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The Capstan Shafts

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  • Years Active: 2000s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

The Capstan Shafts is the guise prolific songwriter Dean Wells has been recording under since 1999. Hailing from Lyndonville, VT, Wells has most often been compared to Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard, and with 18 releases in eight years on various labels, the association could stem from his productivity as much as from his sound. Though Environ Maiden, released in October 2007 on Rainbow Quartz, did much to heighten his profile in terms of consumer awareness, Wells continued to mostly eschew the traditional approach of playing live to promote his catalog, instead choosing to hole up at home to make more albums. After the release of his next home-recorded album, Fixation Protocols in 2008, Wells played his first show with a band at CMJ in the fall of that year. In 2009, he doubled that number with gigs in September and December. Somewhere along the way Wells decided it was time to shift from the bedroom to the studio, and to become a real band. To this end he began working with Matt LeMay of Get Him Eat Him (and author of rave reviews on Pitchfork of previous Capstan Shafts releases). The end result was the 2010 album Revelation Skirts. To translate the new richer, more traditional sound to the stage, Wells hired a four-piece backing band and began playing frequent shows, including a well-received performance at 2010's SXSW festival.


The Capstan Shafts is the musical project of American lo-fi artist Dean Wells. He has been releasing material under the Capstan Shafts name since 1999, through various indie labels such as Yellow Mica, Asaurus and Abandoned Love Records. Most of his albums are very cheap (four or five dollars) or even free.

His songs are typically short, ranging in length from 45 seconds to 2 minutes, and feature a full-band sound of guitars, bass and drums, all of which are played by Wells himself. Every Capstan Shafts release to date has been recorded at home, giving the music a fuzzy lo-fi sound similar to bands such as Guided By Voices and The Mountain Goats.

Despite a prolific output of recorded material (his total output amounts to ten EPs and seven full-length albums), Wells has only performed live three times. His recent album Her Versus The Sad Cold Eventually, has led to an upsurge in media interest surrounding The Capstan Shafts; the album was given four very favorable reviews on music-news site Pitchfork Media by Matt LeMay of Get Him Eat Him.


Dean Wells has also released a song as Vergel Tears, and has three albums under his own name.

On May 2, 2008, Wells opened for The Ruby Suns and Menomena at Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. His temporary drummer, never having played live, returned from the bar just in time as Dean was about to be forced to start without him.

In 2010 the Capstan Shafts regrouped as a 5 piece band before playing shows across the U.S. east coast. Festivals dates at SXSW and CMJ followed before the band released their first studio LP "Revelation Skirts" for Rainbow Quartz Records.

Recently, National Public Radio chose the Capstan Shafts as one of "5 Artists You Should Have Known in 2010".