From Berklee to Los Angeles, the kind of rock that needs an exclamation point
Starting out in Boston and now based in Los Angeles, Dead Poet Society has a unique sound that rides a groove while hitting various emotions. It makes for an experience that excites the senses, and their debut full-length, The Exclamation Album, signifies such feelings with a simple “!” on the cover with hyphens on opposite sides.
That’s right, the quartet of guitarist and vocalist Jack Underkofler, guitarist Jack Collins, bassist Nick Taylor, and drummer Will Goodroad kick the amplification up a few notches. It’s a fresh and inventive take on a classic style and structure, and Underkofler and I spoke about incorporating influences, life in Los Angeles after attending Berklee, and jumping on the next flight to wherever venues open in a post-pandemic world.
Dead Poet Society has a heavy rock sound that incorporates blues, early 2000s garage rock, and alternative metal a la Deftones. Especially the latter with the guitars having a similar tone to what Stephen Carpenter has in various songs. Do you view these three styles as an influence? What do you see as a main catalyst for the band’s sound?
I would say that they definitely each are a massive influence for us. We tend to gravitate towards that raw feeling and that heavy, depressed kind of anger that you hear in a lot of delta blues or whatnot. It’s just pure, raw emotion and I think our music tends to reflect that aim and that vibe.
You guys started the band at the Berklee in Boston, but now you’re in Los Angeles. What made you want to switch coasts and move to that city? Do you have connections out there that have enabled the band to thrive in LA? Are you there for the warm weather?
It’s the Mecca of the music industry, so that’s a major reason for us moving out there. After we graduated from Berklee we all asked ourselves, What do we do? and we didn’t want to stay in Boston because it’s all colleges, it’s getting more expensive to live in the city, and it’s kind of a music industry outlier, so we chose LA. Within a week we packed up and moved, which wasn’t the best planning but we’re not really great at planning so it was as good as it was going to get for us. It just kind of had to happen.
When you started attending Berklee, what did you want to learn about the most when you first got there and what did you end up learning the most as the most invaluable thing for a musician by the time you left? How would you describe your experience as a student there?
You can’t teach creativity and that is not a sellable item. From taking classes at Berklee, it’s really hard for me to pinpoint one that was really useful. The things I learned from a lot of my professors there on a personal level ended up being extremely valuable. The way we write, which centers on following the feeling, and also the way that you come at the music industry. Honestly, work ethic, trying your best, and grinding on a daily basis while never letting off the gas. It’s mostly tidbits of information that you pick up from your professors along the way, but as far as the classes go, it was a six-figure experience that I’m now paying for and here I am now. I do wonder how things would have gone if I stayed there, but do I think the school is worth the ticket price? Not really.
I know you guys did a livestream show at a barn the day after the album’s release, but do you plan on doing virtual shows for the time being? Or do you plan on waiting until it’s safe to tour? What would you say are your plans for the next few months?
Well, we’re kind of stuck with the option of only doing online stuff until things clear up, but at the instant of venues being back open, we’re back on the road. We have so many tentative plans for tours for the fall and we’re really banking on places opening back up. We have content lined up for the internet and we all know that it’s not the real thing. I don’t care which country it is.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.