Photos by Zach Nellis
DENZELL is a high energy underground punk rock band that has come out of the basement so to speak to hit up Pittsburgh’s great music festival scene. They played the Strip District Music Festival back in January and just played Deutschtown Music Festival. The zells are Frank DiNardo on vocals and guitar, Phil Kenbok on vocals, guitar and bass, Jackson Rogers on vocals and guitar, Tyler Gallagher on drums and vocals and Roman Benty on bass, vocals and guitar. The guys released “Destroy the Lizard Man EP,” earlier this year and a video for “Super Super.” You can catch them with Lone Wolf Club, And How! and Severed Fingers Friday, August 5 at Howlers.
Sound Scene Express: When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music
DENZELL: Well, Frank, Phil, Jackson and Roman all went to high school at Shaler together, and then they graduated and tried to live in other cities and go to college n@. That didn’t work out so much. So, destiny and friendship sort of brought everyone back to Pittsburgh. We were all sort of lost out there, and our happiness and friendship had always revolved around making music and keeping the chill central. We packed our shit up and went home. DENZELL then came together in the summer of 2013. The Zells became friends with Tyler G through playing shows with his band, Trash Bag. He was super chill. And when our original drummer, Luke McGowan, left the burgh for DC, Tyler officially became a Zell. ……tight.
SSE: How was Denzell chosen as your band name?
DENZELL: Frank came up with it. It just sounds awesome when you yell it. It’s smooth and sonically pleasing. Great name. It could be a battle cry or a state of mind. It’s mostly about how we’re the Zells, and DENZELL is like all our powers unified. Denzell is the purpose, and we’re the chess pieces.
SSE: Who writes your song lyrics? What is your/their inspiration?
DENZELL: We all write lyrics. There’s no lead singer really… The words are just our abstract expression of what life is like growing up on this planet at this time. Nowadays, truth is hella ambiguous: there’s not a whole lot of concrete things to believe in. It’s hard to keep your head up, man. There’s no ideology or philosophy in what we’re expressing. It’s all about emotion and soul. That’s how humans really identify with each other.
SSE: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
DENZELL: Wednesdays, baby. It’s hot, sweaty, and in our kitchen. Stop by Brown House and come on in…in our kitchen.
SSE: What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
DENZELL: This is just what we do. Honestly, our lots in life are straight up in opposition to us doing this: there’s a lot of forces at work that want to stop common people from rocking too hard, and having a voice. This whole era is a really unique time to be an artist, because there’s so much art and yet there’s no figureheads to act as the “voice of our generation.” Honestly, we all grew up downloading music illegally on the internet, and It sucks that we ripped off bands we really admire, but then again, we were 13 and needed to hear it. Fame and fortune are bad reasons to exert your passion. I think we do it as an act of protest. Making music is our way to stare back at the abyss: it’s a way to assert our existence. It’s a way to make new friends, and see new places. So long as we can keep doing that, we will keep being denzell.
SSE: You just released Destroy the Lizard Man EP and have a couple others. Are there any works for a full length?
DENZELL: Yes, yes indeed! We’re in the process of writing a full length that will probably come out sometime next year. We plan on getting into the studio this fall, and will likely release a single from the album before the end of the year. It might be called called Kevin. It might be called What a World. It might be called Hot Dog, I’m a Frog. But maybe not. Who knows?
SSE: You guys play a lot of house shows, do you prefer them over a traditional venue?
DENZELL: Yes, we really dig house shows. We also like playing places like Spirit or Howlers, but denzell sort of came up in the house scene. We like the idea of being on the same plane as the crowd, and we want the culture of house shows to stay alive. We like to dance and party with everyone. It’s also a nice way to directly support touring bands, by leaving out the extra cabbage that comes about working with a production companies. Often times, house shows are more fun and less hassle. They’re authentic and sincere. Don’t tell the police though.
SSE: What is your favorite Denzell song and why?
DENZELL: I’ll let the Zells answer this separately.
R. Zell: Asteroid Rock. It’s crazy and wild, like the runaway spirit of a mustang.
T. Zell: I was firstly a Denzell fan before I was in the band, and my favorites were always I Wanna be Your Canary and Walk Backwards.
J. Zell: Favorite song has been Walk Backwards for a while, I don’t know why….
F. Zell: I dig Orange Peel right now. I feel like its one of our most captivating songs. It’s groovy, but we only have a lo-fi demo of it.
P. Zell: Super Super. The lyrics make you think about your life a little bit, and what it is you find so important. We cause ourselves a lot of pain over funny things yaknow?
SSE: What do you think of the Pittsburgh Music Scene?
DENZELL: All in all, we think there are good things happening in Pittsburgh. There are certainly a lot of bands, and there are a lot of really helpful, supportive people in the city. The Deutschtown Music Festival was such a great time and really showed the importance of local music. The house show scene has definitely taken a hit, and that has affected youth accessibility. When it was still going strong, it was mostly dominated by emo and/or pop punk bands. And that’s cool! But it’s nice to have a greater variety of bands with a wider range of sound to play with nowadays. We’re also geographically located in a convenient place for touring bands, which is a good thing. We should all be really proud of everyone keeping music alive in Pittsburgh so that kids keep on putting their soul into it when we become obsolete.
SSE: Who is your favorite Pittsburgh band/ musician?
DENZELL: Pittsburgh bands!!!! Honey rules. Brazilian Wax is excellent. Bat Zuppel owns. Rue is killer. Trash Bag tears reality a new one. And then The John Trumaine Show makes it all make sense. Black Rap Medusa is one of the most important artists in the city. Gotta also show respect to the long time champs: The Speaking Canaries and the still active Microwaves and of course The Lopez.
SSE: What’s next for Denzell?
DENZELL: We wanna put out a single and a full length and then tour really hard on it with our pals in Philly, the amazing band Buster.
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DENZELL: Black Lives Matter!