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Death from Above
Jesse F. Keeler performing in September 2011
|Also known as||Death from Above 1979|
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Members||Jesse F. Keeler|
Death from Above (also known as Death from Above 1979) is a Canadian rock duo consisting of bassist Jesse F. Keeler and drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger from Toronto, Ontario, formed in 2001. The band broke up in 2006 after releasing only one studio album, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. In 2011 they reformed and later released their first album in almost a decade, The Physical World.
Grainger and Keeler reportedly met at a Sonic Youth concert, they sometimes jokingly claimed to have met in prison, on a pirate ship, or in a gay bar, leading some journalists and fans to believe these stories. Keeler has also said to have met Grainger when looking for a drummer to play in his hardcore punk band Femme Fatale, further stating "That's how Death from Above got started."
On December 15, 2002, the band released their debut release, Heads Up.
The band began recording for their debut album, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine from February to April 2004 at The Chemical Sound in Toronto. Additional recording was done at Studio Plateau in Montreal and the album was engineered and produced by Al-P, with the exception of the Montreal sessions which were engineered by Drew Malamud. The album was released in October, 2004. The band released three singles to promote, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, these singles where "Romantic Rights" on November 4, 2004, "Blood on Our Hands" on February 17, 2005 and "Black History Month" on June 13, 2005. In 2005, the video for "Blood on Our Hands" won a VideoFACT award at the MuchMusic Video Awards.
In 2004 the band changed their name to "Death from Above 1979" (previously named "Death from Above") due to a cease and desist letter that was filed against the band by James Murphy's label Death From Above Records. The band responded by attaching the legal minimum number of numerals required to keep the first part of the name.
The band wrote a statement on their website:
FUCK DFA RECORDS FUCK JAMES MURPHY WE DECLARE JIHAD ON THEM HOLY WAR ENDING IN THIER [sic] DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT... james murphy is a selfish piece of fuck that will burn in the flames of a specially dedicated rock and roll jihad. if i had the resources i would fly a plane into his skull.
Murphy told his side of the story in a 2005 interview with Pitchfork, saying:
We knew about them for a long time, the name thing wasn't a big deal. It wasn't until they signed to a major label, which wouldn't release the record until we signed off on the name. That's how this all came about... [Parent company of Death From Above 1979's label, Vice] Atlantic's not gonna release a record by a band with the same name as another entity in music... we spent a lot of money because we didn't just wanna be total fucking assholes and just say no. We were trying to find a way for it to actually work... I was like, "What the hell's wrong with Death From Above 1979?" But the copyright attorney was like, "No, that's not fine." And I said, "If they become a totally different name, and it delays their record, that's something I'm not comfortable with." So we just tried to make it work as well as possible.
As of August 3, 2006, the band officially disbanded. Keeler posted the following message on the official Death from Above 1979 forum:
I know its been forever since I wrote anything on here. I'm sure by now most of you assume the band isn't happening anymore since there are no shows, no work on a new album, etc. well. I wanted to let you know that your assumptions are correct. We decided to stop doing the band... Actually we decided that almost a year ago. We finished off our scheduled tour dates because there were good people working for us who relied on us to make a living and buy Christmas presents and pay rent etc. We couldn't just cancel everything and leave them out to dry... Plus I think we wanted to see if we would reconsider after being out on the road. Our label was really hoping that we would change our minds, so they asked us to keep quiet about the decision for at first. Well, it's been quite a while now and we are still very sure the band won't happen again, so I guess it's time to say something.
On MuchMusic's television program The New Music, Keeler further explained why the band split. He claimed it was due to disagreements with bandmate Grainger on many levels, including creative differences and musical style.
On February 4, 2011, the band officially reunited. Grainger posted the following message on the band's website:
It’s been 5 years since Death From Above 1979 played a show, 10 years since Jesse played me the first demos 11 years since we sat in his parents basement and played so loud we knocked the china off the shelves upstairs. 11 seems to be a YES number for me. Though I am usually a pretty rational guy, if I have something on my mind and I see an 11 somewhere, I know I’m on the right path. It’s one of my last remaining superstitions. 2011 has a nice ring to it if you’re so inclined, it may be the last year ever! So why not say YES? Why not say YES to Coachella? Why not say YES to playing the music we designed to be an undeniable source of power? Why not say YES to stirring up a writhing pit of sweaty humans? YES to riots! YES to heavy music! YES instead of maybe, and YES to make death your adviser and remind yourself always, that this is not a dress rehearsal. This is the big show.
Jesse and I have decided that what we can do together should not be denied. Together again, as was always the intention, as a collaboration. The collision of two different worlds. As this all takes shape, we will reveal it to you. All of it happening, as it always has, in our own way. Thank you all for sharing in our excitement!
The band performed a new song while performing at EdgeFest on July 14, 2012 at Downsview Park in Toronto. On September 18, 2012, a Canadian tour was announced; the band revealed that they had written new songs, but needed to perform them live in order to "make them any good". On October 28, 2012, the band's blog was updated as they built excitement for their string of shows around Canada. In the post, Grainger cited that they were "coming to share new material, and to work out the kinks". The band was originally scheduled to perform at Governors Ball Music Festival in June 2013, but later announced that they were having unexpected trouble while working on new music and cancelled their appearance. On July 11, 2013, the band confirmed that a new record is in the works on their Facebook page after cancelling European shows due to a "medical emergency". They did, however, perform at Wakestock Music Festival in August and Rifflandia in September. On July 8, 2014, the band released a single, "Trainwreck 1979", and announced more details of their upcoming studio album, The Physical World. On September 9, 2014 the band released their second album, The Physical World through Last Gang and Warner Bros. Records.
On October 7, 2014 the band released a documentary Life After Death from Above 1979. The documentary chronicled the history of the band and their reunion. It was directed by Grainger's wife, Eva Michon.
On June 6, 2017, the band announced an official name change back to the original "Death from Above". Although the band has said their social media handles will keep the "1979" suffix, all future music and shows from the duo will reportedly arrive under the new name. Grainger said in an interview that the band decided to not include the "1979" suffix on a tour promo for their tour with the Eagles of Death Metal in early 2016, "just to see what would happen" and the band received no legal issues because of it which led to them doing it again on their tour promo with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and once again there were no legal repercussions. Sebastian has also said the making the album art for the band's single "Freeze Me" also was part of the decision, "The final straw was when I was making the art for our single ‘Freeze Me’. I wanted to write the name out in ice, so I went on Amazon and ordered an ice cube tray in the alphabet. It came and there were no numbers. That was that." Along with the name change, the duo announced the new single, "Freeze Me." The song premiered on BBC Radio 1 before its release on June 7.
Throughout its career, the band has been described as dance-punk, noise punk, and punk rock. Grainger has stated when the band first started he and Keeler's aim was "to be as straight ahead as possible," and "to be the AC/DC of hardcore." Rolling Stone claims "Death From Above embodied the DIY dance-punk aesthetic that lived in home recordings and grimy basement clubs" and that the band's early work "combined noisy hardcore, gritty synths and earnest screams".
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