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Strung out on a dream: Underground band Comes With The Fall has a love affair with music

By Crystal K. Wiebe, Times Features Writer

On first listen, the Comes With The Fall song, “So Cruel” could be just another bitter ode to unrequited love.

Over heavy guitar and bass, lead vocalist William DuVall pathetically croons, “No words I say can speak my heart./And no mask I wear will let me play the part.”

But as in many of DuVall’s ballads, more than a sad boy-girl love story lurks below the surface of the lyrics.

“There are a lot of times when any given line could be applied toward a person, but it could also be applied toward what you’re doing,” he said by phone from his hometown in Atlanta.

In DuVall’s case, he’s just as likely to be singing to music itself as to a woman.

Devotion to song brings DuVall and his rock cohorts, bassist Adam Stanger and drummer Bevan Davies, to The Note in Chicago on Wednesday.

“(Music) has pretty much consumed my whole life…at the risk of all other things like economic stability and other relationships,” DuVall said.

Before committing to the gutsy rock of Comes With The Fall, which has been compared to Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden, he fooled around with other genres – punk, free jazz and avant-garde.

He also co-wrote the R&B/pop hit “I Know” with Dionne Farris in the mid-1990s.

“I don’t really do much of anything else (besides making music),” DuVall said.

“It either is the actual act of doing it or dealing with all the work that facilitates doing it.”

He takes care of the business end of music making through his own DVL Recordings, which allows him to keep his projects independent as long as possible.

“I never have been against the idea (of signing with a major label),” he said. “It’s just been more a question of the right kind of help. In this industry, everything’s stacked against you, anyway, if you’re an artist.”

Despite critical acclaim, Comes With The Fall is best known for backing up and opening for former Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell on his Degradation Trip tour.

Life on the road hardly is glamorous for underground acts like Comes With The Fall.

“Obviously, it’s a lot more hand and mouth, a lot more punk rock,” DuVall said.

The band’s dedication has DuVall, Stanger and Davies sleeping on stranger’s floors most nights exemplifying the wayward existence DuVall sings about in the final verse of “So Cruel”:

“Maybe we choose our own destiny./Born to be drifters on a raging sea./And crucified upon this cross that we call love.”

Only by the grace of supportive fans can Comes With The Fall sometimes save money on meals and hotels. Before the current tour, some fans mailed the group cash and food coupons.

“Aside from buying a DVD or a shirt or whatever, they just sent money,” DuVall said. “I felt like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’.”

Even so, he said he wouldn’t recommend road life to anyone who didn’t truly believe in what they were doing.

“Belief in the music, that’s what’s fueling us,” DuVall said.

Although it’s often masked by references to traditional love, his musical hope and frustration is reflected throughout his music, perhaps best in the song title, “Strung Out On a Dream.”

DuVall said he wished more people would pick up on that element of his songwriting.

“(This life) is an extreme act of faith, an extreme act of love,” he said.