The last time I wrote about D Numbers was six long years ago, which is insane—especially since it was just a couple months ago in my mind. Of course, a lot’s changed since then, with members Ben Wright, Brian Mayhall and Paul Feathericci founding a record label, Mesa Recordings, each releasing critically-acclaimed solo albums (acclaimed, at least, by this critic) at one point or another and contributing to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return’s ambient, passive soundtrack and sound effects.
In this six-year window, Wright and Feathericci have had children (not together; but they're cute as hell and one time I saw Wright's son hug another kid and I almost wept) and Mayhall moved to Old Mexico. Breaking up the band, however, never even occurred to them; D Numbers is practically in their DNA.
"I was sort of like, 'Hey guys, I've got this opportunity to move, can we still keep doing the band and the label?' and they were just like, 'Yeah,'" Mayhall says.
"And we've got the internet," Feathericci adds of continuing collaboration across international borders. And new tracks have been sent—though, to be fair, on the day I visited the band at their practice space at Feath's home outside Santa Fe, they were mostly fine-tuning existing material. This is as much about them having not performed together since September of last year as it is about the audience; elements will be changed and reworked, time signatures will be simplified, tightness will be achieved. And since D Numbers plays maybe twice a year, it should all seem relatively fresh.
"It's funny," Wright says, "but we'll have people come up to us after shows and say, "Oh wow, I really loved the new stuff!' when it's not new at all." Of course, this could either be insulting or a perfect compliment, depending on how you look at it, but the boys stay positive.
Just don't call them experimental. Lord knows they do technically experiment and also that I have called them such in the pages of this very publication, generally because it's the easiest way to say there's nothing else quite like them. "We've found in our touring experience, we'll go play at a dance event, and we're a little left field of that," Wright says, "or we'll go play at a more live music event and we're a little left field of that."
But "experimental" sort of sells the band short or, possibly, makes people think they're not as musically accessible as they are. Not so. At its core, D Numbers is an indie/post-rock act, but with intricate layers achieved through an absolutely mind-boggling stage plot and probably the most wires you'll ever see a band use. Tucked into the sound you'll find electronica, techno, house and funk at play; analog and digital sounds merge; loops and samples interweave with live instrumentation. According to Feathericci, "We like it weird, and we're not going to be satisfied with something if it sounds 'normal.'" D Numbers remains one of the grooviest bands, location irrelevant, operating today. Although, Feathericci says, "Depending on what lens you're looking through, we're a dance band."
So what does this mean for fans and soon-to-be fans planning on attending D Numbers' Santa Fe Bandstand show on Thursday Aug. 24? For one thing, everyone seems energized. Whether this is about being musically reunited with Mayhall remains unclear, but even just during our brief chat, excitement bubbles under the surface.
"We just do naturally what we do," Wright explains. "We don't try very hard at maintaining an aesthetic. … We're thinking about our audience, to some extent." He means they know how to make it work for y'all, and that they're more interested in crafting clever songs that work for everyone than conducting math experiments or cramming in unnecessary parts.
Should you desire a deeper experience than just the Bandstand show, Wright, Mayhall and Feathericci also perform solo at a secret-ish, private-esque two-day event beginning the following evening in Glorieta. To work that out, simply ask someone who knows (there are lots of them hanging around).
In the meantime, Mayhall heads back to Mexico soon and Wright and Feathericci continue their efforts with Meow Wolf. They're currently at work on new sounds for one-off MW satellite exhibits in other states that have yet to be announced and, according to Wright, the flagship location's sounds have been sneakily updated here and there and will continue to receive attention for the foreseeable future.
Santa Fe Bandstand: D Numbers
6 pm Thursday Aug. 24. Free.
Santa Fe Plaza,
100 Old Santa Fe Trail