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[l to r]:

Richard Davidson

Johnny Sangster

Robb Benson

Cassady Laton

1. Below The Belt
2. Creation Myth
3. Sorry To Sorry
4. Bipolar
5. You Always Win
6. Kings & Queens
7. Stories Of Our Lives
8. We Could Be Angels
9. To Them
10. My Volcano
11. I Still Scar
12. Drowning
13. Disappointed
14. For The Sake Of Love

[click to hear track]

Dear John Letters
Stories of Our Lives
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Throughout the history of poetry, the inspiration for writing poems has been found in the most innocuous of places. Jack Kerouac heard jazz verses in the gears of the trains that rolled through America while Walt Whitman heard his name being passed through the leaves of the trees.

For Seattle’s DEAR JOHN LETTERS’ singer/songwriter Robb Benson, he senses poems that seem to originate from the internal world, and inherently compliments the form within his song craft. “For me it’s like a channel, he says, “I just let them flow through me. I enjoy it when words have rhythm or if they just sound great together no matter what the meaning is behind them. There is a song in every good batch of words.”

On Stories of Our Lives, DEAR JOHN LETTERS’ third album and first national release, Benson has definitely chosen the right path. Along with guitarist and noted producer/engineer Johnny Sangster (Mudhoney, The Posies), bassist Richard Davidson and drummer Cassady Laton, the band has recorded a luminous fourteen-song album of stunning pop gems and introspective, tender ballads. From the irresistible “Sorry To Sorry” to the breathless, wailing pop of “My Volcano,” to the surging title track, “Stories of Our Lives” is a rousing and dazzling collection.

On all of the songs on Stories of Our Lives – whether it’s the propulsive and catchy “Bipolar” ("Though it’s about you / You’ll hear this song / And you will sing along") or the lilting Lennon-esque “Disappointed,” Benson's voice stretches the imagination – it can glide around corners, creating new flexibility for syllables. The explosive pop of “My Volcano” summons The Beatles’ “Back In The U.S.S.R,” and boasts all of the devilish double entendre’ of Oscar Wilde (“I showed her part of my volcano and she told me that she was not impressed”). The rolling allure of “We Could Be Angels” trades in its contemplative verses for a driving chorus and is accented by a wicked guitar solo by Sangster. Meanwhile the buoyant “Drowning” and the slinky new wave-like styling of “I Still Scar“ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Squeeze’s East Side Story.

The themes of Stories of Our Lives are the themes that Benson finds himself facing in his own life. “I am trying to understand the bigger picture to get a better idea of why everything is happening just as it is.” Nowhere on the album is this sentiment better explored than on the allegorical “The Creation Myth,” a complex study of humanity and altruism. “It’s all about sacrificing for the sake of everyone,” Benson says. “Loss for the greater good.”

Stories of Our Lives may tackle the big L’s – love, loss, loneliness, and longing – and everything else in between, but its central thesis comes in “Sorry To Sorry,” when Benson sings “we empty our hearts till they get full again.” It’s the album’s most cathartic moment, because it seems to suggest that no matter how badly our hearts get banged up, we’re never broken even when we break. “There always seems to be too much pain and suffering in the middle and towards the end of it,” Benson admits.

Dear John Letters / Official Site.

[BIO cont'd]

Born outside of Seattle in Mount Vernon, the singer/songwriter finds his influences in such classic acts as The Beatles, The Doors and Elvis Costello. He formed the beloved Nevada Bachelors in Seattle in the mid-‘90s, and put out two albums for PopLlama, achieving regional success, playing to packed houses in the Pacific Northwest and making respectable appearances on the CMJ charts. Although the Bachelors had amassed a fervent following, the band dissolved and Benson went off on his own to record the gorgeous Songs About Songs EP.

Soon after Benson found himself writing and recording a rich body of work under the name DEAR JOHN LETTERS – often using the poetry of lovers and friends as the lyrics for his songs. That body of work inspired Benson to expand the band’s touring throughout the state of Washington, and quickly released two well-received albums: 2000’s Rewriting The Wrongs and 2002’s Unbroken. In between albums, a refueled and prolific Benson hooked up to collaborate for a project with Sangster, who produced the first Nevada Bachelors album and Songs About Songs. They recorded Sangster Meets Benson, a collection of songs that found the two men trading choruses and hooks climbing dizzying heights of pop immediacy.

Although DEAR JOHN LETTERS has its sites set on a much wider audience, the band remains eternally grateful for the love and support their hometown has given them. One of the things about Seattle is that there is a real camaraderie between bands. Benson, who has friends/former band-mates in everyone from The Posies to The Presidents of the United States of America, acknowledges the brotherhood of the city “Everyone plays music together, everyone on any level puts the ego aside to recognize each others’ abilities.”

While Stories Of Our Lives contains several songs from the regionally released Unbroken, the album has a seamless design both sonically and lyrically. Opening with the mid-tempo “Below The Belt," it finds Benson showcasing a series of plaintive and purifying screams and closing with the lilting “For The Sake Of Love.” “It feels like an album now more then ever,” Benson says. I think it creates a true album feel like the records of the ‘60s and ‘70s. This has peaks and valleys. It's a lot like life – true ups downs and all arounds.”