There is a sense of excitement in the UK country music world at the moment, it’s expanding fast, and Dexeter are one of the bands at the forefront of it all. In their current formation, they have only been together a year, but the anchors of the group, Dee and Gareth, the lead singer and guitarist, respectively, have been playing music together for four years. You may have heard the band play at the pop-up stages at Country to Country this year, and you’ll have the chance to see them again at Yeehaw Festival in September, and Fort San Antone in October.
As Gareth explained, ‘when Rachel joined – the other vocalist – her first gig was at the O2,’ it seemed that Country to Country was the start of great things for Dexeter. ‘On the first EP we used session players, friends of ours that were … a violin player, for instance, and the new EP doesn’t have that, but it has got the accordion player, which kind of pushes the songs up.’ Their music does, however, ‘flow quite well because it’s Dee’s voice that is the central part.’
Originally ‘the band was a recording project, the aim was to get me (Gareth) from a school teacher to a songwriter, and my idea was to surround myself with people who could do it really well. The plan was never for us to come out and play. We had a lineup that didn’t really want to tour at the time, there were eight of us, but it was recording really nicely. After we recorded that, I had two kids, had a little bit of a break, and when that had all settled, we came back, because we missed it. So the three off us, the first three members of that lineup, we went and found all these other nice people on the internet, and now we love gigging – we can’t get enough!’
They did not set out with the intention of becoming a country band, they have just ‘fallen into it’ due to the allure of country instrumentation and harmonies, and, of course, ‘Dee looks like she should be in a country band!’ The beautiful blonde singer claimed that she’s ‘not very rocky.’ Nevertheless, the bands sound has evolved with time, ‘when we first started it was that Keith Urban rockier country stuff, but now it’s moving towards a Miranda Lambert feel, that dirtier kind of country, and lots more acoustic stuff.’
‘It’s only now that you can say you’re a fan without being embarrassed by it.’ The guitarist talked of the stigma attached to country music in the UK, ‘I was 14, and I couldn’t tell anyone, even my mates at school, that I liked Garth brooks.’ But now, ‘it’s a really good thing, it’s a bit different, and you stand out, there’s so much talent in this country, so it’s nice to have a bit of a niche. We are a pop band, with a country flavour, but it works. We like covers, but we tend to do the odd one, but we try and change them all the time, we’ll do a cover for a show, and we’ll never go back to it, I’d rather play our own songs.’ Dee commented on how the band were lucky enough to ‘seem to have skipped the kind of pub stage, and we get to go places they actually want to hear us play our own songs, we’ve even been booked for a wedding!’ But Gareth hastened to add that although ‘It does sound like we’ve skipped that stage, Jim, the drummer and I have done the pub circuit for ten years in different formats in different bands, it feels like now that’s paid off.’
Gareth claims that he writes it, and ‘Dee tells me what she doesn’t want in it! I’ll go, ‘how about this line,’ and she’ll say ‘no’ I don’t like that, write another one!’ But Dee is responsible for the stories – ‘it’s all about my disastrous life at the time, and my dramas, but he’s the brains behind it all!’ Even with her personal life in song form, it is in fact, a good thing, as it helps her ‘get into it a bit more, you relate to it – everyone will be listening for that now, and the new one is autobiographical!’ Although, Gareth went on to elaborate: ‘sometimes they’re just nice stories, it might just be based on a phrase I overheard, or I tend to look at what’s trending on twitter – what the hashtags are, some of them make quite nice song titles.”
‘Everything that’s happened has happened since we played in London, it’s going really well so far.’ They can even be heard on the radio in the States. ‘Someone found us on reverbnation, when we started to chart quite high in that, and they invited us to go on rotation in the states, and if you get in with one of them, you’re in with all of them, the first one was Nashville and after that California, and Texas.’ They have also had success in the UK on internet radio stations, and they have been ‘picked up by a few of them.’
‘It’s all happened really quickly, we weren’t looking to gig until we got the O2, and that opened a lot of doors.’ From their C2C performance they have gained ‘the freedom to play our own music, and I think we’ve been really lucky – we’ve been booked for three of the five major country festivals in the UK – The O2, Yeehaw, and San Antone, it doesn’t get any better than that!’
Dexeter will be filming their first video in July, and releasing a new single August. Their current mini album Brighter Skies is available for download now. It is indeed Dee’s voice that is at the forefront of these recordings, telling stories that fit well within the country tradition. The instrumentation is gentle, and hints at country, without being overpowering. Just Another Day shows off the bands’ meticulous harmonies, and Dee’s emotive vibrato. They show their bluesier side with Trouble, reminiscent of early Carrie Underwood, and More Than This feeds off country-pop stylings of bands such as Sugarland. Tired rounds out the album with a more upbeat feel, and sounds like it came straight from Nashville. This young band show huge potential in this album, and that is only set to grow; they are, indeed, ‘part of something gold.’
Dexeter’s tour dates can be found here.