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China Davis releases lifetime album, "Arctic Days"

Record release party at The Swiss in Tacoma Sept. 5

China Davis will release their "Arctic Days" CD at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub Friday, Sept. 5. Photo credit: Chloe Fuller

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China Davis is a band that is firmly rooted in the foundation of Americana and singer/songwriter tropes with the ability to take in a larger conversation of rock and alternative elements. Along with singer and principal songwriter Ben Fuller, China Davis features the guitar work of Fuller's younger brother Ted Fuller and long-time friend and bassist, Eric Balcom. Drummer Andy Stockton, also of Clearly Beloved, rounds out the group on drums. Now, with their latest album, Arctic Days, the band is set to build on a foundation of good songs and seasoned workmanship.

China Davis has not been an easy road for Fuller.

"We've struggled in the past with people saying that we were trying for arena rock or something like that," says Fuller. "I think the mindset on this one (their latest album) was just to embrace all aspects of who we are."

Those familiar with "music scene politics" are probably familiar with the connotations of being labeled "arena rock"; it would be no understatement to call it an albatross. While Fuller understands the connotation and the comments, he has a clearly defined vision of the band and himself.

"We're not just an upstart band here, this is real life," says Fuller. "If you don't struggle then how the hell is anyone supposed to relate to you anyhow?"

Most recently, the band has seen some line-up shifts, prior to settling on their new rhythm section, the group features The Voice finalist Vicci Martinez's rhythm section. "I suppose that once you reach a certain age and a certain level of failure, you have to figure out why you're doing something," says Fuller. "In the end, I do music to pass something down and to let people know more about what I'm feeling or thinking."

The band's latest album, Arctic Days, was recorded in the large downtown Tacoma church, Urban Grace. "What was amazing was that it was an old theater and it really helped us to think of our songs as not just some bland studio recording it put us in performance mode," says Fuller. "It was a very different and inspiring place to be." It is clear from speaking with Fuller, that Arctic Days is more than a labor of love, and perhaps he has put everything he has into making the album.

"As odd as it sounds, we've been writing this album for years," explains Fuller. "There is a song called ‘Sweet Haven' that we wrote when I was 20 years old after one of our best friends, Scott Tyree, died on his way to go fishing in Alaska. I held onto that song because I wanted the right album for it. Every song has something very personal in it - we're not trying to impress anyone here. I'm just trying to get this stuff out of me. It's a healing album for sure."

So what can you expect from the band fronted by such a driven singer/songwriter? When a singer/songwriter approach to music works at its best, it almost has to exist in a context of deconstruction; Arctic Days is rich with such an approach. For example, in a song like "Seascape," you can clearly hear how it was written, but bears no resemblance to how you would typically go about arranging the song. Groups such as Wilco have made a career out of this approach, although the band doesn't sound like Wilco, as much as they appear to work in a similar manner.

Of course, there are more obvious and easy comparisons to be made between China Davis and more notable bands: Coldplay, and more resonantly U2 - the guitar work of Arctic Days almost mirrors the "infinite sustain" pioneered by Edge. "Beautiful Girl" seems the most U2 song recorded in the last decade, even at times out U2'ing U2 - this is not to say it is a carbon copy, or even a homage, just that it holds the same kind of sonic tension that a record like Joshua Tree made famous.

At its heart, Arctic Days is a Northwest album full of sea imagery, cold nights and damp spirits.

"I wanted to put together something that represented my family fishing heritage in a very real way - not in a corny or gimmicky way," explains Fuller. "The relationships I saw growing up, how inspiring it is to see people who spend their lives together and don't give up because of something petty. That's probably the main reason my brother Ted and I keep doing this because we know we're coming from a real place. We never wanted to be in a throwaway band or a one-night stand group."

Perhaps after years of fighting, Fuller has found his victory. Despite it all, China Davis is not a throwaway band, nor a one-night stand group.

CHINA DAVIS ARCTIC DAYS CD RELEASE PARTY, 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5, first 150 people receive free promo CD, The Swiss Restaurant & Pub, 18901 S. Jefferson, Tacoma, 253.572.2821

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