Although The Departed made their debut roughly two years ago at Cain's Ballroom and later released their official debut disc, This Is Indian Land, in May 2011, it was more of an introduction to the band and of things to come.
When discussing that debut disc with frontman Cody Canada, he agreed in my assessment that it felt more like taking care of unfinished business than an official introduction. After all, the concept was one Canada had originally conceived as the last album to fulfill Cross Canadian Ragweed's recording contract. After that group finally broke up, however, it served as a good jumping off point for the new project, introducing the group to the public, but also allowing it time to grow into its own identity.
When Adventus was released in November, it served as The Departed's true calling card and marked its true arrival as a band. Not so coincidentally, that's exactly what its title announced it to be, as adventus is the Latin word for arrival. Lean, mean, and bluesy, this isn't the same group of guys who recorded This Is Indian Land. Well, technically, I guess it is. Although the band members may be the same, the vibe is totally different. Nearly two years of writing together and working the road allowed the group to find its true identity and for a special chemistry to take hold, bonding everyone together.
The one thing that has changed as the band developed was the departure of Dave Bowen and addition of Chris Doege on drums. When asked about the change, Canada explained that "Dave had been dealing with shoulder and elbow problems for years, but when we asked him to be a part of the band, he immediately accepted and wanted to be a part. It just came to the point where he decided he needed to bow out."
There was also a matter of direction for the band and as Canada explained, "I've known Dave forever and we had several conversations that I thought the band really needed that rock and roll, hover over the snare, beat. He agreed with me."
The addition of Chris Doege once Bowen decided to step down came almost as naturally as the initial invite to Bowen, as Doege had previously played for guitarist Set James for years. He also made a natural fit in that "Doege has that same kind of style as Randy Ragsdale, who was the only person I played with for years, so it's been a really easy fit," Canada said.
When discussing the chemistry within the band and how the songwriting process has developed, Canada said, "The first time Seth and I sat down, I told him 'I've got lyrics for miles. I've got books of lyrics I haven't used. But with Ragweed, I felt like I was running out of riffs.'"
"He told me, 'Well, I've got riffs for ages, let's just put them together.'" Canada continued. "That was so comforting, knowing it was all coming together again. Now, it's only two and a half years later and it's still working and I've got riffs again."
Of course, what may set some people off is the fact that The Departed decidedly isn't Ragweed and sounds almost nothing like Canada's previous band. That was always the intention, however.
"I think some people expected it to be more country and for me to do all the singing, like in Ragweed," Canada said, "but that's never been what this band was about.
This band is always wanting to go in different directions. There's more freedom this time around. Also, having three different people in the band that sing (Canada, Seth James and Jeremy Plato) adds something to it. I haven't done things this way before and it's been great. We've got a sky's the limit attitude, so we just go for it."
Regarding the support that this band has seen from the fans thus far, Canada said, "For the most part, the people that have gotten behind this band were on board from the beginning. We've got hardcore fans that will follow whatever me and Jeremy or Seth or Steve [Littleton, previously of Medicine Show and Stoney LaRue's band] are doing and there are still people that are hurt over Ragweed breaking up. There just aren't any in-betweeners."
"We just played in Steamboat at Musicfest last week," he continued. "It was our second year playing there where it was one in and one out, but we finally had that show that I've been wanting. There were people from all over the country there, and they were mostly there to see us, were into it. We ran into this one guy afterwards and he was so into it. He didn't know anything about us or any of our previous bands and now he's totally on board, so I guess he's our first in-betweener."
Of course, there are still those that are seething by the Ragweed breakup, but Canada takes it all in stride, knowing that he's going in the right direction with The Departed.
"There was one guy after the show at Steamboat that posted -- I don't remember if it was on Facebook or Twitter," Canada said. "Anyway, he said, 'I'm 100 percent NOT behind this band -- I went to see them and they sounded like Soundgarden.' I just thought, I can take criticism like that all day long."
If you haven't introduced yourself to The Departed yet, now is the time. The band has truly gelled and is finding its identity. Just don't come expecting a revised version of Cross Canadian Ragweed. This group is far more aggressive and diverse, serving up a far more rock and blues heavy vibe than Ragweed ever did. As Canada shared, the group still plays a few Ragweed tunes like "Fighting For" and "Dimebag" and continues to work more songs into the set, but this lineup isn't about playing "Boys from Oklahoma" again, instead opting to leave that one for the campfire.
Make no mistake, The Departed has finally arrived. You might as well introduce yourself and get on board, because they aren't going anywhere. You can catch them this Friday night, Jan. 25, at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are $14 at the door.
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