The End, a Beatles rock revival12/26/2013
Let’s face it, tribute bands can be kind of a joke. Most spend more time honing the aesthetic of their chosen band than on the actual sound. Tribute bands tend to be more about honoring a romanticized version of what the original band was: Get the clothing right, play in the correct key, and you’re usually good to go.
But that’s not the way that Brandon Darner wanted to go with The End. Darner, probably best known as a producer and the guitarist for The Envy Corps, envisioned a Beatles tribute band that worried less about paying homage to the look of the Fab Four, and more about doing the music justice. But, since Darner rarely does things the easy way, he and his Envy Corps cohorts Micah Natera and Scott Yoshimura decided to put most of their focus on the Beatles’ late ‘60s catalog — music the Beatles themselves never played outside of a studio.
“The Beatles are the crown jewels of rock music,” Darner said in an interview. “Lennon and McCartney are two of the best song writers, easily, of the 20th century and probably in history.
“There’s so much in the post ’66-era Beatles that they never performed live. So we wanted to conceptualize that a little bit. We said, ‘Let’s play some of those songs as the Beatles might have played them live.’ It’s really challenging and fun. We don’t dress up or put on fake accents. This is really just a celebration of their music.”
The idea of such a show presented sizable technical challenges. For starters, while the Beatles might be the most famous four-piece in music history, the band’s later studio work was wildly creative and consisted of far more than two guitars, drums and a bass. To help recreate the diversity of that sound, The End employs a cast of musicians that changes and grows as schedule and set list allows, and the band takes liberties with its performances that most tribute bands wouldn’t consider.
“Sometimes we’ll have six members,” Darner explained. “Usually we play with five. One of the things we do that differs from a lot of tribute acts is that a lot of the Beatles vocals are doubled on the albums. So we’ll double a lot of the vocals (on stage). That’s a lot of fun, because it takes a bit of work to really get vocal doubling right.”
So while the product on stage might not LOOK like The Beatles, Darner feels like the sound is more genuine.
“It’s a tough balance to strike,” he said. “I’ve seen some really great Beatles tribute acts. But the one thing I notice with these acts is that they don’t rock like the Beatles did. They were a rock band. There was a raw-ness to them. I think the nature of a lot of these (tribute) acts is a family-friendly, safe version of these songs. ‘Paperback writer’ doesn’t rock the way it did when The Beatles played it. They were a bona fide rock band.”
Darner feels like The End has more creative leeway because it isn’t trying to be a professional tribute band. More traditional tribute acts have to play it safe with looks and performances, because there’s often a genuine livelihood riding on mass appeal. Darner, on the other hand, almost goes out of his way to make sure The End doesn’t become a regular job: The band has no website or Facebook page, there are no promo photos and they only perform a handful of shows a year.
“I’ve caught a lot of flak for that,” he admits. “Because people seem to enjoy (the band).” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.