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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

New Mexico band, Dust City Opera, is bringing ‘haunted grunge folk’ to Wichita

Clara+Byom%2C+Scott+Brewer%2C+Paul+Hunton%2C+Travis+Rourk+and+Jesse+Culberson+
Photo courtesy of Dust City Opera
Clara Byom, Scott Brewer, Paul Hunton, Travis Rourk and Jesse Culberson

Dust City Opera is an alternative rock band from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The group boasts a wide range of influences, coming together in a sound which frontman Paul Hunton described as “haunted grunge folk” and “a carnivalish mishmash of esoteric nonsense.” 

On April 8, they’ll bring that sound to WAVE as part of a tour promoting their newest EP, “Cold Hands,” released March 8.

Hunton said he dreamed up Dust City Opera in 2018 “to house my growing collection of songs that I’d written.” 

He recruited Clara Byom (clarinet and accordion), Travis Rourk (trombone), Scott Brewer (bass), and most recently, drummer Jesse Culberson. 

The group has since made a name for themselves in their hometown, winning New Mexico Entertainment Magazine awards including “Top Rock Group” and “Best Rock Album” for “Alien Summer” in 2023. 

“Cold Hands” is their first release since signing to Rexius Records, a Swedish-based label that specializes in “upcoming” artists. 

Brewer said “Cold Hands” is unique from their previous music, including albums “Heaven” in 2019 and “Alien Summer” in 2022, because each band member had a hand in the process, rather than working off of music already written by Hunton. 

“I think transformation is kind of the theme that I think every song has in some form or another,” Hunton said. “That’s been the case with some songs in the past, but I think on this, every one of them is some sort of either death or in rebirth or going through some sort of tunnel and coming out the other side.”

Hunton said each song incorporates that concept in different ways, including the opening track, “Drunk On A Ladder,” in which “drinking beers in the yard turns into some sort of spiritual revelation.” 

“That’s what compels me in songs and stories, I think, is a big transformation,” Hunton said. “There’s a lot of songs about, you know, bumping up on someone on the dance floor or whatever, but that’s never been that interesting to me. I’d rather hear a harrowing tale of suffering and catharsis.” 

But, despite the themes in Dust City Opera’s music, Rourk said, “We don’t take ourselves as seriously as our lyrics would suggest.” 

Wichita’s MILKWAVE will join Dust City Opera for the April 8 show. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

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About the Contributor
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.

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