Between rock and a hard place with Das Muerte

Broken barriers
By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER  |  August 15, 2012

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LOOKING SHARP, SOUNDING SHARPER "Like if Sinatra played in a death-metal band — that's what we're trying to do," says Das Muerte's Justin Garrette.
The Facebook page for Boston outfit Das Muerte lists under genre "Rock/Funk/Avant Garde." That third one is usually tongue-in-cheek, done by bands trying to be clever, because, come on, is anyone really going to call their music ahead of its time with any semblance of seriousness? In this case, yes, and likely the social networking site doesn't have enough categories to accurately describe the sounds these guys produce. "It's showing people who are usually in one specific scene how a band can be a little more diverse," says Das Muerte drummer Euz Azevedo. "We play metal shows and we'll play a metal song, but all of the sudden we'll bust a funk riff or a reggae riff. Or we'll play a more subdued show and throw some death metal in there."

It's a Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting in Allston's Lone Star Taco Bar with Azevedo and guitarist Justin Garrette, knocking back multiple Lucha Libres, the tasty-but-lethal tequila-based concoction. Singer Phil DeSisto is around somewhere; he's a barback at the joint and throwing in his two cents each time he passes our table. He was the last — and most hesitant — to link up with the group. "We're always trying to push one another to become better musicians and that's what attracts different people," Azevedo says. "Phil had no interest in metal or hard rock."

Concurs DeSisto: "At first, the music was just so maniacal, I almost wanted nothing to do with it. . . . I wanted to do something different, more like soul and Motown-type of stuff. But when I actually started trying to sing and jam along to the music, it was extremely challenging, so I was like, 'Oh, I'm up for this.' "

"Maniacal" is an apt descriptive when it comes to Das Muerte. Sonically all over the place, they jump between multiple types of music within a single song — though rarely do they veer without purpose. "We map it so it's gonna change a lot no matter what," says DeSisto, "But we can't make it sound like pieces kind of chopped together. There is a flow, verses come back and there are pieces that repeat to make a structure of an actual song."

It's intense and challenging, and it requires musical dexterity few would attempt. "It feels like I'm doing P90X while being lit on fire," Desisto says.

Garrette's German descent and Azevedo's Brazilian and Spanish lineage brought about the multi-lingual moniker, translating to "the death." It sounds very metal, but the video for the track "Byzantium," off the band's April self-titled EP, shows just how different this unit is from the rest. Filmed at the South End restaurant Noche — which Azevedo owns — it has the feel of a slick Hollywood treatment; the group dressed in suits, a sultry supermodel crawling about, mood-lit like something out of Boardwalk Empire. "We just wanted someone who could do a polished look; we wanted the most un-metal thing we could find, so it was perfect," says Garrette.

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