Boulder has always been a hub for musical innovation, with its ever-present and eclectic grouping of bands and artists. The Desert Furs, formed in 2019, are no exception to the diverse landscape of Boulder’s music scene. With some deep connections stemming from Lawrence, Kansas, the current lineup consists of Billy Wassung, guitarist and lead singer, Jon Studtmann on bass and vocals, Cody Bump on keyboards, synths, and vocals and Alex Thiessen on drums and percussion. In anticipation of their upcoming show co-headlining at the Fox Theater in Boulder on November 17th with The Jauntee and River Spell, I was able to talk with the band and discuss their sound, their influences and their creative process.
As a self-described psychedelic rock jam band, the band’s name itself is a nod to their musical style. When asked about where the band’s name came from, Billy says, “My mind goes to camping and having these trippy experiences up in the desert, so that's where all the music stems from. There's a big desert theme in most of our music.” With Billy being the primary songwriter in the band, a lot of the lyrics explore themes of love, freedom and collective human existence. Emotive vocal harmonies layer on top of ethereal and cosmic melodies—the group blends elements of rock, funky synth-driven grooves and psychedelic guitar solos. Cody, the most recent member of the band by way of a Craigslist ad for a keyboardist, mentions, ”What drew me to the band in the first place was just the very original songwriting. Definitely a different feel than your average jam band type thing.” When asked about their influences, Pink Floyd, Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and various jam bands get thrown out there. A couple of different times they bring up Jonathan Wilson, a California-based producer, songwriter and musician credited with revitalizing the Laurel Canyon music scene.
The Desert Furs members collectively talk about how their creative process is very synergistic. When demos are brought to the table, parts are often purposefully left blank so respective members of the band can put their stamp on it and fill in the grooves. “It's really a collaborative thing,” says Billy, “Whether we do it all together in the moment, or if it's pieced together and then we come together to do it.” The band also tells stories about sharing files during the pandemic and piecing together their third full-length album, Pando, that way. “The whole COVID thing of not playing gigs—it gave us an opportunity to practice a bunch,” says bassist Jon, “We all made that commitment, and everyone really came together through all that stuff. It put us in a position these last two years to keep growing as performers and write even cooler songs. Then that's put us in this position to have this really good year.” The “really good year” Jon refers to includes playing a plethora of gigs all over Colorado including their first headlining show at the Fox Theater this past January, increasing their fanbase and riding on the coattails of their finest full-length album yet, eponymously titled The Desert Furs, released in 2022.
When asked what the band expects from the audience at a Desert Furs show, drummer Alex is the first to respond: “Dance! That’s what we want. There’s the energy that goes back and forth, for sure, and if we can get some of that energy from the audience it helps.” The dance party continues at the Fox Theater on November 17th. The Desert Furs’ new single Existing Just For Fun is out now on all streaming platforms and expect new music in the form of an EP from the band soon. TheDesertFurs.com