The dB's set up a rehearsal space in the loft that was home to the music magazine New York Rocker, and the group was soon cutting demos on a four-track tape machine, including a tongue-in-cheek jingle for the magazine. Before long, the dB's were playing regularly on the New York club circuit and doing short tours through the East Coast and Midwest, and Holsapple
began contributing more material to the group. In 1980, the independent Shake Records
label released the first proper dB's single, "Black and White" b/w "Soul Kiss," and the group began work on an album. The dB's were unable to score an American record deal, but an independent label in the U.K., Albion Records
, offered them a contract, and their debut album, Stands for deciBels, was released in early 1981. The dB's flew to England to play some shows in support, including a showcase of New York and Hoboken-based groups (including the Fleshtones
, the Bongos
, the Raybeats, and the Bush Tetras
) that was recorded for a live sampler LP released by Stiff Records
under the title Start Swimming. While in the U.K., the dB's also backed former Soft Boys
guitarist Kimberley Rew
for a recording session; the results appeared on Rew
's album The Bible of Bop.
After returning to New York, the dB's began writing and demoing material for their second album, Repercussion, which was issued in early 1982. However, a few months later, Stamey
quit the group to launch a solo career. Through much of 1982, Holsapple
played solo shows and Holder dabbled in production, but in 1983, the group finally landed an American record deal, with the Warner Bros.
-distributed Bearsville Records
. The dB's recorded Like This as a trio, with Holder doubling on guitar and bass and Holsapple
taking lead vocals; the album was released in the fall of1984, and the band was invited to tour with R.E.M.
, with new bassist Rick Wagner restoring the group to a four-piece. Despite good reviews and promising radio airplay, the dB's hit a snag when Bearsville
's distribution agreement with Warner Bros.
ended and WB
stopped working the album. Undaunted, the dB's set out on a tour in 1985 with Chris Stamey
's new group and Let's Active
, fronted by Stamey
's former bandmate Mitch Easter
. The tour also introduced fans to the dB's' new bassist, Jeff Beninato, who came aboard after Wagner was let go. The group briefly reunited with Stamey
to record the song "Christmas Time," which became the title track of a seasonal compilation Stamey
released in 1986, while Holder began dividing his time between the dB's and another band, the Wygals. In early 1986, Albert Grossman, the owner of Bearsville Records
, died unexpectedly, and when it was discovered he had not drawn up a will, the dB's (like the other bands on the label) found themselves stranded as Bearsville
went out of business and lawyers debated who owned their contracts. It wasn't until the spring of 1987 that the dB's became free agents; during their downtime, they had secretly negotiated a deal with IRS Records
, so they immediately signed with IRS
and went into the studio to cut their fourth album, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music was the dB's most polished and commercially oriented album, but during the recording, Holder announced he would leave the band once the album was completed to devote more time to the Wygals. When the dB's hit the road in support of the album in September 1987, Harold Kelt was playing guitar and keyboards with them. The tour included a string of dates with R.E.M.
, who were enjoying a commercial breakthrough with the album Document, but R.E.M.
's new, larger audience didn't react warmly to the dB's, and the dB's felt Kelt was a poor fit for the band. Eric Peterson, who as fate would have it was a former member of the Wygals, joined the dB's for a further round of touring in 1988, including dates in Europe with Alex Chilton
, and the band began cutting demos for a fifth album. However, in October 1988, Rigby announced he was leaving the band after becoming a new father, and Holsapple
decided it was time to retire the dB's. The 1988 demos were belatedly released in 1994 on the album Paris Avenue, while a set of earlier four-track recordings were compiled in the album Ride the Wild TomTom.
After the end of the dB's, Peter Holsapple
worked as a sideman with R.E.M.
and Hootie & the Blowfish
, as well as forming the roots rock band the Continental Drifters
with his then-wife Susan Cowsill
. Gene Holder continued to perform with the Wygals and worked steadily in the studio, producing material for Yo La Tengo
, the Individuals
, and Luna
. Will Rigby cut a pair of idiosyncratic solo albums and drummed with Steve Earle
, Matthew Sweet
, Laura Cantrell
, and Tommy Womack
. Chris Stamey
pursued his solo career while establishing himself as a producer and engineer of note. And in 1991, Stamey
teamed up for a duo album, Mavericks, which featured a guest appearance from Gene Holder. Stamey
recorded another duo album in 2009, Here and Now, which featured Holder and Rigby on one cut, "Santa Monica." In 2005, the Stamey
/Holder/Rigby lineup of the dB's reunited to play live shows in Chicago and Hoboken, and after playing occasional concerts since, the group began work on a new album. A new single, "Picture Sleeve" b/w "Write Back," was released for Record Store Day in 2011, and in the summer of 2012, the long-awaited reunion album Falling Off the Sky was released by Bar-None Records. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi