DOT DASH: Much more than a half-remembered dream.
(Photo (c) Valerie Ellis)
PURVEYORS of the finest post-punk, pop-driven, melodic garage this side of the King’s Road, Washington’s DOT DASH have just released their eighth album, ‘16 AGAIN,’ a compilation comprising of 15 original songs, and one cover, all pulled from an impressive back catalogue.
And as a window into the band’s musical loves, the album’s title provides a somewhat less than subtle clue.
“The album draws fifteen songs from our seven albums released by Canadian indie label The Beautiful Music and adds a ‘Television Personalities’ cover,” said guitarist and vocalist, Terry Banks. “We called it ‘16 Again’ as both sort of a tribute to the Buzzcocks song of the same name, and the practical fact it’s sixteen songs being released again, but this time on vinyl.”
Having supported on stage – and clearly been influenced by – B-52s, The Psychedlic Furs, Hugh Cornwell, Stiff Little Fingers, Slyvain Slyvain and many others, the band’s sound is equally familiar, yet curious, comforting, yet challenging.
“I think we definitely wear our influences on our sleeve, but it’s sometimes down to the individual choices Terry, Hunter Bennett (bass) and I make within a song,” added drummer, Danny Ingram. “We’ve been compared to some bands that I really love, Teenage Fanclub, The Jam, Buzzcocks, The La’s, and to me it’s an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as these artists, but still have it be recognized we are our, ‘own thing.’ At the end of the day, we all hear things differently, I’m just glad people seem to enjoy what we are doing.”
And out of all the songs DOT DASH may have elected to cover for inclusion in the album, their eventual choice will take many by surprise, as Banks explains, “When I was in high school my friend’s older brother did a semester abroad in Scotland in the early ‘80s. He came back with a bunch of records, including a couple of ‘Orange Juice’ singles on Postcard, and the first ‘Television Personalities’ album, ‘…And Don’t The Kids Just Love It.’ They were a revelation, with ‘Jackanory Stories’ being a real stand out.”
Despite the multitude of shared – and personal – influences, the band’s songwriting process appears to be an exercise in diplomacy.
“The songs come in with Terry having the melody and lyrics done. He does this on his own, and then Hunter and I add our parts and help with the arrangements if needed,” said Ingram. “We have been fairly prolific, and usually what happens is we put together a batch of songs, play them live for a while, and then record them. By the time a record comes out we’ve already started on the next batch of songs. The only downside is we have a fairly large back catalogue of songs I really dig, but they seldom get played as we are always pushing forward with new material.”
Many previous reviews of their output are clearly inflicted by the music writer’s ‘lazyitis,’ whereby soft comparisons are drawn between the sound of DOT DASH, and that of some of their influences. But let it never be said DOT DASH are a type of tribute band. They possess a sound, a unique sound, of their own, and eternal damnation on those who profess otherwise.
“Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment, but I won’t call it lazy journalism,” said Ingram. “People often need to contextualize what they are processing and sometimes they get it right, but sometimes it makes me scratch my head.”
“It’s fine,” adds Banks. “People are always going to compare you to someone. Otherwise, you’d just be saying, “Yeah, I heard this band, there was a singer and a guitar player, and some drums, and they were playing some music.” So, we’re perfectly happy for people to compare us to whom ever they wish. You’re always going to exist in some kind of context, and it varies from person to person.
“Not too long ago, a guy came up to me after a show and said, “Hey man, nice show! Yeah, I mean, I love Bauhaus…” and then he sang out, “Bellllaaa Lugoooosi’s Deaaaaddd!” I guess making the point he got a Bauhaus flavour out of what we do. And going further back, I remember another guy slapped my back after a show, pointed at me in a friendly way and said, “Blink-182!” So, people are going to hear what they hear, and any reaction is better than no reaction.”
And of all the bands they have appeared with, was there a favourite gig, or has working with some of their heroes been the stuff of dreams?
“Honestly, we have never done a show we weren’t glad to do,” explains Banks, “but a set of gigs we saw as being quite special was supporting the Undertones at sold-out theatre shows in New York and Boston, that was big fun. We got paid the most for opening for the B-52s, and they had really nice backstage catering, salmon, linguini, lots of wine.”
“Wow, I can’t narrow it down to just one band,” added Ingrams. “As an old punk, I’ve been quite fortunate because ‘Dot Dash’ has played with some of my all-time favourites, Stiff Little Fingers, the Monochrome Set, Adam Franklin [Swervedriver], Ash, 999, the Vibrators and so on. But if I had to narrow it down to just two, I guess it would be between the Undertones and the Chameleons.”
DOT DASH. Learn to love them. They’ll leave a harmony in your head, an eardrum buzz, you’ll feel sixteen again, and it’ll be more than a half-remembered dream.
DOT DASH online: dotdashdc.bandcamp.com