Music Issue 2013: The Debauchees: BFFs learning in reverse
If there’s one thing The Debauchees want you to associate with them, it’s this: fucking bitches and getting money.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” Sydney Chadwick says. The guitarist/lead singer for Louisville’s most buzzed-about band of 2013 says this in a serious deadpan, as bandmates Cameron Lowe and Ashley Bowen heartily agree. It’s clear from spending just five minutes with these three that they are, more than anything, best friends, brought together in a high school computer lab by their love of music (and “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” an episode of which inspired the band’s name).
Each was a novice at their respective instrument before forming the group in summer 2010, and their camaraderie is evident in their sound. As they tell it, Lowe learned drums because they needed a drummer, and he taught Bowen bass. Chadwick had a background in folk guitar (“One day in rehearsal, she goes, ‘What’s a power chord?’” Bowen laughs. “But you could do all this complicated string work,” Lowe continues, “So you learned guitar in reverse for the band.”)
Singing was also new for Chadwick, which she describes as “nerve-wracking. I’d been used to not doing that in front of people, ever.” When the group did find their sound, it was a decidedly quirky one, which Chadwick has dubbed “funky spunk rock.”
That sound, drawing comparisons to Talking Heads and the Pixies, has thrilled Louisville audiences from the Tim Faulkner Gallery to the Palace. It also earned the group a deal with SonaBLAST! Records, with an album scheduled to drop this fall.
Recorded over just four days, the album showcases the songwriting talents of Chadwick and Lowe. Both self-described introverts, they see the band as a kind of an alter ego, expressing their feelings of disenfranchisement and teenage angst. Lowe, in particular, describes their music as “my silent voice that I’m singing through Sydney.”
If you’ve heard of The Debauchees, you’ve probably also heard that they are, in fact, teenagers. Most of the talk about them comes with a qualifier, their success and talent all the more surprising for their minor status. “It just feels like an asterisk,” says Lowe. “Like, ‘it’s really great … for their age.’”
Their youth shows itself at surprising moments: When talking about plans for a tour following their album release, Chadwick explains, “We’re new to this. I mean, I’ve never even been on a road trip by myself.” Other future plans include college (for Lowe), a GED (for Chadwick) and a summer job on an ice cream truck (for Bowen). In the meantime, the threesome plan on writing new songs, naming their upcoming album and just hanging out.
“Our name is pretty ironic, because we’re really not that debaucherous,” Chadwick laughs. “With the exception of Ashley, we’re quiet and kind of shy.” Lowe continues. “We’re not always focused on, ‘How do we get further?’ We just like hanging out and playing music and having fun together. As long as we’re doing that, we’re good."