From The Dust of Men
The Dust of Men is a five-piece, gritty, southern-influenced alt rock band from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Imagine if modern, guitar-driven alternative rock was birthed in Depression-era Kansas. That’s The Dust of Men. Their sound has been described as being “built on an aggressive foundation of alternative rock, framed in with folk, and roofed with revival music.”
Their first album, “What the Morning Shows,” was recorded at Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir) secluded April Base studio in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, and was released on December 6, 2013. Songwriter Grant Schultz is on vocals, rhythm guitar, and piano; Colin Carey is on drums; Jon Wojcik is on banjo; John Roemhild is on bass; and Clark Strasburg is on lead guitar.
The band plays what they call “testimony music.” After spiraling out of control and hitting rock bottom in 2005, battling severe addictions and depression, Schultz embarked on his personal journey from darkness to light, finding his voice and a transformed life along the way. Throughout that time, he also met and struck up close friendships with the other four men who would join him to become The Dust of Men. In the fall of 2012, seven years after his transformation began, Schultz began writing songs that expressed the emotional depth of his journey. Over the next year, he and the band crafted and fleshed out the songs that tell the story of “What the Morning Shows.”
The Dust of Men is clearly on this journey together, their hauntingly powerful instrumentation standing shoulder to shoulder with Schultz’s soaring vocals and refined storytelling. What holds them together is the genuine love they have for each other and for their faith. This is deeply passionate and contagiously spiritual music. It appeals to the core of what it means to be human: the questions, the struggle, and the hope.
“What the Morning Shows” is an auditory rollercoaster. While the band members’ eclectic influences—Sigur Ros, All the Bright Lights, Matthew and the Atlas, Radiohead, Bon Iver, Max Roach, The Roots, John Mark McMillan, and This Will Destroy You—all decorate the roomy, warm tones on the album, The Dust of Men has a sound all its own. Many of the songs were inspired by Schultz’s obsessive listening to the 1939 field recordings by John and Ruby Lomax, who preserved more than 700 songs on their year-long road trip through the Depression-era American South. Those gritty, emotionally honest sounds—of both survival and revival—became the band’s creative starting line.
What evolved from there is a tour de force that can be witnessed in all of their live performances. Carey’s organic, heart-beat drumming lays the foundation for Roemhild’s stunningly dynamic bass work, which, in turn, creates an open floor plan for Wojcik to roam in and out of with his bright, crisp banjo work. Every room is painted with a thick coating of Strasburg’s buttery reverb and velvety guitar licks. The sunshine that floods the whole structure is the shocking range of Schultz’s vocal prowess; from smooth and measured to raw and unrestrained, his lyrical stylings are articulate and emotionally stirring.
“What the Morning Shows” can feel old-timey in the best possible way with its jangly rhythms, gang vocals, and dirge drumming, but it also feels lithe, elegant, and ultra-modern. It’s a sound that music lovers everywhere will likely find themselves testifying about very soon.