Destry is an indie pop/folk duo from Boston, Massachusetts, consisting of Michelle DaRosa (vocals, guitar, keys) and Tyler Odom (vocals, guitar). Destry came together in 2008 after DaRosa and Odom, who had known each other for over ten years, left their former groups. Odom was a member of a folk group called Cassino, while DaRosa was a vocalist of her brother's (John Nolan, formerly of Taking Back Sunday) alternative rock/emo group Straylight Run. Unlike Straylight Run and Cassino, Destry's sound is built on a combination of influences ranging from 60s pop, to folk, to indie pop. Both DaRosa and Odom share songwriting, guitar-playing, and singing credits. Their first album, It Goes On, was released independently in 2009. Alongside DaRosa and Odom, it included collaborations with Sam Means (The Format), Nico Childrey (Cassino), and Shaun Cooper (Straylight Run/Taking Back Sunday). In 2011, they released a follow-up album called Waiting On An Island, also released independently.
It seems unlikely that someone from an alternative/emo band (Michelle DaRosa from Straylight Run) and someone from a folk group (Tyler Odom from Cassino) would find a musical common ground, but they've done so with their new project, Destry. After leaving their respective groups, DaRosa and Odom—who've known each other for over 10 years—came together as Destry in 2008. They each share singing, songwriting, and guitar-playing credits, and together they've built a sound inspired by 60s pop, folk, and indie pop. Shortly after the independent release of their second album, 2011's Waiting On An Island, we spoke with DaRosa to give us a song-by-song breakdown.
Band of the Day: Question: Could you start by telling us about the album's first track, “This Island”?
Michelle DaRosa: “This Island” was mostly written by Tyler [Odom], even though I sing it. He sent it to me and I then I tweaked some things here and there. Because we don’t live in the same place, most of the time it was us emailing each other back and forth. That was also the first one written for the new album, and I would describe it as a retro 60s pop kind of sound, which set the tone for what we could do with the new record.
Band of the Day: And “Don't Break My Heart”?
Michelle: “Don’t Break my Heart” was a song we both wrote equally together. It started as a piano ballad that I wrote, and it's one of my favorites to play live!
Band of the Day: What is it about it that makes it a favorite song for you to play live?
Michelle: I love the chorus part where everyone is supposed to sing along. Even though it was initially first written as a pretty sad song, it became something really different, something that's really fun, because I make the audience sing along to the chorus. But sometimes they don't like to sing along (laughs)! But I love it when they do!
Band of the Day: What about “Never Let You Go”?
Michelle: It’s a Tyler song and I remember when he sent that song to me I was so excited because it was this really cool pop song. Usually our songs are pretty slow, with long verses, and I have to chop them up to get them to be closer to pop songs. While our goal isn't necessarily to create pop songs, I was really excited when he sent this to me. We even made a video for this one at my house one night, at like one in the morning. Tyler was like, “You want to make a video?” And he had a friend who was filming with us, so it turned out to be the video for the song! It came really quickly, and it was fun!
Band of the Day: And then “Gone”?
Michelle: “Gone” is a song that I wrote, and it was a last minute song. There was a different song that we recorded for the album, but we were both feeling iffy about it and it was almost the last day in the studio. Vocally it was one of the more impressive songs, but just the general sound and feel didn't seem like a right fit for the band. Ultimately we scrapped that song, and then I had this other song I had been working on [“Gone”], and we just kind of put it together and now it's one of my favorite songs!
Band of the Day: Then, “Into The Rain”?
Michelle: It’s a song that Tyler wrote, and I love that song, it’s definitely in my top three. It's one of the hardest things I play on the guitar, so I love playing it because it's fun for me to play something that's difficult. It's also one of the songs where we both sing harmonies throughout most of it, and I think it's a really beautiful song.
Band of the Day: What about “Alabama,” which was written in Tennessee and not Alabama, right?
Michelle: (laughs) Right! We both had bits and pieces of a song, and I remember we were staying in this little house in the woods in Tennessee writing and recording demos, and for some reason we just liked that demo version of the song. When we recorded it in the studio, it just wasn't as good so the album version is the version we recorded in the house in the woods in Tennessee!
Band of the Day: And “Smile”?
Michelle: It’s a song I wrote when I was working in a hair salon and I was pretty miserable and just bummed about life when I wrote that song (laughs)!
Band of the Day: “It All Got Worse”?
Michelle: It’s a Tyler song, and I don’t think he wrote anything on that song [for himself]. But I really think its a beautiful song, and I’m not sure why he decided that I would sing it instead of him. I like the song a lot, it's just simple guitar and vocals, but we’ve never played it live.
Band of the Day: And then “Leave the Light On”?
Michelle: “Leave the Light On” is a song we actually wrote for our last record, and it ended up on our last record. It was written differently than any of the other songs we've written because it started out with Tyler having just the music totally written, without any words or melodies, and then I wrote a song for the back end. It was also in the beginning stages of the band, and we were kind of working off of anything we wrote from each other. But the more we played it live, it became a totally different song than it was in the beginning. The energy and feel changed enough that we thought it was different enough and worth re-recording for the next record.
Band of the Day: Finally, “Stand Where You Stand”?
Michelle: It’s a song I wrote, and I learned this jazz riff on the guitar and wrote a song around it. It’s mostly to my husband [Jeff DaRosa of Dropkick Murphys], and I hope there’s nothing bad in the song and that it's all positive and good (laughs)!
Band of the Day: Since Destry is completely independent, and you recorded with your own money, I'm sure it must be tough to keep going. What makes it worth it for you?
Michelle: That’s a funny question, because as I'm getting old...er (laughs) I’m always thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if I should keep trying to do this.” But then every time I decide that maybe I shouldn’t keep doing it, I don’t know...it just doesn’t seem like the right decision. It seems like it would be giving up. And I guess if I ever felt like it wasn't fun anymore, then I would stop. I don’t know, we keep writing new songs, we keep trying to get opportunities. Some of them we get, some we don’t. Really, at this point we are just kind of having fun with it and not trying to have any expectations. If anything bigger comes of it, that would be amazing. I don't really know where it's going, but it's still fun releasing music and playing shows!