PHOTOS: Ashley Walsh
SINGLE ARTWORK: Alice Bradley
The track, Going Home, is available via:
16th July, 2018
I get to look at slightly different subjects…
when thinking about DXTA. I have been following Dexter Krenal, whose solo project it is, and what he is putting out into the world. It has been a long road for him and he has gone through a lot but, right now, there is a lot to get excited about. Before I talk about the music and what is going on in his camp right now, I want to look at homelessness and sleeping rough; sounds that have a Punk flair and real personality to them; keeping going in the face of adversity and struggle; the world-famous Abbey Road Studios and artists whose music makes their way there; where DXTA can go from here – I will also have a quick look at artists who can change from being in a band to going solo and make things work. What strikes me about Krenal is how he has managed to come through some really bleak days and make things work out. It may seem odd to talk about homelessness in a music review but it is something I have spoken about before. I know a few musicians who are homeless and others who are sleeping rough right now. It is hard for many of us to imagine what they are going through and how hard their lives are. One might think Krenal would be thinking of anything but music when he was on the streets. The determination he had to get through the darkness and back on his feet can be heard in his sounds. Survival was key but there was always something working in the back of his mind that knew everything would be okay. In his new project, Krenal is joined by Rob Walsh on guitar, James Ford on bass and Kristian Driver on drums. It is a nice unit but one he might not have imagined would take shape. I predict big things will happen for DXTA and there will be much success coming their way. With Dexter Krenal as the lead and figurehead; it is going to be an interesting next few months.
It seems like music can provide a great platform to help the homeless and raise awareness. You only have to look at big cities like London and Manchester to see how prevalent the issue of homelessness is. I have just come back from Manchester and detected so many rough sleepers – something that is hard to see and cope with. I think the issue is getting more pronounced and things are pretty bad. Music can provide an outlet for those who are on the street. Not only is it a way of earning money but it is a source of creativity and channelling thoughts. I noticed a few homeless people in Manchester who played guitar and it seemed, to me, to provide some solace and guidance. I am simplifying things but I feel music has the power to pull us from the depths and give us some sort of direction. In the case of Krenal; he was sleeping rough in London and suffered drug and alcohol issues. He sought refuge in his hometown of Portsmouth and is was a challenging time for him. I met Krenal when he played a gig for me as part of his old band, Meat Loving Vegans. From that time until now, things have taken a turn and it might have seemed like he would not record any music again. Musicians are an important platform for raising awareness about subjects like mental-health issues and homelessness; struggles with addiction and political issues. I know Krenal has a powerful sound and, given his situation, I hope he unites with a homeless charity and helps get the word out regarding the plight of rough sleepers. He is not completely out of the woods but one hopes his worst days are behind him. In any case; it is a brighter route forward and music is keeping Krenal focused and moving ahead. I think a lot of the past experiences and torment he has faced goes into his current movements.
There is a lot of great music out there but I feel like something is missing. I mention bands like IDLES and Shame a lot because they produce great music but they have the swagger and sense of rebelliousness that you can hear in the classic Punk bands. Krenal’s previous incarnation had more spit and knuckles but DXTA has that distinct accent working away. There is no faking things with the frontman: he is an authentic bloke and does not disguise his voice to fit in with the market. If you had to compare his voice with anyone then I guess there is a bit of MGMT about it. It is a faint hint but it is there. In any case, there are few you can link him to. I feel artists lack a sense of authenticity and unique energy; we are missing bands who put the spark back into music and get into the ears. I am interested to see how Krenal’s project evolves and whether more material is coming out. I have been following Krenal, as I say, for a long time and know what he is capable of. As a stage performer, there is ample explosion and guts from the man. I love those artists who can put in a hellacious show and throw themselves into the crowd. That tactic might not work too well if you are playing at a Jazz club or in a coffee shop but for Krenal, and where he is used to playing, he vibes from the energy of the crowd. All of that intuition and physicality goes into the music. One hears plenty of heart and soul in the sounds and you feel a real bond with the singer. He is someone who has carried a lot of weight and, rather than let it bury him, channels that into incredible music. I will move on to another subject in a bit but feel it is important to keep on the topic of the music scene.
MODEL DESIGN: Alice Bradley
Look around the mainstream and there is little place for the older Punk sounds or something with classic edges. A few great Pop artists are emerging and it is good to see changing tastes but I do worry we have come too far to see a revival of the golden days. Maybe it is a class thing: the working-class musicians always struggle and not accessible to the big leagues. I am annoyed we have a situation where hungry and exceptional artists are being denied and things are set up for a particular kind of music. I long to see bands and artists who tell it like it is and win you with their ego-less persona. You get a lot of calculated discussion and songs when it comes to the mainstream. Look at what is being said and delivered right now and you have to ask how much freedom and flexibility there is. Many of us can identify with the music being put out at the moment but do you often take the time to explore the artist behind the sounds? Dexter Krenal is an intriguing figure who has an interesting story and has a bright future. There is nothing to suggest DXTA cannot be a big force in music but I ask myself how long it will take them. It seems the mainstream is less established to accommodate those with real talent and voice: you still have too many commercial artists that are winning a lot more focus than they should. I know DXTA will release more material and gig but, on sheer quality alone, I feel something good needs to happen now. You can hear that intent and know how much music means to them. With Krenal as lead and guiding voice, I feel there will be a lot of deep and interesting songs that go beyond the ordinary and love-based – a look at gritty sides of life and social observations. We can never get bored of artists who reflect reality and shine a light on what is not being said. For that reason, I feel DXTA are worthy of big love.
Not only do you get a bit of attitude and plenty of authenticity with DXTA but you have a central message that urges people to keep going strong and to hold on. Whether it is the depths of mental illness or addiction; sleeping rough or having a broken heart – Krenal is keen to show things can turn around and work out okay. It is all well and good saying things will be right but it is harder to believe. How powerful are words when they cannot transpose your situation and act as a magical fix?! I feel music holds the potential to change lives and change the world. Maybe it takes a lot of luck and community but, as we are more aware of social issues and big problems, social media acts as a great tool to unite and inspire. In the case of DXTA’s track, Going Home, there is a light at the end of the tunnel many of us can follow. Things have been tough for the lead but he is resolved to stay on a smoother course and see it through. Music is a therapy and safe drug for Krenal and an addiction that is a lot more healthy and secure than anything he has previously tried. I hope there are no relapses because, right now, he is in great form and keeping his spirits high. Listen to the latest track from DTXA and you feel a sense of the personal and revealing but there is a wider message to the people out there. Music should not solely be about sending big messages into the world but, if you have that platform, then it shouldn’t be about love and what is going on in your own life. I feel too many artists squander what music can do and do not explore bigger subjects. Maybe that is a sense of fear – commercial loss and people not responding – but so many of us are going through dark times.
Look at what is coming from DXTA right now and you hear a young man who knows the pains of isolation and fear and having to live on the streets. I can only imagine how his world fell apart and what he had to endure before finding his feet. I am not sure what the catalyst for the reckless behaviour was but, to me, it is a complex sense of events tied to a general frustration in professional and personal life. I hope there is more music to come from him that looks at his experiences and how he has managed to turn a corner. Even if those songs speak to one person and help them then it has been worthwhile and means music is doing what it should do – go beyond the speakers and connect with people. I feel too many artists are struggling to create something memorable and, in a market that is growing larger, that is going to continue. If they change tack and start reflecting something more substantial and meaningful then I feel music could really inspire and get into the mind. It should be more than just sound: artists need to project messages that are deeper and go past the cliché. Krenal is someone who can mix the familiar with the personal but turn the lyrics outwards and allow the listener to extrapolate whatever they need. The most powerful hit will be when he comes to perform songs like Going Home and how they resonate from the stage. With his band in tow and the ammunition inside of him; I feel he will get a great reception and go down a storm. Krenal has worked as a session musician and played the Reading and Leeds Festival with Misty Miller; he has worked with other bands and had plenty of experience. I know there will be a lot of gig chances for DXTA – and a chance for the people to connect with that incredible music.
It is not often an artist or song gets to Abbey Road Studios. Some are lucky enough to record there and be within touching distance of where The Beatles recorded their greatest sounds. I have never been there but really want to. I can only imagine how powerful and emotional it is walking through the doors and being in that stage. In the case of DXTA, the music was mastered there and you can hear the quality come through. That professional and legendary handling makes Going Home sparkle and pop. You can smell the studio and feel its blood running through the body of the song. I hope DXTA get a chance to play there and record an E.P. at those studios. It is a good start to have their music mastered at Abbey Road Studios and they can capitalise on that in the future. The latest song was recorded and produced at their guitarist’s studio down in Gosport. In a way, the song has taken a reversal role to Dexter Krenal. The man himself is based near Portsmouth and had his start in London. His song started life in Gosport but has been perfected and housed in London. I will talk a bit about Going Home’s video when I get to the song but there is a lot going on with DXTA. Even though there is not a big budget, you are attracted to the visuals and a song that gets right under the skin. Looking ahead and I wonder whether there will be another song before the end of the year. I have predicted a bright future for DXTA and I feel the momentum from the current single will lead to more releases. There is nothing to suggest Krenal and his band cannot take to some big stages and play the festivals. It is a bit late this year but I know next year will be an eventful one for them. We all want to bond with an artist or band that goes beyond the familiar and stays in the mind.
There is a lot of sound, momentum and energy that opens Going Home. There is a clash of drums and upbeat guitars; it has a 1960s feel and there is a jollity that mixes with the edginess. You are instantly connected to the song and compelled to move. As the whirling and cheery organ plays – forgive me if it is a different instrument – you hear Krenal come to the microphone and have his say. I can hear shades of bands like The Small Faces and there is a definite nod to past masters. What excites me is the unique voice of Krenal and how his personality reigns. He says, quite clearly, how he does not get along with anyone and seems to have that anti-social edge. The hero is afraid of dying – although he doesn’t know why – and he seems to be running from something. The song’s video sees Krenal rob a shop and gets away with a bag of cash. He points the gun at the owner and makes off with the stash. The symbolism and story of the video – the lead shooting a man who he bumps into whilst evading capture; nods to desolation and disconnection – make me think the song is a sign of desperation from a man who is making ends meet in nefarious ways and getting really scared. Mortality plays a big part and Krenal wonders why he feels fearful of his future. The composition has an amazing quality that matches frivolity and youthful energy with something more disciplined and dark. The excitement and electricity continue and you are following the plight of the hero. Things are surreal and the man cannot believe what is happening. Maybe it is a commentary on his situation and living on the streets or a look back at his past and the way his life has panned out. Going Home boasts that strong lead vocal that constantly questions, campaigns and strikes. Once or twice the vocal gets lost in the mix but, for the most part, it is clear and revealing.
I am impressed Krenal and DXTA did not go for an all-out assault regarding the composition. Maybe that was the first option but I feel the song is more potent given a sense of melody and optimism. I have mentioned a particular decade and band but, to be honest, there is so much working away. You get a fusion of decades and ideas that never seem to be distant and alien: it all hangs together and takes the song in different directions. The video follows the hero as he boards a train and heads home. His mate picks him up and they divide the money stolen and go their separate ways. All the while, the hero is being traced and tracked by police and there is that sense that he will be captured. The hero ends up being cornered and meeting his end and it seems to be a metaphor for walls closing in and being unable to run from the darkness. I know Krenal is in a better place now but I feel Going Home is a sign not to take desperate measures and find a way out of problems that involve criminality and risk. Maybe it is a wake-up call for him but, to many, it will ring true. I am one of those people who question what I am doing and whether it is the right thing. We can all get into the places where we feel trapped and not sure whether we should move or remain. Dexter Krenal has come a long way and he knows more than anyone what it takes to get clean and safe. Going Home is the sound of a man coming to terms with reality and making better decisions. I love how the band fuses together and the composition created. It is addictive and memorable and you will find yourself coming back again to discover new things. The song is a good sign of what the group/Krenal can achieve and what they can offer music. I would love to hear more material and am pumped to see where they head next. Maybe the sound will take a different slant but I feel there is a chemistry and formula in place already that is already established and solid. I can imagine Going Home going down a storm in the live setting and more gigs will come off the back of that. Make sure you investigate DXTA and follow what comes next – you will not want to miss it!
I have taken some time out to look at Going Home and what makes DXTA tick. This is a new project but one that has legs and big potential. Make sure you listen to the current track and see how far Dexter Krenal has come. I feel there are more singles coming and it will be interesting to see what sort of direction they take. In terms of sound; maybe it will mix some of Meat Loving Vegans’ sound and go in a more snarling direction. I feel Krenal can balance the rowdy and romantic and create his own identity. Right now, he has fused together a great sound that makes you come back time and time again. What gets to me is how he has managed to transition from painful and hard times and come through it. Maybe he is not completely free of his demons but the worst is out of the way, one hopes. Going Home has a personal origin but it is a mandate to people out there to keep going and stay strong. I will follow DXTA and what comes next and I feel there will be gigs coming up. I am not sure of the exact plan for the rest of the year but keep involved with the social media pages of DXTA and find what is coming up. I am impressed there are a lot of good photos available and the music is available across a number of sites. A lot of artists have a very vague platform and layout and their social media pages are weak. Maybe it is photos missing or they have very little information; they might be absent from some sites and it can be frustrating. It is important the music is strong and it gets into the brain. I find marketing and being visible is a crucial tool when it comes to standing out and capturing attention. If you have great music and know where you want to go then that is great but it is important, at a competitive time, to consider social media.
DXTA do/does it very well and it is pleasing to see. I would love to see them play and see how far Dexter Krenal has come. He has been through a lot of crap and there would have been points where he felt resigned and defeated. Coming from the streets and overcoming the black hole he was in is impressive but maybe he has a long way to go. It is never easy to get rid of addiction and ensure it does not come back into your life. I feel music is a very solid ground for him and something he can use to stay out of trouble and keep focused. A sense of optimism will come when the music starts to spread and more people share it. That has started already and I know it will continue as we head to the end of the year. Let’s all get behind DXTA and discover an exciting venture. The music reminds me a bit of the great Punk bands and, no matter what your tastes, it is impossible to deny the potency and wonder coming from the speaker. I have been a fan of Krenal for a long time now and it is great to see how his sound has shifted and shaped itself. I hope the success and determination continues and, in time, DXTA is allowed a passage to the mainstream. We are seeing bands like IDLES speaking about important things like masculinity and mental-health and it is striking much harder than a lot of what is coming from music. Maybe it can get a bit familiar and tired after a while but, if an artist can mix important subjects with something more familiar then that is a good blend. I am hopeful big success will come the way of DXTA and new songs will come. I am not sure what form the material will take but I feel the sound will get bigger and more ambitious. It is exciting to see the songwriter and lead grow and gain new traction. He has made his way from the streets and is in a position where he can inspire and grow. I hope the rise continues and DXTA is a name, soon enough, many of us…
WILL be familiar with.