DUQUETTE JOHNSTON is a name that, if you’re a deep connoisseur of the US indie scene you’ll recall in association with one of those band whose star lit, arced, sputtered a little too soon, sadly; almost famous. Gah.
That band was Verbena, who came, released three albums of grand, dirtily low-slung, well-honed indie-stoner rock. They appeared on Letterman, toured with The Strokes and The Foo Fighters, enlisted Dave Grohl to man the faders for their second album and major label debut, Into The Pink. At which point bassist Duquette, then known as Daniel, upped and left for a position with Juliana Hatfield’s reformed The Blake Babies.
While Verbena themselves fizzled after difficult third album syndrome in 2003, Duquette’s waning trajectory took him even further than he’d imagined: “I thought I had to live in misery to create great art,” he’s said.
He got busted on drug charges in the intolerant American legal legislative situation, and thus made rake’s progress into the prison system – an inhumane process which he recounts as more focused on zero tolerance than recovery and rehabilitation.
Eventually he escaped the cycle, dusted himself down and returned to his home town, Birmingham, Alabama, where he embarked on a project to bring the arts back to an historic part of town that had seen better days.
He’s seeing better days, which is the main thing, here; and he’s got his first album in a decade locked and loaded for next spring. Good call. Better still, he’s dropped the effortlessly hook-laden single “A Year To Run” and accompanying video – have a watch.
It’s got guitar growl, finds Duquette in fine voice, and definitely views the dusty world through a decent pair of shades; classic, classy indie rock, it has shades of Grant Lee Buffalo, Drop Nineteens.
“I was holding on for one more year to run / So I started closing eyes and seeing sun,” he sings; he explains the song’s lyrical concerns as: “Coming out of darkness, choosing my family and how we want to live about the noise and demands of this world.
“Written in the deep hours of nighttime, this song is finding the good … being your own light when there isn’t one anywhere else.”
For the album, The Social Animals, he teamed with producer John Agnello, who’s midwifed albums by Waxahatchee, Tad, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr, Jay Farrar, more; no lesser alt.rock scion than Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley is behind the kit.
The album promises a dusty ride, controls set west into the sun, from the artist who says he’s “lived a wild, incredible life.” Eight years in the gestation, it charts a time during which his wife developed a life-threatening condition after a complicated pregnancy, “a radical break from the old way of living and looking at life” and the foundation of Club Duquette.
He says of his new direction, both musical and otherwise: “If my story and my experiences can open other people’s eyes, then everything I’ve done is worth it.”
Duquette Johnston’s The Social Animals will be released by Single Lock Records on February 25th, 2022 digitally, on CD and on vinyl; you can pre-order your copy here.