After a year in which they took the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble title and scored a couple of Boston Music Award nominations, you would expect the Goddamn Draculas’ name to enjoy some deserved recognition. Just maybe not in this way.
“We’ve been kicked off of gigs. We’ve had people say that they will never put us in their publication because of the name,” says JR Roach, drummer in the five-piece band now otherwise known as The Drax. Adopting the nickname makes sense; it would give those offended—too easily, let’s admit—by the name (like the local radio station J.R. says edited out the word “God” on air) an alternative option, and it was what their friends and fans already called the band themselves. Throw in a spiffy new logo to go with it, and problem solved. “We thought if people are going to be able to use this petty instrument against us, we’re going to try and turn the tables on them.”
Admittedly, there’s not much anyone could do to slow the band’s momentum since they edged out Petty Morals and Await Rescue at the Rumble Final last April. It was hardly new territory; JR and Chris Duggan (vocals/guitar) had each entered with different bands three times already, while Jeff “Chip” Nicolai (keyboards/vocals), Bice Nathan (bass/vocals), and Dennis Carver (guitar) had once. But the victory proved there was an enthusiastic audience for an LP’s worth of that powerful sound, in which the intimate urgency of Duggan’s raspy vocals intertwines with glorious, chunky arena rock chords. And, maybe more importantly, it gave them some money to make a record.
“We wanted to put out something that was of high production value, and that is really to the credit of the producer Dean Baltulonis,” says JR. That meant scrapping an entire record they’d already recorded without everyone together in the studio and re-cutting the tracks along with new material. It also meant turning down opportunities to play shows, such was the focus on completing the album since work began last August.
An early listen to tracks from their self-titled debut offers a glimpse of what future live gigs may sound like, and it’s appropriately loud. But also dynamic—Duggan’s voice roils with defiance on “Tomorrow,” rising above the others’ harmonizing while a stomping piano pushes them on. “Say Goodbye” squares up as an unabashed work of ’80s power rock, and does so with such brash charm and zeal that it casts its spell, even if the thought of such things might be groan inducing.
“We just want to push it and see how far it will go, like any other band,” explains JR. “There are certain things that are a mishmash of styles that are sort of interesting, putting punk rock sounds together with some classic rock sounds. It’s not like a big artistic declarative statement; we are working on it one song at a time and we want each song to be great. We still play songs live that didn’t make it to the record, sound good live but wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the album. It is less by design than people might think.”
God bless you, Draculas.