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Light the Match 

Sedona’s own decker. kicks out a fiery new album

click to enlarge decker.: “I take psychedelics and go hiking for hours at a time.”

Rachael Smith

decker.: “I take psychedelics and go hiking for hours at a time.”

If you start with a penny and double it every day, the total climbs to more than $1 million within four weeks.

Going from pocket change to a fortune is an easy way to illustrate what forces are at work in the steady accumulation of effort.

Another way is the music of decker., the Sedona-based blues, rock and soul band led by Brandon Decker, a singer-songwriter-guitarist whose progression as an artist across nearly a decade has been built of diligence and tenacity.

"At first it's like you don't even know what you're doing," he says. You're making that first album and we didn't even have a name and then went and toured and then I wanted to make a better album and play better shows. That didn't quite hit what I wanted, so we went and did it again. Every time it's like the carrot dangling and we're literally doubling down on everything, the energy, the effort, the investment, time and money wise, again and again."

The last year for decker. can be defined by the Snake River Blues record, the band's sixth, a dark and mysterious burst of rock 'n' roll that found the band breaking through to New York, doubling-down on a month-long residency that caught the attention of a new label, the Brooklyn-based Royal Potato Family.

"Going out there and living for a month and playing, we encountered this label that believed in us and wanted to begin working together," Decker says. "The idea was 'How quickly can we get some material out?'"

The answer is In the Red (out in August), which kicks off with the powerful new track "Matchstick Man," and follows with songs that demonstrate Decker's full musical journey, with songs spanning several of Decker's records—Patsy, Slider, Long Days, Long as the Night—and a transformative spin of The Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

It's not really meant as a greatest hits or a sampler, but a collection that both captures the band's depth and versatility and hangs together as if it were conceived from the start as one album.

"There was a little hesitancy about a compilation, but the honest answer is I believe strongly in my material and I don't believe it's gotten the day in court that it could have," Decker says. "I haven't felt like the last two albums have been heard by as many people as they should have been, so it made sense to say 'Let's take another crack at it.'"

No small amount of thought went into picking the right songs, Decker says. Some come from his earliest days of recording in his bedroom, while others come from sessions at Tucson's WaveLab Studio, and others are freshly written and recorded.

"For me, there's a continuity that is just literally a seven or eight-year outpouring," Decker says. "Certainly I'm pleased with that. When the idea of doing this launched, there was the question of how are these songs going to work together, or are they going to work together? I was surprised at how well I thought some of the first albums' stuff held up until now. I don't think I would have known it without this project. It's always been so based on moving forward."

The forward progress on In The Red is "Matchstick Man," a response to the 2016 election, with a purposeful nod to John Lennon's solo work, a blending of artistry and activism that Decker found inspiring.

"There was a large portion of people, caring humans, who were alarmed by this presidential election," he says. "I wanted to respond to that, but with a thing that was more about coming together and standing up, rather than the sky falling."

Though "Matchstick Men" captures a sense of urgency about a particular moment in time, Decker says it was hard to know exactly where to go after last year's Snake River Blues, which had more of a gritty, garage-rock edge after the band's earlier records of self-described "psychedelic desert folk." But whether it's more soulful, bluesier, or rocking, the album carries a sense of Sedona, of the striking landscape of Arizona's high desert.

"I don't know what came first, the chicken or the egg. We've always talked about it that way, as this desert music," he says. "I am shaped by living here. I hike or jump in the creek almost every day. I take psychedelics and go hiking for hours at a time. I do feel like it makes me who I am and subsequently the music I make is connected."

Decker's grateful to live in Sedona, but that inspiring landscape alone isn't enough. The music definitely comes from within, with its own sort of propulsive force that keeps Decker going year after year.

"There was some chip off my shoulder that left after going to New York City last year. We had this successful residency that was musically compelling and received well and just had this acknowledgment that I belong making music. It doesn't need any more validation other than what I think of it," he says.

That journey of Snake River Blues was captured bit by bit by filmmaker Matty Steinkamp, whose documentary of the same name is due out later this year. Allowing Steinkamp in to create such an unvarnished look at the musician's life, from writing to recording to touring, gave Decker a bit of a new perspective on his own work.

"I'm 37 and asking who I am and asking about motivations. I don't feel ashamed to say it's never gotten the legs that I've wanted it to get on the business side. I wish we were playing larger rooms and having an easier time doing it," he says. "Metrics are a slippery slope. I don't know why it's the lens that I look at it through so often, other than I'm trying to support myself and my son. It's almost as hard, if not harder in many ways, than it was seven years go. But somewhere in there was acknowledging that we're not going to quit.

"I'm pushing nine years straight and this year, it's finally not do or die any more," Decker says. "We're trying to make meaningful music and have it reach people. We're doing it and we're never going to stop."


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