Bells’ Toll: Let Independents Ring – Our Q&A with “the Original Sweety Guy,” Average Dez

About the “Let Independents Ring” Series:

When we first started writing for IE Weekly back in 2007, we wrote a few columns on mainstream artists before we began covering the local IE music scene, mainly discovering bands via MySpace. Around the same time, we started collecting records more obsessively. We met and fell for so many bands and have continued to support both independent artists and record stores. Through this series, we plan on highlighting bands and musicians that want to be “heard” amid the vast and competitive musical landscape, hopefully contributing to their growth. In her master’s project, Kady compared local bands to non-profits, as they typically put most of what they have into creating art, thereby providing a service to their communities. By sharing independent bands' stories through short Q&As, our goal is to inspire more listens, follows, likes, and, perhaps, success, to let them loudly ring. We hope you’ll also lend them your ears (and, us, your eyes), starting with Average Dez.

“It’s up to you, yes or no, will you stay or will you go…”

Average Dez recently reached out to us to let us know that he was going to release a new record when he hit 1,100 YouTube subscribers. We immediately subscribed, and, just a few weeks later, he’s already surpassed his goal and released a new single. Although he’s only been performing as a solo artist in Leeds, UK for a little over one year, he’s been in metal, punk, emo, blues, and indie pop bands for the past 10 years. So far, under his newer moniker, he’s managed to release several EPs, such as Beautiful Life and 2018 to 2019 the First Year of Average Dez, all reminiscent of ‘80s and ‘90s staples, such as the Cure, the Church, Dramarama, XTC, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, and Blind Melon, and all cheerfully catchy and striking in their simplicity (“it’s irrefutable,” and also mostly just him and his guitar).

His new singles, “Stay Close to Me” and “I Like You,” along with the rest of his catalog, are available on most major streaming services. He’s said he aims to create earworms, and we haven’t been able to get these new songs, or older song “Excuse Me (You Caught My Eye)” out of our heads. Overall, Dez has a lot of talent and positive energy for an average guy, and we must say that, most of all, we just like him.

Our Q&A with “the original sweety guy” (another name he’s called himself) follows, below:

Bells’ Toll (BT): How did you get your monik­­­­er, “Average Dez?” We think you’re selling yourself short, lol.

Average Dez (AD): Hello, Kady and Jess! Average Dez was a name I established during a period where I was writing songs in my bedroom and uploading them to whomever happened to come across them. This was my first venture into songwriting and singing, so, given that the quality of my songs and the vocals were both a work in progress, the title essentially allowed me to make the first joke at my expense! A year or so later, the name still remains, but is hopefully not as reflective of the quality of my songs as it once was. It's a humble reminder of where I started, and even more so regarding wherever I head.

BT: What’s your story? How long have you been performing? Did you grow up in Leeds?

AD: I have been performing for more than a decade now. Initially, I participated in heavy metal and punk bands in Leeds, where I’d mix and match being on guitars and/or fronting the bands. I was drawn to the expression and energy in these communities that still applies to my approach to music today. Throughout the years, alongside participating in those music scenes, I was able to access and express a softer touch in cleaner sounding bands stemming from emo, blues, indie/pop, and beyond, generally connecting me to the broad soundscape of music within Leeds. I have been based within Leeds for the most of my life, and, from an artistic perspective, it's very fortunate; we have an incredibly diverse culture, here, especially regarding music.

BT: You planned on releasing a new record when you reached 1,100 YouTube subscribers. How did you reach this goal?

AD: Hopefully through consistency in my work and developing bonds and connections with those who show me attention (which to me are the most incredible people!! Thank you so much!) alongside remaining a face around my local circuit. Giving away material for achieving small milestones assists me in establishing momentum as an artist and is a great reason to celebrate and say thanks in return! I think it's a nice way to reciprocate a relationship with those who take a little time to support my work; it's early days and every person who interacts and builds with me is ever so special.

BT: Will your music video be for “I Like You"? Do you have a concept in mind?

AD: No, it won't be. By the time I've responded to this, you may have noticed it was for a new tune, “Stay Close to Me.” I have released a properly produced recording of “I Like You,” alongside the new single “Stay Close to Me” that you can find on Youtube and streaming sites.

Considering it had been a relatively long while since I last released any new material, I thought I’d apply the video to a new track. Conceptually, it's a completely DIY video, consisting of footage of my performances around various venues entwined with a visual homage to the city of Leeds. This was such a fun project. I have never made a music video before, and given the documentation of this brief period and participation from a bunch of friends from the community who helped to compile the live footage, it makes it very sentimental to me. I captured it on a small budget handheld camcorder I bought years back and had no purpose to use until now. Lots of fun!

BT: You said in a previous interview that you tried to write joyous songs for the EP Beautiful Life, because it’s too easy for artists to draw from places of sadness. Was it difficult to avoid depressing topics, and have you continued to do this?

AD: Songwriting is incredible therapy, and it's so understandable why we use it to outlet the bad just as much as the good. I personally find it so much easier to express my feelings through song and creation than through verbal communication, so it can be hard to stray from negative themes. Expressing the harder sides can create great connection and benefit for those experiencing like circumstances, but personally from here, as a parallel from the music I have created in the past within the pessimism of metal and punk bands, I want to focus on allowing my art to be an outlet of positive energy. Some song ideas may cover unsatisfactory topics, but I hope to portray them as a means of growth and approaching such situations from an optimistic outlook. If I can connect at all emotionally with my music, I would love to provide an uplifting experience and a momentary escape from the troubles that we deal with on a daily basis.

BT: You released three records in three months, so it seems like your first year has been pretty productive. Did you have a backlog of material at that time, or was it just a super creative period for you?

AD: During that process I was learning how to structure songs appropriately and generally developing a foundation for the material to follow. I am fortunate enough to be friends with a local producer, so being able to put my songs on record and out fast wasn't an issue. I had a few more songs than that in the back catalog, but really emphasized particular songs so I could get them done efficiently in the studio, and the result were the collections I released!

BT: Are you the baby and little boy pictured on some of your records? In your songs, you seem just as happy as those babes. 😊

AD: That's me! It's great you feel happiness in my music – thank you!

BT: You have several songs named after women, and they’re all quite positive, which we appreciate. Are they based on real women from past relationships or are all of them fictional characters?

AD: I wouldn't want to paint anyone in a negative light in my lyrics; some lyrics are more generalized, as opposed to a strict literal scenario, to ensure I don't ostracize any listeners if they can't associate with the experiences in my songs. For the most part, my lyrics are based around real experiences and people. The songs named about people are real, albeit some more direct than others. An exception would be “Heather,” in which I just enjoyed the hook I wrote! After that song, I actually established a connection with a girl named Heather–a self-fulfilling prophecy 😊

BT: Your songs also seem to have an innocence to them, like you haven’t yet experienced heartbreak. Have you just been really lucky in love, or how do you put a positive spin on past relationships?

AD: I'm happy you feel that from my music. I have a philosophy that a person’s creative outlet is childish in nature in a very positive way, and, in keeping grasp of that side of me, I guess there is an underlying innocence and purity that exist, prior to the burden of responsibility we receive as we age. I regress within my music and tap into an incredible sense of freedom; the imagery I used of my younger self on my early release covers reflects that. Regarding the latter of your question, I have experienced the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships, and I personally believe it's necessary to experience a bit of the sour side to sober up from the naivety that the beautifully comfortable love hormone can pump you up with at times. All experiences are a learning curve for me, so I don't take any past relationships too seriously or negatively.

BT: We really love your Live in the Hive videos. How did those come about?

AD: In Leeds, there's a regular night for performers based in a fantastic venue called Northern Guitars. The media organization that records the artists that perform over there also work externally. Both of the crew are great people and we established a very fruitful relationship I hope to continue.

BT: What’s next for you?

AD: Keep moving onwards and upwards; continue performing, writing and producing, and loving what I do!!

BT: Thank you for your time, Dez! We hope to hear your new record soon!

AD: Thank you so much! All the best, you two!

(Please note: this interview was proofread for grammar and clarity).

If you're an independent artist or band and would like to be featured in this series, please contact us for consideration. We can be reached at jkbellstoll@gmail.com or via Instagram (@thebellstoll).