With their fiery brand of high-and-lonesome, tent-revival rock, Slim Cessna's Auto Club may well be the most intriguing band to come out of Denver. Or at least they were, back before a new band called Denver Broncos UK came on the scene.
That's largely because four members of the Auto Club — Slim Cessna, Jay Munly, Lord Dwight Pentacost and Rebecca Vera — have taken to performing as the Denver Broncos UK, a group that dials back the volume while sacrificing none of their other band's charisma, nuance or intensity.
Lord Dwight Pentacost — who plays banjo, melodica, autoharp and more in the group — attributes the band's low profile more to circumstance than intent.
"Munly, Slim and I had discussed playing together as a trio possibly a decade or so ago," he says. "We were living in different cities, and this was in the days of cassette recording and dial-up Internet, so working on an additional band to the Auto Club took some time."
The group's first session took place back around 2006. "We found an extra day together in Denver and recorded a handful of songs on a 4-track cassette machine."
The band, which only recently began gigging regularly, is now playing art galleries, underground clubs and larger venues like the Oriental Theater, which is also home to the Auto Club's annual New Year's Eve shows.
Onstage, Munly's deep voice and acoustic guitar weave seamlessly with Vera's cello and pump organ, while Cessna provides light percussion, fleshed out by striking vocal harmonies and Lord Dwight's menagerie of instruments.
"I think I was originally going to play a toy accordion that Munly had given me," he recalls. "We always had the idea of it having a bare sound, but our ideas transmogrified as we worked on our early recordings. When we began performing live, the sound became even more interesting."
The first song the band recorded was the mysterious, moody "Broncos Fight Song," for which a video appeared on YouTube in 2007. A 7-inch single, "The Red Cross Is Giving Out Misinformation," came out late last year, along with an unforgettable cover of "Top Yourself" on Caroline Records' Rockin' Legends Pay Tribute to Jack White album. The group has also finished recording songs for its forthcoming debut album.
While the quartet's bare-bones sound and unorthodox instrumentation is difficult to categorize, it fits nicely into the movement known as the "Denver Sound," which frequently combines traditional American folk and country with post-punk leanings.
"We do have similar interests, which is why we work so well together. I grew up in rural Illinois, with my parents' folk and country records in the home. Then, in my teen years, I became interested in louder music, courtesy of my big sister who had moved to Denver. Combining the two came naturally."
As for the Southern Gothic sensibilities that permeate both bands' repertoires, Lord Dwight was already predisposed in that direction: "Being surrounded by woods as a child, I think, gave me an appreciation for mystery and nature and ghosts."
Asked whether the band's name confuses local football fans, he responds in a convincing deadpan.
"I don't understand," he says. "Is there a football connection?"