Park City’s The Departure ready for the next step
November 14, 2014
On Sept. 27, the Park City-based band The Departure played for a couple thousand people at X-96 radio’s Big Ass Show, featuring national touring acts Neon Trees and A Day to Remember, at the Gallivan Center.
The band — guitarist/vocalist Ryan DeBlanc, bassist Max Hedding, keyboardist Dylan Grimm, guitarist Aiden McDonald and drummer Gavin Allein — were ready for the show, but not for what happened next.
"At the end of the set, we said as a joke that we would be hanging out at the X-96 tent," DeBlanc said during a band interview with The Park Record. "When we were loading our stuff off the stage, we got a text that there was a line of people waiting for us in the rain. There were so many people there that we spent more than an hour signing anything we could find.
"[That Big Ass Show] was the biggest crowd we have ever played for," he said. "It was a massive and huge jump up from anything that we have ever done. It gave us a lot of exposure, too."
The band members are still feeling the highs of the show.
"It was an experience being on the same level as huge bands like A Day to Remember and Neon Trees," Grimm said. "Having them do our preshow warm ups next to us was pretty surreal."
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The Departure started five years ago in Park City with DeBlanc and his sister Maci.
The siblings played with session musicians and performed throughout Salt Lake City and Provo. They even recorded an extended play album, "Virtual Beginnings," which is still available on iTunes.
"That went on for a couple of years and then around my 18th birthday, Maci announced that she was going to college and the band wasn’t going to work out," DeBlanc said. "I moved out of the house and was really down because the band was my thing."
A few months and tattoos later, DeBlanc knew he had to rise above his despair.
"I just went nuts and realized I had to start up the band again," he said.
A year ago, DeBlanc began volunteering for musicgarage.org, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer band training, rehearsal and concert spaces.
That’s where he connected with McDonald and Allein.
"I asked if they wanted to start jamming with me and that’s how it happened," DeBlanc said. "Dylan used to play in the band with me and my sister, so I called him up and asked if wanted to start doing this again."
The lineup held two rehearsals and played its first show.
"That was a lot of fun," DeBlanc said.
The only missing piece was a full-time bassist, which Hedding, the bassist and guitarist for the Park City/Mountain Town Music house band SilverVein, became at the beginning of last summer.
Since then, The Departure, whose influences range from Silverstein, Metallica and Django Reinhardt to Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sum 41, has played a number of shows in Salt Lake City-based venues including at the Loading Dock, musicgarage, Sugarhouse Park and smaller underground clubs.
The closest gig to Park City was at the Keetley Festival at River’s Edge campground in August and the band members, who write their own music, are itching to play here.
"The way we usually write a song is one of us will come in with a part and we’ll flesh it out from there," McDonald explained. "It’s kind of hard to write something that everyone can work around, but that’s one challenge that we are always able to overcome."
When preparing his keyboard parts, Grimm has to pay attention to the music structures the others bring to rehearsal.
"We come up with crazy chords and I have to figure out the best way to play those chords as well as figure out the scales I need to write my parts in," he said. "Occasionally, it can be challenging trying to find the right sound, but that comes up only once in a while."
Hedding, who is also a guitarist, has figured out a unique way to add his bass into the mix.
"I sometimes play the bass like a guitar, because I want to make my parts more complex," he said. "But I also try to find a way to make my parts sound and feel solid without making them simple."
As a drummer, Allein has to keep Hedding’s basslines in mind, but has the freedom to add his own flair to the rhythms.
"Drums are hard to play because if you mess up, everyone knows it," he said with a laugh. "Writing drum parts are different than writing chords or notes. A lot of drummers fall into a ditch where they just keep rhythm. But you want to write things that aren’t conventional, but also you don’t want to overplay. I don’t like drummers who overplay in the songs."
Then there’s DeBlanc who takes on the double duty as a singer and guitarist.
"Vocally it’s a challenge to find a topic to write about that stays true to our goal in the band and sounds good with the harmonic contents of the songs," he said. "As for guitar, I have such a huge interest in the guitar that, as Dylan said, I tend to write some pretty weird chords, and have to change them because I can’t write lyrics to fit them."
When a song starts to take shape, everyone adds his own piece to the puzzle.
"It’s so natural, and we’re all on the same level," DeBlanc said. "We have all of these influences even if one of us throws something in that we may not have all thought of, it still works out so well."
The next goal of The Departure is to make music for a living,
"We have gotten further than we ever have and with this lineup," DeBlanc said. "The average age of the band is 18 and I think people are respecting the Do-It-Yourself method than just getting signed to a label."
"We had the taste of playing a major concert at the Big Ass Show and we want to do something like that again," Grimm said. "That’s giving us the motivation to do more."
The Departure’s next show will be Nov. 29 at musicgarage, 250 W. 1300 South in Salt Lake City. Tickets are $10. For more information about the band, visit http://www.facebook.com/thedepartureband . For music, visit iTunes.com, Spotify and YouTube.
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