Your New Favorite Band: The Donkeys

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San Diego garage rockers The Donkeys
​I will be the first to admit that I had no clue about San Diego garage/folk rockers The Donkeys until someone dutifully pointed them out for me. You see, The Donkeys have a show this Saturday at the Yucca Tap Room and I was asked if I wanted to catch their set. Not knowing much about the band or their music, I had to go off of a description of a recent show in Bloomington, Indiana: 

"If you want to see a straight up killer rock band playing every song like it is their last you need to go to this show. The Donkeys started out with a sitar lead-in, were standing on chairs, jumping around, doubling down on the drums, and just throwing a freaking party on stage. It was one of those nights where the pure joy of Rock 'N' Roll was on display and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. No gimmicks, no bullshit, just sheer exuberance and great songs."

Suffice to say, I was rather intrigued by this description. After listening to some of The Donkeys' music, my interest level in the band increased tenfold. 

"Don't Know Who We Are," the opening track to Born With Stripes (the band's second album which was released this past April), sets a rather perfect tone for what is to come on the rest of the album. There's a laid back, decidedly Southern California vibe on Born With Stripes, with a song "Don't Know Who We Are" slowly meandering its way from the beach to the venue just in time for its set. As mentioned, there is some sitar on the album, compliments of the song "West Coast Raga" -- a title, I just realized, that pretty much sums up Born With Stripes. The album is The Donkeys' own take on an Indian classical melody, infused with their Southern California garage rock sensibility. It's a sentiment that sounds like it's far too lofty to sound at all coherent, yet the band manages to placate their songs with an impressive polish -- not to mention gusto.

I asked guitarist/bassist Tim DeNardo about "I Like The Way You Walk," the second track on Born With Stripes, and he had this to say: 

"[O]ne of my favorite things about this band is that our roles in it aren't set. ["I Like The Way You Walk"] is one of the songs that Sam (drummer/vocals) had written on guitar and presented to us that way. With him on guitar there was a void on drums which I quickly filled, and Anthony who would normally be on keys took to playing a lead on the guitar, pushing Jessie to bass duty. I feel it is that flexibility that keeps the music interesting. At least for me it does. Unfortunately, it is a little hard to pull off such switches live so we stick to our strong suits on stage. Unless asked real nicely, which has happened before to mixed results."

It would be interesting to try and see the guys switch up instruments on-the-fly like that -- as I love to see a band that switches roles and has more than one person singing every song -- but I have to respect their decision to keep it as tidy and efficient as possible.

Born With Stripes is out now via Dead Oceans. The Donkeys are scheduled to play Yucca Tap Room on Saturday, June 18. 

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Please to enjoy the video for "Don't Know Who We Are:"

The Donkeys "Don't Know Who We Are" from Jeff Lowe on Vimeo.


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