D+ Look To Make The Grade With Pop Debut

Former Beat Happening member Bret Lunsford issues understated, countryish pop-trio's first album.

For D+ lead singer and guitarist Bret Lunsford, waterlogged interviews are just another task in service to the most righteous calling life has to offer him -- music.

"I think that we all have a very similar sense about how important music is in our lives," he said, speaking from a leaky phone booth in the midst of a downpour. "If in some perverse world I had to make a choice between music and family, it'd be obvious that I'd choose family. But at the same time, it gives so much to me just to be able to make music."

It's that type of dedication and appreciation that saturates D+'s understated Dandelion Seeds (K Records), released earlier this year.

As a member of the influential Beat Happening, Lunsford helped define lo-fi indie pop for the '80s and '90s. But while that band's emphasis on amateur charm was invigoratingly rebellious, the sounds of D+ are steeped in contentment.

The countryish pop-band's debut, Dandelion Seeds manages to slip more than one sharp edge between the lines. The just-shy-of-tough "Dandelion Wine" sounds like something Link Wray may have created had he been a shopkeeper instead of a greaser, while "Green Party" (RealAudio excerpt) drops old fashioned rock 'n' roll thump behind a lyrical proposal to arm beavers with automatic weapons.

With his new band, which includes bassist Karl Blau and drummer Phil Elvrum, Lunsford, 34, has traded in his bohemian past to become, as he said, "settled." The father of daughters aged 8 and 2, Lunsford runs a small bookshop, called The Business, in Anacortes, Wash., 75 miles north of Seattle.

"Music is so much fun," he said. "It's just food for my soul. Especially with Karl and Phil, being in a band together allowed us to deepen our friendship and also our collaboration musically. ... If we only played in our practice room, that would satisfy me."

Like Lunsford and Elvrum, Blau, 23, grew up in the San Juan Islands in Washington's Puget Sound. He credits small-town island life for jointly fostering a sense of independence and an appreciation for community for all three bandmembers.

Those values extend to D+'s music, Elvrum, 20, said. "Recording is a big part of making music. It's nice to try and sell the recordings, but even passing them around to my friends would satisfy me."

D+'s Dandelion Seeds includes as its centerpiece the tune "Don't Worry About Me" (RealAudio excerpt), a quiet, country-flavored, stream-of-consciousness piece that vacillates between eschewing help and asking for it. "Don't worry 'bout me/ I've got a day job," Lunsford sings in flat tones, only to implore a few verses later, "Please worry 'bout me -- I've got a day job."

Lunsford said the song came to him in a rush, and he has difficulty explaining the inspiration.

"There's aspects of doing my retail persona that I don't like," he said. "But at the same time, there's aspects of the music business that -- well, it's not like they're trying to snatch me up."

But in the end, the singer of the song is buoyed by his relationships. "I've got a family who will bail me out again, forgive me of my sins," he sings.

Lunsford also sees his band's self-sufficiency as a radical vote against consumer culture. Rather then purchasing amusement or stimulation, he's generating his own.

"There's a lot of ways to dismiss the indie scene and its self-indulgences," he said, "but I have a healthy respect for the attempts of people to try and entertain themselves."