Out of tragedy, Des Arcs find a way to move forward: Band, community to celebrate life and influence of local music icon Dave Alcock with album release

It was not the way the year was supposed to begin.

On Jan. 1, 2023, longtime Calgary musician and producer Dave Alcock took his life.

The outpouring of grief and support from the local scene was immediate and genuine, with those who knew him, played with him, were recorded by him or were even in his circle of friends all devastated by the news.

Perhaps no one more than his partner, Kim, who Dave was supporting in her battle with cancer.

You never know what someone’s going through.

So all you can do is listen, and be there.

Interestingly, in Dave’s name, you’ll get to do that at the Palomino on May 13 as the band he was most recently associated with, alt rock act Des Arcs, will celebrate the release of their new album Masks, which the artist completed the drums for prior his death.

But, more than that, the band featuring Travis Davies, Mark Rudd and Dave Anderson, along with a collection of some of the city’s finest acts, will celebrate the life of their friend who left far too soon.

Prior to the show, theSCENE spoke with Des Arcs vocalist Davies. 

Q: It must be bittersweet. Because you’ve got this, you’ve got this fantastic record, and it, it kind of has this — well, you tell me, does it have a cloud hanging over it? Or is it more kind of a celebration of of what you guys did?

A: No, I wouldn’t say it has a cloud over it. The timing was very strange. And I think, you know, a part of me is like, if Dave, you know, made it another couple of weeks, you would have had this record under us … You can’t think that way, of course. But you know, it arrived literally one week after after he died. Yeah. So that part was very bittersweet. We didn’t know what was going to go on with the band or, you know, anything like that … We were like, look, we want to play, Dave would want to play, Dave loved the record. We love the record. So let’s just, let’s do this thing … And then go about finding the appropriate replacement for Dave, which was super, super hard. But we got really lucky. 

I mean, it’s one of those things, right? I mean, it’s somebody that you see, once every week, you see them and you get this, this dense struggle to make art together. And like, it’s really more about fit and friendship and trust than it is about this dude have chops to play drums. And thankfully, you know, we’ve we found the right person with Brendan Derrick Tincher … He’s got the skills to do it. But more so he’s just a sweet and gentle human being. And it was the right, the right kind of character to come into that room in a tough situation, right? Yeah, get in with with three other guys that just lost the best friend and make, you know, play these songs specifically. But for me, it was a gift.

Q: I know that the show itself will be a a mix of celebration of the album, as well as a celebration of Dave’s life.

A: Yeah, absolutely, we’re gonna release the physical copy, which is really fun, really cool package … And so that’s exciting. But also like, just, you know, the bands that are playing this thing, it’s going to be so fun. I mean, everybody, Dave touched them in some way … In terms of the quality and the kind of people we would we would want to share a night like that with right so yeah, it’s pretty great for us.

Q: I imagine it’s going to be a pretty emotional evening. 

A: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s good, though, right? It’s just like empty yourself out. And it’s kind of the way the band’s attitude has always been, like you always empty yourself. And that’s part of the reason we got the band together in the first place, right, to have that outlet. It’s gonna be good.

Q: Still, though, it’s shitty all around because you don’t know what people are going through until here. Until sometimes it’s too fucking late.

A: We didn’t didn’t get a chance to talk about it personally. I mean it was the hardest thing I’ve ever could have ever managed to go through — it was complete devastation as nobody saw it coming. We talked with him that morning  … we got a group text to the band and a “happy New Year’s guys” like 45 minutes before he jumped. So it was just fucking devastation. And for (his partner) Kim, she’s gone through hell and she continues to go through hell — she’s really having a tough time.

We’re not shying away from the fact that he died by suicide. You know that’s OK, I think even by not talking about it makes it a whole lot worse and less easy for other people who might be hurting to talk … Nobody’s shoving it under the rug. It’s a common way for young women and young men to die. 

All the bands are playing for free. All the door is going to his favourite charity.

Q: Sorry, this is where I do my awkward segue. I don’t want to say it shouldn’t overshadow the album, but I hope the fact that this album, how good this album is, isn’t lost. And I hope this is, maybe even … this is a tough one to dance around. I hope that this kind of also shines the light on the work, the last work he did and the work you guys did as friends, as a band.

A: Yeah, I hope so, too. And I feel the same way … I’ve always battled a little bit with, like, you know, is it kind of craven to be like, “Oh, well, there’s definitely more eyes on this and on this record, as a result of what what happened, and Dave’s death than there otherwise would have been.” But I’m sure he’d be like, “Yeah, you know, that’s great,” because he worked super hard on this record. I mean, the drums are fucking great. He went in to OCL because he wanted them to be big. And it has that big open room sound. 

Q: He definitely left an indelible mark, not just from his performance. Let’s talk about the album itself. Is there a theme? Is there something you want people to take away from this record?

A: Well, there’s certainly a, I don’t know, if it’s called a theme, but there’s kind of a driving element to it that, that makes it a record in my mind. It’s in the rhythm. And it’s that sort of drive — the chunky, rolling feel that all the songs kind of have that make it work as an album, maybe. We recorded 14 and cut it down to 12. And the two that we cut wasn’t because they good tunes, but they didn’t have that certain something that of all the others did. Really, it’s a bit hard to describe. And we call it “Hunca-Munca.” That’s the name for the drive and kind of rhythm that bounces through the whole record. And so core concept as much as approach to playing the songs in a tempo that really pulls everything together and drives it. And that’s an interesting thing, because we’ve got two songwriters and we alternate, but we still managed somehow to have kept that consistent sonic approach that ties it together. But we also think we’ve got the differentiations, different vocal approaches and the different, less sort of lyrical styles. It’s got it’s got a bit of diversity, too.

Our other albums were more like, collections of disparate songs. But this one has had a different feel altogether. And maybe, you know, I’d be a fool not to say maybe this has something to do with the sort of time it was written in. And it was COVID times and we were isolated. But, you know, we were hunkered down together, like we still practices, whenever as long as everybody was healthy. And this was dealing with, Kim who was going through cancer treatments. She was immunosuppressant, and so we had to be really careful. 

Q: What are your hopes for the record?

A: It’s a weird one for a lot of reasons. But, you know, obviously, we worked years on it, and we’re really proud of it. Dave was proud of it … We’re not going to put on the the iron wheels and go on a North American tour. But in this day and age you can, you can sort of micro target  and find out where you’ve done well or where the record is being played. And maybe, you know, book a couple of shows in a place like that and just go do some one offs. I think we’d be happy with an approach like that.

Des Arcs celebrate the release of their new album Masks on May 13 at the Palomino with Pussy Monster, Vailhalen, Rambling Ambassadors, Night Committee and other special guests.