Local musicians bring rock to life in The Deadmen

Justin Jones, Josh Read, Justin Hoben, John Hutchins and Miles Nasta make up The Deadmen. (Courtesy The Deadmen)
Discussing rock with one of D.C.'s bands

wtopstaff | November 15, 2014 12:20 am

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WASHINGTON — In a dimly-lit bar directly behind the 9:30 Club, I’m introduced to four men in their mid-to-late 30s. They blend in seamlessly with the regulars that file into the bar.

However, their experience playing in, and shaping, D.C.’s music scene differentiates them from the others.

This is the tale of one “new” band’s history in local music and the musicians’ approach to making more.

Justin Jones, Josh Read, Justin Hoben and John Hutchins are not new to D.C’s music scene. In fact, all four have been playing music in and around the District for at least a decade, and for some, more than 20 years.

But the four local artists are relatively fresh to one project: The Deadmen, a newish rock band that balances the sounds and processes of three songwriters and a number of influences.

Jones, Read, Hoben and Hutchins all had several band experiences under their belts before joining together to form The Deadmen — but how they formed is a process they describe as “complicated.”

Read, of Revival, and Jones, who toured as Justin Jones, formed The Deadmen with two other musicians about three years ago. Shortly after, the group fell apart.

“[That] was a real bummer for those of us that weren’t in the band because The Deadmen was one of my favorite bands when they were around,” says Hoben, who formerly recorded and toured as John Bustine.

However, last spring, Read and Jones revived the band and Hoben and Hutchins joined — Hoben, 39, on vocals and guitar and Hutchins, also 39 and a former member of Army of Me, on the bass.

The guys connected after knowing each other or playing with each other for years in the District’s tight-knit music community.

Jones had played guitar in at least one show with Hoben’s old band, Hoben and Read both played in each other’s old bands at one point, and Read and Hutchins played a show together in 1997.

Now, after being together for just under a year, the band is set to release its first EP this March, followed by a 7-inch record for Record Store Day and a full-length this summer.

Roots, Rock, Reggae?

For some, describing the band’s sound is even trickier than describing its formation.

The Deadmen’s Facebook page references “gospel and sledge.” The guys tell me they think their sound channels “reggae,” somewhat jokingly — somewhat.

But really, their music all whittles down to one genre: rock