The Summer Pledge call it a day
All good things come to an end
Published: June 24, 2014
This week, it’s your last chance to come and hang out with the Summer Pledge. Whether on tour or just jamming in their Woodbridge attic, the group has always been focused around “the hang-out thing.” So says Summer Pledge guitarist and co-founder Jeremy Damaske, whose group is rounded out by guitarist-singer Dustin McLaughlin, drummer Rob Wilson, and bassist Andrew Davis. The band originally played house parties around Wayne State University, becoming enthusiastic boosters of an endearing kind of neighborliness. Musically, you’ll hear a layered and propulsive kind of space-rock, with nifty effects-pedals and crazy time-signature shifts. After this show, though, the Summer Pledge ship docks for good.
Metro Times: It’s not often local bands can plan a proper farewell show; sometimes they just break up anticlimactically when friendships sour. But this band always seemed based around …
Jeremy Damaske: … friendship. It’s the thing we’ve always had, no matter if there were people at our shows or if someone picked up our records or we’d get positive reviews. What mattered was we always just had the greatest time together.
MT: That likely answered the next question of what kept you guys motivated throughout your six-year run, that the friendship endures. But tell us more about your experience, particularly those consistent DIY tours you’d run.
Damaske: The Summer Pledge embodied DIY everything — book your own tour, make your own shirt. It’d be frustrating, sometimes, to get to a show way out in San Diego and have, like, six people there, but then we’d end up back in the van together, we’d make it back, and it was just about the trip. It had become just about being together.
MT: But nothing lasts forever …
Damaske: With as much energy we put into things, I think, near the end, we wore ourselves out. With Vessels [2012 LP], we put everything into it to make it the best it possibly could be. And I do feel like it’s definitely our masterpiece — everyone in the band probably looks at it that way. But then it was the end of the line; we were out of steam. Taking a break turned into “a long break” and that was the end. No feud or anything. We’re all still super-close guys.
MT: Talk about Vessels and the album before it [2009’s You Are You] and what drew you to these specific guitar tones, these intricately layered arrangements, that very energetic style of rock.
Damaske: It was influenced by a lot of stuff we were listening to, but we just wanted to get some fresh air and get away from the whole yelly, screamy, angsty thing. I was into a lot of post-rock bands, with these ambient landscapes, but it got overbearing, like a movie soundtrack, sometimes. [Dustin McLaughlin] and I would bounce ideas off each other, musically, as far as guitar parts and [Rob Wilson] would always add something really flashy and nice to it that accented it well. And Matt [Conzett], our original bass player, I mean, talk about “angular,” Matt had that angular side to him …
MT: Well, speaking of Matt, as an original member, let’s go back to the origins for a minute.
Damaske: Dustin and I had known each other for a while before Summer Pledge. We had a band that broke up in 2005, but still jammed after, with him on drums and I’d play guitar. We played with indie-rock ideas that were just way different than what we’d done before, which was like progressive hardcore with these neurosis-style vocals. We were almost going to call our new thing Early Times after the cheap whiskey we preferred for long nights of music.
MT: Ugh … Early Times …
Damaske: Oh, it’s terrible. It’s like the worst fucking hangover. So around 2007 I was living in Eastern Market, with Dustin playing drums. He’s an amazing musician; he became a vocalist in Summer Pledge. He plays guitar, but he also plays drums. He comes over and says, “There’s this kid Rob Wilson” who wanted to drum with us. And he literally was a kid, then; only 17. Well, I said to bring him by; we’ll hang out.
MT: You just wanna hang out first?
Damaske: All our bands have been based off of hanging out. It stems around: Well? Do we get along? Are we gonna have a good time together? That’s a sure sign that he’s all right to welcome into the circle.
MT: And Rob and then, later, Matt [Conzett], were getting along well then?
Damaske: Matt wasn’t into the whole indie-rock thing; he was doing stuff more off-the-cuff. He’d play something in a different time signature and would find weird ways to make it work. Andrew Davis joined on bass later, learning his parts, wondering, really, how Matt’s brain even made those bass lines happen; they work, but they shouldn’t work.
MT: Dustin, what’s been your favorite chapter of the Summer Pledge story so far?
Dustin McLaughlin: I think Summer 2010 was an ultimate high point for the band. We did a full U.S. tour that summer and lost our collective minds several times, but we were a well-oiled machine by the end of it. We were enthusiastic about the creative process of writing our second record, Vessels. Most importantly, our jokes were at an all-time high.
MT: And, finally: What’s the moral to the Summer Pledge story?
McLaughlin: Be selective who you choose to embark on a personal voyage with! Whatever that may be. Not anybody can sleep in the crummiest punk houses, or play your heart out in multiple, cat-piss-soaked basements to maybe four people at times throughout the country and still have the character to laugh about it and embrace the situation. To not worry about the past or future, but just to exist in the moment and take it in. The “Pledge” came first. Then the music happened.
The Summer Pledge plays its final show at 9 p.m. Friday, June 27, with Vasudeva and the anonymous, at The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave,, Ferndale; 248-546-3696; thelovingtouchferndale.com
> Email Jeff Milo