DIY Spotlight: Dust City Opera

New Mexico rockers Dust City Opera was formed in January 2018 by frontman Paul Hunton. The band, completed by Clara Byom (clarinet, accordion), Travis Rourk (trombone), Chris Livingston (lead guitar), Scott Brewer (bass), and Dave Purcell (drums), hasn’t looked back since.

“An opportunity came up to open for a friend’s CD release,” Hunton says. “I gotta credit him for trusting me to get a band assembled and rehearsed within a couple weeks. I’d been jonesing to give some of my songs the full band treatment and we did some Felice Brothers, Tom Waits, Handsome Family and Chris Cornell songs to fill out the set.”

Hunton describes the sound as a blend of those very artists. “We’re kind of a folk-tinged, macabre rock outfit,” he says. “The clarinet, trombone and accordion give us a range of ‘old world horror’ to ‘lilting folk ballad.’ Harmonically I like to reach for unfamiliar sounds, and sometimes that can sound a little like Muse or Radiohead or Danny Elfman.”

Dust City Opera released their debut album, Heaven, in 2018 and they’ve just released the sophomore effort—the more aggressive Alien Summer. 

“Getting Alien Summer out is a pretty big deal,” Hunton says. “Despite the challenges of the past couple years, some personnel changes, and a new addition to our family, we managed to write and record an ambitious album and raise over $20,000 via Kickstarter to put it out.”

For Hunton, DIY is about: “Being able to be with a song through its whole journey from ‘page to stage,’ from the acoustic first draft to the midi demo to recording and comping takes, giving notes on the mixes, drafting the artwork, ordering and testing vinyl, and rehearsing and performing.”

Looking ahead for 2022, “We’ve got some regional weekend runouts planned, we’re playing it safe as we’ve had two substantial tours canceled in the last two years,” Hunton says. “I’m also working on a YouTube project recording the entire Handsome Family catalog as a crash course study in songwriting, production and arranging, and I’m also spending a lot of time learning how to step into my new role as lead guitarist, studying up on gear and tones and theory and licks.

 Go to dustcityopera.com for more info.