Sometimes art grows in the unlikeliest of places. Now on the eve of the Dead Weight’s debut release, UpLift, it is strange to look back and think about the original intention of the band when they were founded in 2012. Originally aspiring to be Indianapolis’ premier backing band, leader and co-founder, Geoff Zentz sought to bring together a strong core of committed, talented musicians who desired—like him—to promote and provide live backing for local artists who were already creating music. “We’re the ‘dead weight,’ the excess,” he said at the time. “Our goal is to be the kind of band that can offer solo artists a group of musicians dedicated to the integrity of their music.”
Fast forward to 2015. “One day, I just sat down and wrote some lyrics for 91 Whiskey,” says Zentz. “It just poured out—I still feel like it couldn’t have come from me.” Suddenly, Zentz had “permission” to create and that same integrity the Dead Weight cultivated for others’ work bled right into their own. Zentz kept writing and the band was all for it. “The guys would show up and play their hearts out. It truly was beautiful how each part seemed to just fit perfectly,” Zentz says.
“No one is trying to stand out, we all play to together and we do what is best for the song/music,” says drummer Bryan Treharne, echoing sentiments from the entire band. “A band of six can easily get muddied or overwhelming if everyone is looking for their time to shine,” says Zentz. “The guys in this band have craft and grace in which they are always looking to serve the song and the listener before serving themselves.” To the listener, that much is obvious. UpLift’s songs are not crafted around solos or hooks; the music is artfully molded around the songs. The Dead Weight are not afraid of empty space. They embrace the quiet moments and rock-n-roll in equal measure.
What is evident is that the band’s mission is to be true to the songs and have fun. “It has to be fun. It has to be explorative. When stresses outweigh that, it’s not worth it,” says keys player Colby Holmes. That’s true to the band’s original intent. “That’s why it is so great to work with people I respect, who are creative, authentic artists,” says Warren Kost, co-founder and pedal steel player. “I believe we’ve lived up to the mission of the band and title of the record and I hope that this album offers a deep connection to the people that hear it,” Zentz says.
So, what started as an exercise in support and a check-your-ego-at-the-door environment has proven to be the perfect place for art to grow. That’s the beauty of what the Dead Weight is about. As guitarist Seth Smitherman put it, “Being a musician in this band isn’t about getting rich or being famous, it is about creating something from nothing that hopefully means something to someone.” You start with the Dead Weight first. Whatever grows from that is UpLift. Zentz says, “We want to make something new that connects with and brings hope to people.”
UpLift is a rarity in its honesty and earnestness. The listener looking for that connection and hope, they need look no further than right here among the Dead Weight.