Between shifts stocking vegetables and aiding customers in their ever-important searches for pickled condiments, Daniel Hawks takes his lunch time to gracefully talk about the gypsy/blues/cabaret band D.on Darox and The Melody Joy Bakers, for which he plays lead guitar. Juggling his personal and professional lives comes naturally to Hawks. Ever since moving from his native Portland, Hawks has gathered around him trusted musicians and friends, many of whom share a similar background, living the gypsy lifestyle that influences their music. It wasn’t until Hawks met D.on Darox that the idea for the band took off. “I developed a few lead guitar parts on top of what D.on was already doing, and then we added the fiddle (Andrew Weigel) and the trumpet (Noah Thomas).” Gilly Furuta (percussion) and Michael Doane (upright bass, banjo) fill out out the jovial swing-infused lineup, an energy and sound unique to Ventura.
Taking it from the streets
For those familiar with Ventura politics, the name Melody Joy Baker should ring a bell. Her presence on Main Street in her recognizable electric wheelchair inspires conversation, and inspired D.on Darox and Daniel Hawks when it came time to find a name for their collaboration. “She and I have had arguments in the past,” said Darox. “She’s iconic in Ventura. Everyone knows who she is. She raises hell and she brings hell, but we’ve patched things up in that respect.” When Darox first began performing on the streets, Baker questioned the legality, claiming that he would need a business license. “She sticks to her guns, even though I disagree with a lot of what she has to say.” When Baker ran for City Council, Darox printed signs and other campaign merchandise for her. “Homeless person on the City Council? Why the hell not. I think everyone should have a voice.”
For all of the energy and excitement pouring forth from the stage during a performance, Darox and Hawks are both rather laid back. Hawks spends his time on stage nursing an alternate energetic persona — Clark Kent by day, musical Superman by night. “I’m half the man I am on stage in normal life. I’m kind of boring and dull in real life, I save it all for the stage,” said Hawks. As a prize fighter might save himself for the ring, Darox sees the stage as an excuse to let go and release pent-up emotions. “It’s my confessional. I’m usually in my own world. If someone can express those feelings and let that come out on stage, then you’ve got yourself a show. If something is genuine and honest, people can relate to it,” said Darox, who challenges his fans to keep up. “I want people to leave our show exhausted from dancing. I want people to relate to the stories and emotions and to forget about all the shit that’s been going on all week and to have a good time.”
D.on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers will release their new album, Agonizing Sad Beauties, on Christmas in both digital and CD formats.