The Washington D.C. based quartet, Dot Dash is pop-punk at it’s finest. Featuring former members of renowned bands: Government Issue, Youth Brigade, Swervedriver, Madhouse, Julie Ocean, Weatherhand, Glo-Worm, and Minor Threat, Dot Dash is something refreshing in a similar vein as The Jam or The Replacements. You can check out their most recent album, 2016’s ‘Searchlights’, for a sampling of what they have to offer.
If lucky enough, catch them live with Ultimate Painting on July 19th, at DC9, in Washington D.C.
How did you all come together to form Dot Dash?
We formed as friends, friends of friends, and ex-bandmates, in Washington D.C., in 2010.
Each of your five albums have been released via The Beautiful Music. How did the collaboration with an Ottawa-based label come about?
Wally from the label got in touch (years ago) about a Television Personalities tribute compilation he was putting together (it was the first of, so far, four TVPs comps that The Beautiful Music has released). The band I was playing in at the time, The Saturday People, didn’t get it together to contribute a track to the record, but Wally and I stayed in touch. And when Dot Dash formed – voilà!
What was the recording process like for your most recent album, ‘Searchlights’? It was recorded over a weekend? Does the short time span create a different zeitgeist to the album than if you’d taken more time to record?
We recorded ‘Searchlights’ at Fidelitorium, a studio outside Winston-Salem, North Carolina owned by Mitch Easter, who was in the band Let’s Active and produced the early R.E.M. records and lots of other interesting things. The album was produced by Missy Thangs and she brought this really wild, ‘going off the rails’ energy and excitement to the record. We wanted it kind of ‘out there’ and Missy brought that in spades. And, yes, it was recorded in a weekend. All the music was done, live, on the Saturday afternoon. (I don’t think there were any overdubs, except a tambourine in a few places and a single-note piano thing on one song. And bongos on another.) The vocals were done on the Sunday. And that was it. We’ve done all of our albums like this – really fast. Although I sort of get the appeal of dawdling around in a studio – i.e., “What if I stood on one foot while playing?” “What if we went up on the roof?” – I’m not sure what it actually yields, other than costing more. Anyway, our “system” seems to work for us.
Take us into writing a track such as ‘Dumb Entertainment’ or ‘Fading Out’. Where do you start: melody or lyrics?
My songs always start with the melody (i.e., rhythm guitar part) first, but the lyrics follow quickly, almost at the same time. I just sort of babble nonsense phonetics until I hit a phrase I like, or that takes me somewhere, and the words follow on from that. It feels sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ at the time, but I often later find the words apply to real-life experiences, too. So, it’s extemporaneous but not completely random, if that makes sense…’Dumb Entertainment‘ has a sort of almost rockabillyish thing running through it. ‘Fading Out‘ started out garagey, then Hunter and Danny came up with a trippy, Stone Roses-y arrangement almost as a joke, but it sounded pretty cool, so we went with it.
Your sound has been compared to that of Big Star, The Jam, and The Replacements. Are these bands influences for you? Who else inspires you musically?
Sure, I love all those bands and I know my bandmates do, too. Some of my other musical inspirations include early The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground, and The Byrds. There’s tons of others, but those are some of the main ones.
I’m going to list a few songs from ‘Searchlights’ and have you respond with the first word that comes to mind:
Springsteen – that song felt like an early Springsteen number to me – or at the least the verses did. I don’t even really know his music very well, but it sort of felt like that. I’m sure I’m deluding myself…
College – yet another of my songs looking back, at the past, wistfully — or just pondering the weird finality of time — whatever that means…
Beatles – it felt like a ‘The White Album’ outtake or something… More delusion, I know.
‘Daddy Long Legs’?
Garage – a Nuggetsy, garagey thing – trying for a vibe like ‘1-2-5’ by The Haunted or someone like that…Also, re: this track: I never realized how hard it is to play harmonica. I sound like an asthmatic, on a very high mountain, after running five miles.
Near the end of last year you released a five song sampler (one track from each album) free for download via our very own Last Day Deaf netlabel. Now, as members of the diy scene for ages, what are your thoughts on streaming and this changing landscape of free music?
We are in favor of people listening to music – however it gets to them, so be it! And thanks (again!) for releasing the sampler!
Are there any local bands in the DC circuit (or even just generally) you’re currently digging?
Here in D.C. some of our faves include The Split Seconds, American Television, and Miss Lonelyheart. What else…I’ve been listening to a lot of early The Who recently. And an 80s band called The Prisoners. I went through a The Doors phase recently, but then they started annoying me. I listened to ‘L.A. Explosion!‘ by The Last earlier today. And a bootleg CD-R of R.E.M. from Atlanta’s 688 Club in Feb. ’81.
You’ve played shows with The B-52s, The Psychedelic Furs, The Chameleons, Ian Hunter, The Fleshtones, and Tommy Keene among many others. What’s been your most memorable gig as part of Dot Dash?
At the risk of sounding corny, we’ve loved them all. I suppose The B-52s one was quite memorable, as it was a really big audience, but we’ve been honored to do all of our shows – these ones and all the others, too.
You played the Black Cat DC on June 1st with Richard Lloyd (formerly of Television), are you Television fans? And what is Dot Dash like to behold live?
Yeah, we dig Television. ‘Venus De Milo’ is probably my favorite – but there are lots. Richard Lloyd’s solo stuff is great, too. Live, Dot Dash is rocking and energetic and amped-up, but hopefully poppy and melodic and ‘songy’ too. At least that’s the idea…
What is your favorite Dot Dash track thus far? And what’s your favorite to play live?
Hmmm…not sure. Live, we’re almost always playing our “new stuff” – whatever that happens to be. Right now, some of our current faves are ‘Unfair Weather,’ ‘Gray-Blue-Green’, ‘Triple Rainbow’, ‘Tamed A Wild Beast’, ‘TV/Radio’, and ‘Sun + Moon = Disguise’, with several others in the works.
‘Flowers (Live and Floral)’ was released as part of Rough Trade Publishing’s 90-day A Song A Day Keeps The Pain Away series, with proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Could you tell our readers a little bit about this track?
That was a live version of ‘Flowers’, a song from our ‘Earthquakes & Tidal Waves’ album. It was recorded at a show where we opened for Tommy Keene (a musical hero of ours). My songs are published by Rough Trade and Lyle from there kindly offered to include a track of ours for the benefit project they were doing.
What’s in the pipeline for Dot Dash? Are you guys back in creative-mode, writing any new music?
Yes! If the stars are aligned and the gods of The Beautiful Music are smiling, we hope to have a new album out in the latter part of 2017.
Photo credits: Nalinee Darmrong (1st one), Glenn Griffith (2nd one)