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Our sophomore album is here.
“Outrageously interesting arrangements!”
-August March, Weekly Alibi
“Best live show I’ve seen in Albuquerque!”
-Bruce Ponder, Audience Member
"A breath of fresh air"
-John R.F. Nichols, 5 Cent Productions
"I would love to see a movie based on this album!"
-Ashley Paskill [on Alien Summer], That Mag
“This [group] of unique artists and instrumentalists
are the epitome of vibrancy"
"Hunton's ... perfectly and poetically deranged
sentiment can raise a smile as well as a shiver"
-Mel Minter, Musically Speaking
"This gothic opera is sure to blow everyone away"
-Philip Laniere, 1st Day Fresh
“A very eclectic and energetic mix of styles”
- Josh Muncke, Sonic Perspectives
“Plays out like an epic drama…with their cinematic,
ambitious, splashy approach to music”
– Aaron Willschick, V13 Media
“Satisfying new collection of songs”
– Kristy Rose, Top Shelf Music Magazine
"[DCO takes] listeners on an intergalactic,
apocalyptic journey unlike ever before"
-Philip Laniere, 1st Day Fresh
DUST CITY OPERA
It often feels like music flows from other dimensions, appearing out of nowhere and burning off into the ether as it spreads.
Dust City Opera materialized out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, but they might as well have slipped through some intergalactic portal or stowed away on a derelict spacecraft before crashlanding in the desert. These eclectic musicians—Paul Hunton [vocals, guitar, songwriter], Clara Byom [clarinet, accordion, keys], Travis Rourk [trombone], Scott Brewer [bass], and Dave Purcell [drums]—entwine strands of grunge, gothic country, punk, folk, and rock as the soundtrack to stories steeped in cosmic horror, transformation, and transcendence. After building a cult following and raising tens of thousands of dollars on Kickstarter to launch their next chapter, Dust City Opera perfected this otherworldly vision on their independent second full-length album, Alien Summer [out March 2022].
“Musically, it’s a gothic grunge orchestra,” states Paul. “For me, opera suggests an epic drama. We’ve applied the grandeur of opera to a rock band. That’s what this is.”
In many ways, it fulfills Paul’s destiny. Under the influence of everything from H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King to Soundgarden and The Handsome Family, he founded Dust City Opera at the top of 2018. As the story goes, he brought the band together merely two weeks in advance of what would be their first gig. Given the wide swath of inspirations and dynamic sonic palette, the frontman and sonic ringmaster sought out musicians on guitar, accordion, clarinet, euphonium, trombone, bass, and drums. After watching her play, Clara first became a part of the collective followed by Travis—with whom Paul played in a big band. Scott, and more recently Dave, joined the fold and the band began to record and perform together.
In the wake of losing both of his parents to suicide, Paul initially transmuted the pain of these harrowing losses into the group’s 2019 full-length debut, Heaven.
“After my parents passed, I felt free to make my own choices and live my own life,” he admits. “In the past, there was a lot of pressure for me to be something other than who I was. So, I pursued songwriting. My sense of humor got a little darker through my experiences.”
Their honesty appealed to audiences. As Dust City Opera assembled Alien Summer with producer Matthew Tobias, they launched a crowdfunding campaign in late 2021 to finalize the record. The band smashed their goal to the tune of nearly $21,000 in less than a month. Musically, the sound expanded with cinematic flourishes and a grandiose backdrop befitting of the record’s overarching themes. The instrumentation stitched together the sonic framework.
“The orchestral influence distinguishes the sound,” observes Travis. “Clara and I go way back to the University of New Mexico in 2013. Now, we’ve added the horns to make a strange mix. It’s a really dynamic experience.”
“It’s interesting to see how our instruments take on roles typically reserved for rock band sounds,” Clara agrees. “The continuity of the clarinet and trombone gives the album cohesion.”
“What holds it all together is the roots in Americana,” adds Dave. “Paul’s songs provide the foundation. Everyone is such an intuitive and creative player.”
After teasing out the album with “An Okay Way To Go,” “It,” “Tile or Linoleum,” and “Stars,” the band kicked off 2022 with the single and opener “The Unkind." Ominous guitars toss and turn over an anxious beat as Paul’s vocals contort in fits and flutters on a high register hook.
“‘The Unkind’ paints a picture of trees uprooting themselves over a Halloween dance vibe,” explains Paul. “They tear apart this town and murder everyone. It’s a killer plant race that comes out of hibernation once in a generation for a night of horror. They prey on humanity and go back to sleep.”
Soft strains of acoustic guitar bleed through Paul’s hypnotically haunting delivery on the title track “Alien Summer.” Climaxing with a bang, a crescendo of horns cries out in a lingering last catharsis.
“‘Alien Summer’ is about inner-alien DNA waking up and ripping through your skin,” Paul reveals. “While I was writing it, there was definitely a lot of anxiety in the air during 2020. It’s an escapist fantasy, but there’s a lot of tension. Lyrically, it’s another sci-fi horror story. Travis and Clara bring out an old-world vibe like they’re harking back to a Roma curse. They give the songs character.”
Elsewhere, “The Fog” rolls in with delicate vocals before a stormy bridge, conjuring an image of “hungry ghosts floating around your bed to suck up any great dream you have.” Then, there’s “Days When.” A nimble riff rides the track’s upbeat momentum with lyrics inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“You have a memory of someone, but then you forget the person,” Paul elaborates. “You remember the hug; you don’t remember who hugged you.”
“Angie” remains a standout. Conceived in a remote cabin, it explores a different kind of isolation.
“It’s about a guy on his deathbed,” Paul goes on. “He’s having a hallucinatory death trip. During the trip, he revisits parts of his life and walks through his memory. It’s all stripped away as he loses consciousness. He has the impression of a woman named Angie, but the memories have disappeared. He keeps looking for her, but she’s the last concrete impression to go. It’s goodbye.”
In the end, Dust City Opera are unlike anything you’ve ever heard. They’re among us, and it’s officially Alien Summer.
“This is meant to be a harrowing adventure,” Paul leaves off. “There’s some exhaustion, but there are also many moments of relief. I hope you feel like you were on this journey with us.”