As the band drives through rural Iowa on the way to its next tour stop, DiNunzio begins talking about how the group got together but has to stop when passing a hog farm. "I can't even see the pigs, but the smell... I keep hoping the next breath will be better," he laughs. "Nope. That one was even worse." He recovers and continues telling the story of how singer Maura Davis and her brother Keeley, on bass, turned a simple family music project into a band. "Keeley recorded Maura when she was in high school," he says. "They had a music room in their house, and everyone in their family played an instrument. Jonathan [Fuller, drums] and I heard it and thought it was great. We wanted to be a part of it."
After gigging in and around Richmond, the band caught the ear of Jade Tree Records, an indie label whose roster had an affinity for breakup songs. "We figured they would never sign us," DiNunzio remembers. "But they actually liked us." He also explains that the band's name is an Indian word for Mount McKinley. "It's succinct," he stresses. "And there's no day or month in the title, so it's not an emo name." Touché!
In 2002, Denali dropped its self-titled release with the help of knob tweaker Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, and its newest release, The Instinct, finds Denali coming in from the cold and settling into warmer fuzzier territory. The discussion of the record inevitably leads to Denali's unlikely touring partners -- Deftones. "I guess Chino [Moreno, singer] is a big fan," DiNunzio laughs. "It's strange, but everyone we talk to about it shyly admits that at one point, they liked a Deftones song."