One of the members of Brooklyn’s ascendant power-pop outfit Cende once chased David Blaine on a moped to hand the street magician a pin with his face on it — but that’s only half as weird as that sounds. You see, the band used to live in a house and DIY venue that was kind-of, sort-of named after the world’s best pole-stander. When I spoke to them earlier this week they admitted to having a “cult-like” love of Blaine and… well, even that may not be doing the best way to make chasing down a famed illusionist with a piece of face-stamped merch sound all the way right. Let’s back up to the formation of the band.
Cende came together in a Brooklyn house and DIY venue. The four-piece’s members had all recently graduated from SUNY-Purchase and moved into the Brooklyn house. Many of the the group’s members already had commitments in other groups, but they decided to start playing in another band partially because they all loved the new-classic West Texas punk of The Marked Men.
The band had settled on a name for themselves — Downies –but when the time came to put on a show at their home, they had to come up with a name fast.
“We realized we didn’t have a name for the apartment,” said vocalist and songwriter Wisch. “At the time Greg [Rutkin] worked at Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse and our friend Frankie lived near David Blaine. So we put David Blaine’s The Steakhouse on the posters and the name stuck.”
The apartment space hosted over 100 shows in its brief life, serving as both a hub for the DIY set and the band’s home. The house hosted Sheer Mag’s first-ever show in the city and the final send-off show featured sets from local legends Krill and current Uproxx faves Vagabon. All this while the band’s love for their home’s makeshift patron saint grew. When we spoke to the group they noted that they had tweeted at him for two years hoping that he would make an appearance.
Sadly, the man himself never made it out. But as we said, one of the group’s members got to meet him via some persistent creeping.
“I was on my home from work,” said the band’s Dave Medina. “I ride a moped and I passed this guy who was on like a BMW motorcycle. No helmet on, looking cool and I realized it was David Blaine. So, I followed him. When I caught up to him I handed him one of our buttons with his face on it. I was like ‘We think you’re awesome.’ And he was like ‘Cool, do you want some posters?'”
Telling the story, Medina seemed shocked by Blaine’s reaction. But he managed to keep it together long enough to respond in the affirmative.
“He said, ‘Follow me.’ So I followed him to his apartment and he signed some posters for me,” said Medina, still sounding incredulous about the event. “He could have just been like ‘Who are you? Why are you following me?'”
It’s fitting that the namesake of their home base turned out to be so nice. The sound of the band that the space helped birth is relentless power-pop that absolutely beams, even if the lyrical content of songs like “Bed” and “What I Want” isn’t exactly radiating positivity.
As DBTS’ de facto house band, the group claims that their debut album #1 Hit Single was partially inspired by the community around the house and also by the feeling of their first year out of college.
“I think like the whole living situation in general was super inspiring,” said Wisch. “I also think that it was just an extremely creative year, being just out of college and moving. But it definitely helped to have this tight-knot community of people who are all working on something.”
As for the nitty-gritty of the actual songs, Wisch says that he isn’t sure where specifically his inspiration comes from. Though the songs on #1 Hit Single seem to focus on themes of miscommunication and relationships in disarray, he claims that there’s no capital-e event that kicked off the dour mood all over the lyrics sheet.
“The lyrics all kind of come from all my past relationships jumbled up,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that there’s like one specific break-up or anything that inspired it. It’s made up of bits and pieces.”
In that way, it reflects the scene that Cende are launching out of. They take a little bit of bands from around town — Wisch plays in Porches and Rutkin plays in LVL UP, one of our top rock acts of the last year — and they smash it together to create something wholly new. And like those relationships chronicled by Cende on their debut, the DIY scene is marked by its impermanence.
When I ask them about their now-defunct show space that was once their home, they point out that “spaces are very important” but certain attributes of the scene are “always in flux.”
But just like a certain someone who encased himself in a block of ice for millions of people to see, Cende is surprising everyone by coming out on the other side sounding shockingly vital.
#1 Hit Single is out on May 26 on Double Double Whammy. Pre-order it here and stream it below.