Dum Spiro Spero is the aural equivalent of a time machine, transporting listeners into an Americana somewhere after covered wagons but before filtered cigarettes. The Berkeley based, folk fusion trio’s music was probably what Levi Strauss hummed while he was inventing denim. No hyperbole. The band, whose name is Latin for
“while I breathe, I hope” is feel good, frantic folk complete with fiddle and musical saw. There is also some foot stomping involved.
Banjo/guitar player and vocalist Bowie Johnson sings lyrics ranging from natural disasters to lovers that smell like gin, while violinist Rafael Rangell and musical saw, accordion player Anthony Yousko’s instrumental arrangements flirt with so many genres that the music is just asking to be danced to in whatever way moves the listener.
The band was originally formed on a train traveling north to Seattle after seeing a passage of poetry tattooed on a stranger aboard. The passage became the band’s name and motto from that moment forward. They integrated the message along with the many various forms of music they were inspired by to drive the direction they would go in. The band feels they cross many genres such as Gothic Folk, Gypsy Americana and Alt-Country without ever falling stagnant into one concrete sound. Though this variation in genre and tone can vary from song to song, Dum Spiro Spero says, “our music is unified by a driving theme: The creative rebirth of hope out of the decay of apathy and destruction. We weave new tapestries of sound scape that sets us apart from the common thread. We have dreams of travel, music, art, self sufficiency, land stewardship, bringing people together and changing the world.”
The actual make-up of the band is one part that has changed with time. After traveling down from Seattle, the band really started to take shape in an old gas station parking lot in Berkeley, California. At this point Dum Spiro Spero was a guitar/banjo and songwriter duo. The first addition came from another unlikely location; a violinist and a saw player were found in a horse barn in the Oakland Hills. Since then the band has added and changed members but the current lineup usually consists of a banjo/guitarist, vocals, saw/accordionist, violinist, bassist and drummer or some combination thereof.
Dum Spiro Spero currently has three self released EPs:
2009 Caveat Emptor, "Buyer Beware"
2010 Illegitimus non Carborundum, "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down"
2012 Carpe Diem, Carpe Nocturnum, Seize the Day, Seize the Night"
2014 Alea Iacta Est, "The Die is Cast"
They have been on 6 west coast tours, 3 SW tours and 1 US tour. Dum Spiro Spero regularly plays at many local bay area venues and their events can be found on their website or on Facebook.