Somewhere in early April of my freshman year, I found myself attending the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Anthony’s nearly every weekend. This was not because I loved the semi-Latin liturgy. I had found a place to drink, sing, and smoke indoors on late Saturday nights.
Most current Hillsdale students are too young to remember The Donnybrook, but those who do knew that in its final 2016 gasp, the house became synonymous with dissolution. Crazy things happened there. Crazy people lived there. I remember one late winter night, taking off my shirt and running around the house yelling about Jeff Mangum — all because some girl said “no balls” if I didn’t.
Behind all the madness lurked David Johnson ’17 and Luke Martin ’17. Friends called them DJ and Sparty. DJ was entirely deaf in one ear and could play guitar like no one else on campus. Sparty knew how to raise hell.
The two got into a lot of trouble that year and dragged a bunch of their friends into trouble too, but never with malicious intent. Maybe there was no intent: They were wild.
They were also secretly writing a series of folk songs that would eventually become the project Lost Mary. The duo dropped their eponymous release today through 2016 alumnus Joel Calvert’s label HOT SALAD RECORDS. Lost Mary will host a listening party at 7 p.m. at Rough Draft Thursday.
The album is a sad one and plays with the wistful indie-folk sound of unrecognized potential. According to DJ, this is no accident; Lost Mary is an elegy to his and Sparty’s college years.
“A lot of the stuff on the album is either old songs or old ideas,” he said.
Both DJ and Sparty said they have moved on from the style of songs they were coming up with at when they lived at the Donnybrook and then later at the Boondocks. They’re into the blues now.
Even when they were recording the album, the two could feel their affinity for playing and writing folk music fading. The project eventually became a statement of the past, a catalogue of what college had meant to the two.
“We were literally drunk the entire time,” DJ said of the recording sessions. “It wasn’t like ‘Oh let’s pop a beer open and drink while we record.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s finish that bottle of wine in the morning and then move on to the next one and then the next one.’”
Sparty said this lifestyle affected their sound.
“It isn’t conducive to recording or performing or to singing — your voice gets shot immediately,” he said. “I think we drank too much.”
“We were really glad that Hillsdale was over,” he said. “And we wanted to just decompress and work on this music.”
Sparty clarified, however, that they were not drunk the entire time.
“We were definitely hung-over for much of the album,” he said.
Because the album was recorded so quickly, the two said they were dissatisfied with their efforts.
“When you record a song, you to let it ferment,” Sparty said. “You got to let it sit to let it sit.”
A lot of these songs did not sit.
The two made sure to add, however, that Joel Calvert’s production made the album a fun experience that they hope their friends and listeners will enjoy — even if it’s no longer the musical direction in which Lost Mary is moving.
“As a first album, it’s good. I mean, it’s good enough. You can’t have a first album be great,” Sparty said.
When I interviewed DJ and Luke, it was like going back those Donnybrook days. They were covered in house paint and smoking Pall Malls in the basement of the Donnybrook. Empty beer cans surrounded them. The room smelled vaguely of urine.
Sparty and DJ have continued on — both in life and their music — leaving behind the past, hollowed out by memories both good and bad.
Their Donnybrook and everything it stood for existed in a place between dream and reality. Of course it had to end. Lost Mary is a fitting eulogy.