Fans of Los Angeles roots duo Dead Rock West wouldn’t have been surprised if the band’s new album, 2017’s “More Love,” had been a downright depressing affair.
“I’m the most positive person, but since 2013 life has been challenging,” says co-vocalist Cindy Wasserman. “My dad died, and it was challenging taking care of my mom. Then I got this cancer diagnosis, and then my brother died. I was telling (band mate) Frank (Drennen) I was hoping that we’d write more uplifting and hopeful songs. With the feedback from audience members, they’re connecting on the level I was hoping for.”
Wasserman and Drennen aren’t household names, but they’re deeply connected to the Los Angeles country-punk scene that spawned influential bands like Lone Justice, their friends X and the Blasters, and current tour mate Peter Case’s Plimsouls and Nerves.
Wasserman – whose brother was bassist Rob Wasserman of Ratdog – has recorded and toured with X’s John Doe; she and Drennen have worked with Case and Doe as producers and as a duo have toured with Doe, his bandmate Exene Cervenka, and Dave and Phil Alvin. Currently, they’re touring with Case, who headlines Evening Muse with them Wednesday.
“Someone asked us in another interview if we ever write political songs. Frank said no and I said, ‘only because there’s so much going on in the world and people are so stressed,’ ” says Wasserman. “Many songwriters cover that. For us, it’s escapism. In the ’20s, during the Depression, people would go to the movies. They’d find a way. That’s what we gear our songs toward.”
In terms of her fight against breast cancer, Wasserman had two surgeries last summer, is nearing the end of her follow-up treatment, and is “supposedly better.” Yet her experience has given her a personal view of the healthcare debate.
“The premium is constantly going up and they don’t even tell me. When I started, it was maybe $400 a month, then it became – and I can’t believe I’m saying the price - $1,800 a month to $2,300 a month for January. If I didn’t have this cancer thing, I wouldn’t have insurance. I’ve always been healthy. This was so blindsiding to me. Before this, I never used my insurance. Now I’m forced to pay this crazy thing.”
Making the album “More Love” has been therapeutic, though. For the first time, Dead Rock West worked with Doe as producer.
“He made everything so much better,” she says. “He would say two things and it would shift a whole song from being, ‘Oh, that’s good’ to ‘Oh, wow.’ ”
Dead Rock West
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson. St.
Details: 704-376-3737; www.eveningmuse.com.