The Lineup

The dB’s

Chapel Hill, N.C.

The band Little Diesel begat Rittenhouse Square who begat Sneakers (with the H-Bombs in there somewhere) who begat The dB’s. And, yes, it is fitting to speak of The dB’s in such Biblical terms, as the band is of holy importance when it comes to North Carolina music. With its early work quite possibly the oft-forgotten but not entirely missing link between Big Star and R.E.M., the influence stretches well beyond this state, too. After all, the guys helped launch the Southern indie-rock movement from New York City (where The dB’s formed after Holder, Rigby, and, eventually, Holsapple followed Stamey to the Big Apple) courtesy of two records released by a British label.

The members of the quartet’s original line-up—Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Gene Holder and Will Rigby—all hail from Winston-Salem. “We grew up drinking the same water and breathing the same tobacco-laden air,” Stamey offered in a recent press release announcing The dB’s’ forthcoming first new release in 30 years, at least as that foursome. There was clearly something in that water. The band’s first two records, 1981’s Stands for Decibels and ‘82’s Repercussion, presented pop/rock at its most brainy and brazen. The arrangements were unconventional but not afraid to bounce and jangle, and having two songwriters—Stamey the more angular, Holsapple the more accessible—added dynamics. In short, it was music both for scholars and for those just out looking for a good hook.

The 30 years since Repercussion have witnessed a pair of Stamey-less dB’s records; various solo, duo, and offshoot releases; plenty of post-dB’s-related work in the sideman and production realms, involving names like Alejandro Escovedo, Hootie & the Blowfish, Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo, and Matthew Sweet; and even a handful of original-line-up reunions. As those gatherings and the new record (some seven no-deadline years in the making) demonstrate, the shared-air chemistry remains. —Rick Cornell