DENALI with the Explanation, 90 Day men and Look what you did at the Rivoli (332 Queen West, rear entrance), Sunday (August 4). 1:30 pm. $7. All ages. 416-596-1908. Rating: NNNNN
at a time when even emo-core bands are trying to downplay "the emo thing," it's understandable why artists like Denali -- with only a tenuous connection to the scene -- would prefer sidestepping the issue completely. Still, there's no getting away from the fact that the Richmond, Virginia-based foursome share guitarist Keely Davis and drummer Jonathan Fuller with emo faves Engine Down. Moreover, Denali's self-titled debut disc has just been released by Delaware emo clearing house Jade Tree.
But even though on paper Denali might seem about as emo as you can get, their dreamy multi-layered music actually has more in common with the ethereal soundscapes associated with 4AD groups like the Cocteau Twins than with any weepy math rock reduction.
"That whole emo thing is kinda weird," says singer/keyboardist Maura Davis from Richmond. "People can call us "emo' if they want, but I don't think we fit with that stuff at all. I wouldn't know how to classify what we do.
"I think Jade Tree was interested in us because they wanted to branch out and get some different kinds of bands on the label."
What sets Denali apart is the absolutely gorgeous voice of Maura Davis. As soon as the 22-year-old classically trained singer takes flight, it's obvious she has something special going on.
She doesn't try to dazzle with fancy dips and grand swoops, but each carefully bent note Davis drops is nevertheless captivating.
"I'm a big fan of Björk, Radiohead and especially Jeff Buckley. His stuff is amazing -- his range, his vibrato, everything. I'd have to say his music has been a big influence on me.
"I took voice lessons all through high school and spent a year in classical voice training at the University of North Carolina, but becoming an opera singer wasn't for me.
"My older brother Keely was in a band, and I remember that going to his shows and seeing how much fun he was having made me jealous. I wanted to rock with the boys."
While many parents might've been devastated by their daughter's decision to give up a possible career in opera to sing in a rock 'n' roll band, Davis's folks actually couldn't be happier.
In fact, they may even be a bit jealous about her getting to travel cross-country in the back of a van. For years, Davis's parents played in a cover band called Best of Friends, but the furthest they ever travelled for a paying gig was Virginia Beach, four hours away.
"When I was growing up, their rehearsal room was right next to my bedroom, so I was the one telling my parents to turn it down.
"They played at my school for my fifth grade sock hop and did Bobby Brown's My Prerogative. At the time, it felt sort of embarrassing, but all the other kids thought it was cool. So I was, like, "Yeah, I guess it is kinda cool!'"email@example.com