When drummer Tim Herzog left Des Ark in the fall of 2005, singer and guitarist Aimee Argote was crestfallen. She'd spent the better part of the decade with Herzog, building the band, playing living rooms and basements across the country and releasing one LP, Loose Lips Sink Ships, on Raleigh label Bifocal Media.
"Sometimes you get out of a relationship and you lose all your friends, but that's not at all what happened," Argote explains from her car, driving north to Washington, D.C., from her current country home near Jordan Lake. Herzog lives in D.C. now, as does two-thirds of the Des Ark trio Argote has been shaping for the past several months. "I realized I had built this thing with [Herzog] that was going to keep supporting me, no matter what."
Argote couch-surfed for a while in 2005, writing lots of songs with an acoustic guitar and a banjo in unorthodox tunings on a friend's porch. A naturally engaging performer, she knew she had to get the songs in front of an audience: "I couldn't not play music; I don't have anything better to do with myself."
The support was overwhelming. Old fans became new fans. People offered their hand however they could. She was blown away and out of her doldrums.
"It just reinvigorated my passion for being in a punk, DIY community. That's the point: They support the people, not the product," she explains. "People think it's so crazy. 'Why do you play all those house shows, and why do you not want a booking agent, and why do you want to be this weird punk, DIY person?' And that's exactly why."
Bolstered and enthused if a little disorganized, Argote started touring wherever she could. For almost a year, she had a de facto "have six (or 10) strings, will travel" policy. But she began to long for the sound of a drummer behind her and her loud electric guitar. She also began to realize "the places I was playing were not really the best places to play solo acoustic."
And, while she still intends to play some solo (as she will Sunday evening with Kaia Wilson and Melissa York, two of her heroes from a reunited Team Dresch), Argote says she's enjoying the company of hew new band for now. Guitarist Welch Canavan had been a longtime friend, and she'd seen drummer Ashley Arnwine play guitar in her D.C. band, Mass Movement of the Moth, and heard whispers of her drumming ability. This band, says Argote, has opened Des Ark on several levels, including coming off of the floor and onto the stage, as they did last month at the Cat's Cradle.
"We played on the floor so long because I really wanted to have physical connections with people while I was playing music. I just really want to be able to touch people, physically touch people, and be able to fall against people. It was just a comforting thing I felt like I needed," Argote says. "With a guitar player, it's so nice I can have that sort of dancey and physical interaction with someone."
Des Ark plays solo acoustic Sunday, June 17, at 3 p.m. at Bull City Headquarters with Kaia Wilson and Melissa York and Midtown Dickens. The band plays Tuesday, June 19, at Cat's Cradle with Team Dresch and The Ex-Members at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.