First Look: Dot Dash

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Dot Dash, D.C's wildly spirited post-mod/pop/punk four piece throws a spoke in the cycle of music. You can't peg them to a particular sound, as influences stretch from the Beatles, the Clash, U2, Jackson 5, The Descendents, Agent Orange and Cheap Trick to name but a few, but one thing is for certain, if you're looking for a fun, punkish, poppish, rockish band to check out, they're an easy band to fall in love with.

The four members who make up Dot Dash have been around the scene for quite some time. Before forming Dot Dash in 2010, the members were all part of other projects. Singer and guitarist Terry Banks shared the band Julie Ocean with bassist Hunter Bennett, while Bill Crandall spent time with Modest Proposal, and Danny Ingram has Swervedriver to his credit.

With the release of their debut full length, 'Spark > Flame > Ember > Ash', on the Canadian indie label The Beautiful Music, Dot Dash has delivered a gem onto the music scene. Their seemingly simplistic melodies drench easy to grasp sometimes dark, melancholic lyrics that keep you wanting more. What's more, a definitive sense of urgency accompanies Dot Dash's first album, probably a result of having recorded it in a paltry three days. That's shorter than the average time it takes to get a pizza delivered to a studio.

However, Dot Dash has managed to charm reviewers and fans alike with their freshman effort and deserve all the kudos and credit for tackling a 14 song project and laying it down, and well at that. The album is full of power pop/punk/mod guitar chords reminiscent of bygone eras, but adds a modern element and edge. True, you'll hear punk and alternative and even some surf rock reverberating from the guitar riffs, but the music they're creating is truly their own.

Bottom line, these boys got it. antiMusic caught up with Dot Dash for a little chat.

antiMusic: Tell us a little about how you met and how you came to be Dot Dash?

We got together in early 2010. Terry and Hunter had been in a band called Julie Ocean. When that band finished in the fall of '08, they had talked to Danny about potentially doing something at some point but never really got around to doing anything. In late '09 Danny had joined up with Bill to play in a one-show reunion of Modest Proposal, the 80s-era D.C. mod band Bill was in. Not too long after that show (it was a one-off), the four of us got together as Dot Dash.

antiMusic: Some have compared you to The Clash, Pavement and The Jam. Thoughts?

We don't try to sound like anyone in particular, but we like all of those bands, so reviewers comparing us to them is a compliment.

antiMusic: What musicians did you respect growing up? Who had the best sense of style so that you immediately thought to yourself, "I want to do that?"

Terry (guitar, vocals) -- As a teenager, I was way into The Jam. I also remember thinking that the album cover of Crocodiles, the first Echo and The Bunnymen album, was pretty amazing. I promptly started messing my hair up and wearing my father's old long raincoat to school. A little after that, R.E.M.'s first EP, Chronic Town, came out and I picked that up for $3.99, without having heard it, because I thought they looked really cool on the back cover and then when I got it home and played it I dug it massively. I especially liked that they were American – it kind of showed that there was cool stuff emanating nearer to home (and not just from England). Via them, I stumbled onto the first Bongos album, which was great, too. And all of those (then current) bands led me back to 60s stuff like early Beatles, and The Velvets and The Byrds and lots of others.

Bill (guitar) -- From a young age, pre-teen even, it was pretty much classic rock all the way – The Who, Stones, Beatles, Led Zep, Aerosmith, early Springsteen, Santana that made me want to pick up a guitar. I was definitely into the 70s rocker vibe, the sense of being the noble rebel/outlier from the pop mainstream. I didn't really dress that way but that's how I felt. Later I sort of leapfrogged punk -- too nihilist and not musical enough for my tastes, and went straight to mod, new wave and post-punk, especially bands like The Jam, The Clash, early U2, etc. So I guess I went from wanting to be Keith Richards to wanting to be Paul Weller.

Hunter (bass) -- Growing up, I loved (and still love) Southern California hardcore like The Descendents, Agent Orange, The Adolescents, TSOL, The Crowd, The Simpletones, and dozens of others. What I found inspiring about these bands wasn't their sense of style, which tended towards t-shirts and ripped jeans, but their ages. Many of them were teenagers, just a few years older than me. I figured that, if a bunch of high school students could make records that I was listening to on the other side of the country, I could do it, too.

Danny (drums) -- My first crush, when I was quite young, was my baby sitter, Irene. She was very much into the Beatles and British Invasion bands which made me want to play the drums and emulate a certain style. But it was Joe Strummer and The Clash that really motivated me to do it. Musicianwise, I always dug the entirety of a band's sound, but the musicians that stood out then (and still do today) as individual inspirations were John Bonham on drums, J. J. Burnell on bass and Hendrix on guitar.

antiMusic: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

We were really glad to get an album out – spark>flame>ember>ash — on The Beautiful Music label. We've also played shows with a bunch of cool bands including The Drums, The Chameleons, Urge Overkill, Frankie Rose, The Trashcan Sinatras, Hugh Cornwell, and The Godfathers, among others. Our goals are modest – mostly just to have fun — but being able to make records and play good shows is central to that.

antiMusic: What has been your one regret?

Nous ne regrettons rien! (Had to correct the conjugation, or my old high-school French teacher would scold me.)

antiMusic: Talk about what each member brings to the table in terms of writing, recording, brainstorming?

Terry has written all of the songs so far, but everyone writes their own instrumental parts: Bill comes up with his lead guitar parts; Hunter the bass lines; Danny the drum parts. In practice Terry starts playing a new song and everyone drops in with their own stuff and we go from there – that's pretty much how it works. No brainstorming or "jamming" – the songs come in fully formed and people just add their own parts. When recording, we try to be as rehearsed as we can and go for a live(ish) feel.

antiMusic: Who is responsible for reeling in the insanity when the time comes?

Whoever is in possession of the band-owned Taser at that given moment...

antiMusic: I know from my own writing experience that I could edit and rewrite all day but eventually I have to send it out to the world. Is there anything out "there" you wish you could take back and cut again?

Hmmm... Well, we kind of rushed our first record – but that was our own doing. It has 14 songs on it and we did it in three afternoons. We like working fast, but that was really winging it, even by our slack standards. Either way, it ended up as the spark>flame>ember>ash album and we're glad to have got it out (thanks to The Beautiful Music.) For our next record, we'll still work fast, but we're going to give ourselves a little breathing room…

antiMusic: How do you handle creative differences?

Whoever gets to the Taser first tends to prevail…

antiMusic: What track most embodies the core of who you are?

Rick Derringer: "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo."

antiMusic: What track keeps you up at night?

Bertie Higgins: "Key Largo." Classic, impeccable, terrifying.

antiMusic: "Learn How To Fly" has an OMD/post-punk mod feel and reminds me of "Pretty In Pink" by the Psychedelic Furs. Who are your influences?

Hmmm… hard to rattle off names, just seems like we like a lot of guitar pop, and some old punk/new wave stuff, and some more atmospheric things...

antiMusic: For "The Color and The Sound" I absolutely hear The Clash influence, but it also reminds me of some old surf rock. What goes through your mind when writing the music/melodies?

We're just basically trying to come up with good, elemental songs – things with strong melodies and good energy. The melodies come first with the words second but almost simultaneous (if that makes sense.)

antiMusic: "Alright, Alright" has a fun, funky intro. What's the backstory to this song? The lyrics suggest it's about a love that died out -- true? Is the song about anyone in particular?

The intro is kind of an homage to Postcard label-era Orange Juice… Some of our songs are about real people and real things – but the lyrics to this one are more 'universal.'

antiMusic: What guitar/amp/pedal pairing are you using to get your sound?

Terry plays a Gibson ES-335 via a Roland JC-77. Bill has a Rickenbacker 330 and a Vox AC-30. We've got the standard pedals… y'know, some distortion, some delay, etc.

antiMusic: Tell us more about your relatively new song, "Writing On The Wall"

It's a new one. Kind of fast and energetic, but also melancholic… A while back we did sort of a "live demo" session on WMUC, a college radio station here in the D.C. area, where we went in and played 10 new songs, live on the air. The station gives you a CDR of the recording, so it ended up as being a good (and free) way for us to hear our new stuff. We sent a copy of the live stuff to Wally, who runs The Beautiful Music label, and it's gotten a little airplay on CKCU radio up there.

antiMusic: You're playing the NYC Popfest on May 20. For those that aren't cool, what is this?

It's a four-day indiepop festival in Brooklyn. It's been going on for a few years. We're playing on a bill (May 20) with Allo Darlin', The Wave Pictures and a bunch of other cool bands. It should be fun.

antiMusic: What's next?

We have 10 new songs we've been playing live for a while and that we're really excited about recording – the poppy stuff is poppier and the darker stuff is darker. We're hoping to get a second album out later this year, so that's kind of our big focus at the moment.

Dot Dash info:
http://www.facebook.com/dotdashdc

Album info:
spark>flame>ember>ash, 14-song album, released by Canadian indie The Beautiful Music: here

A few songs from the album -- two of them as free downloads -- are posted here

Video for "Learn How To Fly" here

Upcoming Dot Dash shows:

Thursday, May 24 – Washington, DC – The Black Cat w/America Hearts, The Cheniers

Saturday, June 9 – Washington, DC -- Adams Morgan Summer Concert Series -- Free. Outdoors. 5-7 pm. BB&T Bank Plaza, Corner of 18th St & Columbia Rd.

First Look: Dot Dash

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