, young, clever, and spirited, studies in UMBC’s Music Technology program. Tonight, he has booked the studio where for the last four weeks he’s been engineering the recording of the band’s first album, Jupiter Flower. “It will come to a nine-song full-length,” he explains. “Most of the songs were written this year. We’re shooting for a Halloween release show.”
Autonomy and independence are essential in the band’s eyes. “Everything we do is DIY—the merchandise, the album art,” Dee says. Seaton adds, “We have our hands in everything. We like being in control.” Otherwise, they contend, you lose yourself and your sound.
However, Spicknall acknowledges the importance of artistic friendships and the local arts community in shaping Dee and the Warlocks. “Within the underground community of warehouses and art spaces you find not only a solidness of bodies,” he says, “but also very solid grooves.”
“It’s the freedom at those venues,” Seaton says. “People feel free to be themselves. I play to have fun.” Dee and the Warlocks have recently played satisfying shows with local rock acts like Weird Feelings and Baklavaa. “Those spaces are the cause of the blossoming of the community,” Dee says, smiling.
Originally from Bryn Mawr, Penn., and currently a MICA student, Dee first established herself as a busy singer/songwriter, but she outgrew this mode. She played the songs she penned solo as Naomi Dee for a year and then saw a need for change.
“I got sick of singing that stuff and wanted to make new music,” Dee says. “Plus I really missed playing in a band.” She performed a few shows with Seaton on drums and then added Spicknall after running into him at a show.
“It’s really nice that we are recording now,” she adds. “Because we are recording everything we’ve written—not excluding anything.”
“It’s a culmination of everything we have done thus far,” Seaton says. “Once it comes out, it’s going to be a good turning point for the band.”
Doing it yourself as a new band may be infinite fun, especially for a tight group of good friends like Dee and the Warlocks, but Dee’s sharp lyrics suggest that the group is not naive to the somewhat daunting nature of playing local music. In the middle of performing the song “Clarity,” Dee sings, “Crystal ball says good luck trying.”
> Email Jared T. Fischer