Tom Pritchard grew up in Fallbrook listening to his guitar-playing dad jam with members of the Surfaris. If he had not broken up with his girlfriend around 2004/2005, there might never have been Dynamite Walls.
Post-breakup, Pritchard took a year off from performing and turned his sorrows into songs that he began writing in a North Park studio with a friend named Doug Evans. When they had enough new material, Pritchard reasoned that it was time to form a band. He and Evans assembled members for the first Dynamite Walls, and things immediately began to look up.
“We got a development deal with Epic as the result of a demo we made,” says Pritchard. “My brother had passed away two days before we were supposed to record. It was pretty gnarly. We just went in anyway and made the demo and sent it off...[Epic] told me to work on a few of the songs. I did, and soon after I was putting together a band and meeting producers. Chris Foitle, of Epic, introduced us to a dude named Jason Burkhart who was 22 at the time. We got along, and we decided to make him our manager.”
Pritchard says Epic shopped the band around to various producers and that showcase gigs followed.
“We went out and played SXSW [South by Southwest, the annual music-industry gathering in Austin], got taken out to dinner, thought we were gonna get a record deal, and found out later that our label contacts at Epic had all gotten fired.” D-Walls went from deal to no deal.
Steve Serrano, former drummer for Dynamite Walls, says that the first night of their first national tour was, unbeknownst to the band, spent in a home where one of Seattle's worst shootings had taken place the year before. All night long Serrano heard strange noises, creaks, and groans in the timbers of the old house.
"It felt really weird," he says. "Like, was it the house, or was it something else?" The next morning, while using his cell phone on the front porch, Serrano spotted something odd in the front yard. "I saw this box. It had flowers and all kinds of weird stuff on it," he says. "Later, a lady came by and dropped off flowers in front of the house."
It turns out that the box was a shrine to the shooting victims. On Saturday, March 25, 2006, a gunman killed six and wounded two at a rave afterparty before turning a gun on himself. The early-morning rampage became known as the Capitol Hill Massacre. After that, the house at 2112 E. Republican Street sat empty until friends of friends of Dynamite Walls' keyboard player took advantage of the cheap rent.
“It was scary to find that out the next day,” says Serrano of the massacre. “I wouldn't have stayed there if I'd known about that. The house had a very eerie feeling about it.”
Nominated for MTV2’s Band on the Rise competition, their album The Blinding Lights Above was released in 2007 and an EP called Stay Awake came out in 2009.
They were nominated Best Pop at the 2009 San Diego Music Awards, an honor they won in 2010.
During a Belly Up performance, they caught the ear of L.A. producer Paul Fox (XTC, 10,000 Maniacs, Phish), who became their manager and helped get them signed to the Universal/Republic label in early 2010.
The band circa 2010 was Pritchard and his younger brother Eric on drums, with Alex Blundell, Alan Bates, and Paul Kimmell. Members wrote and recorded demos of radio-ready pop-rock from their Encinitas home base. Their 2010 recording sessions took place at a number of studios, including Threshold in Santa Monica.
In early 2011, they debuted new songs from what was scheduled to be their Universal Republic debut Chemicals at the Roxy Theater in L.A., including “Keep Spinning Around” and “That Girl.” The sophomore full-length was a diverse mix of influences. Prichard explains “To get a great chorus, sometimes you need to plead like Bob Marley did, or explain it in a melody like Bob Dylan. When you need music to lift or saturate you can draw from the Deftones or Arcade Fire. It’s all about the feeling and that’s what influences us.”
When they were nominated for four 2011 San Diego Music Awards (though they failed to score any trophies), their Universal Republic album Chemicals remained unreleased. "There were three months when we didn't hear anything," says Pritchard. During this period, guitarist Alex Blundell quit the band.
"Then, we got the letter [from Universal Republic]. It said that they were dropping all the new bands, including us." So, what became of Chemicals? "It's sitting on a hard drive somewhere at Universal Republic. They wouldn't give us our masters back unless we gave them, like, $30,000 dollars."
The group soon split, with Pritchard moving from Encinitas to East Hollywood to form a new band called Western Scene with former Dynamite Walls manager Jason Burkhart. Pritchard says he offered to take the remaining members of D-Walls with him to Los Angeles, but they declined. "The guys had put everything on hold for the last six years. They wanted to get on with their lives."