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Denali: Inspiration As A Sound

Most people would probably list music as one of the top inspirational mediums. Webster defines “inspire” as “to influence, move or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.” Inspiration comes in many forms, such as a sunny day, a good film or your favorite book. In some ways, inspiration is very central to life. To be inspired to help others, to say a kind word or flash a smile can be a wonderful thing and can provide you with just the right push to keep you going.

Denali is a four-piece band from Richmond, Va., whose songs are beautiful sonic arrangements of heartache and melancholy. They create ambient aural soundscapes with the basic rock elements: intricate guitars, solid bass guitar, melodic Fender Rhodes (and at times piano) and tight drums, while sporadically adding various keyboard samples and programmed drum beats for a subtle electronic touch.

When asked why he plays music, Keeley Davis, bass guitarist for the band, cited mood, feeling and inspiration as his reasons: “[My sister] Maura and I are both very visual, and I guess we kind of thrive on drama a little bit. I never knew this; Maura has always known it, now I’m just realizing it. I mean we’re pretty happy people and easy to get along with, but the things that really throw me off are usually the drama and the things that are really melancholy. That throws me into this state of thinking differently, and I kind of like that feeling. It’s a little spark, you know? I like to feel that spark, so usually that’s what inspires me to write music. And every time I’ve been in bands where I’ve been the primary songwriter or something like that, I want to get something out.”

Maura’s reasoning furthered her brother’s explanation: “The good thing is emotion. I like to watch movies because they convey emotion, and hearing other people’s music is also one of the triggers, one of the best triggers. If we can do that for other people through our music …”

“That’s the goal I think,” Keeley finished.

Their parents met in a cover band called Best of Friends while in college; so naturally these tight-knit siblings got their start in music from an early age. They were always around instruments and music. “We had a band room in our house,” Maura reminisces, “set up for you to go in and play like you’re in a band.”

Not only did they inherit their parent’s musical genes, but there are some frightening similarities to their parent’s past appearance as well, Keeley said. “They have band photos, you know like glossies, and they brought them out last Christmas, and it’s really scary how much I look like my dad and she looks like my mom. I think my dad and I have the same haircut. It’s disturbing.”

When asked if there’s any similarities in their playing Keeley stated, “H– no. (Laughing). My dad played guitar and did vocals, and my mom played keyboards and did vocals, so we both took on the roles. But my dad is more … he does the licks and stuff, you know he does the leads … I don’t do the leads.”

It’s quite fitting that bands, at times, get inspired by people being inspired by their music (sort of like one big circle), and it’s all the more inspiring when they want to honestly convey what’s on their hearts.

[Christopher Wiitala started writing about music when his high school band broke up. He lives in Chicago where he writes for Cornerstone Magazine.]

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