Here’s some back story. Alternative Ulster, the fine Belfast publication for which I sometimes write, asked me if I wanted to go review Double Dagger‘s gig upstairs in Whelans. I didn’t know. Someone told me they were good, so I said I would review it. An interview was proposed. I said yes, because I have a tendency to say yes to almost anything. I spent about 12 hours reading, watching and listening, and then sloped down to Camden Street with my dictaphone in tow. It was probably the most fun interview I’ve done, and the band, it turns out, are amazingly good. Read if you like.
The live review: This Is The Sound Of No One Giving A Shit
DD destroying Whartscape in Baltimore
Okay, so I suppose we could just start with a brief background on the band. Boring question, but…
Nolen Strals (vocals): We started in 2003 with a different drummer, and he left in 2005. At that point we had put out a 7” and our first album. And then Denny started as a part-time…
Denny Bowen (drums): Well that was in ’04.
N: That was in ’04.
D: Then it was official.
N: And it’s been this line-up since then, this line-up has put out two albums, two 7”s and the new EP, and a cassette EP.
Bruce Willen (bass): We recorded it on a boombox, the recording quality’s pretty PRCCGHHH, it’s very punk sounding, it’s cool.
I read in an interview that you said your biggest regret was not existing during the 90s. That kind of struck me.
D: Yeah, our sound, people say it has a 90s feel to it or something like that. We all like a lot of stuff from that period. I think if we were around then, the band would be a different experience.
B: I think we’re more of… this…
D: A contemporary interpretation of the ideas of the 90s.
B: The 90s had a bunch of really intense rock bands. The 2000s was more…
D: I at least regret we couldn’t witness it.
Do you think maybe that the 90s is just long enough ago now that it’s seeping back into things?
D: If so, cool. I think that would be pretty cool. I think it’s been long enough.
B: I think part of it is just… I feel like rock music in general is making a comeback. In the past ten years it’s fallen out of favour a little bit. In terms of indie rock bands that are actually fucking rock bands, that have some energy. Some bands that have some balls.
In Dublin anyway, there’s a couple of bands who’ve popped up recently with that Dischord thing going on.
Do you think that’s happening more generally, are other bands doing what you’re doing?
D: Yeah, there’s a few here and there. They haven’t really come to light. There’s a band back home called Dope Body, which is kind of new. They’re more punk-based. There hasn’t been a band with that sort of sound in a unique way coming out of Baltimore in a while. At least a few years. I hope more people form rock bands. Like, rock bands that aren’t shitty. For most of the 2000s, people who wanted to form a rock band, the rock bands that were around were like Nickelback or something. Some bullshit like that. There’s a bad connotation to it.
B: Or like, fourth generation emo screamo…
Yeah, well that’s where the 90s Dischord stuff seemed to go, it got more into screamo and stuff. You’re just skipping back over that step.
B: It was just the marketability of Thursday to the nth degree throughout the 2000s I guess.
D: I think in general we just wanted to make some music that had some energy and soul to it, rather than strictly a formula. Or like, if you came to one of our shows, that it’d be an experience rather than just dudes on a stage doing their parts.
What do you think of the label of arty music, as it applies to you?
D: I guess we’re a little arty. I don’t think we’re intentionally… well obviously we’re not these weird guys.
B: I think definitely the music is rooted in art rock tradition.
N: It’s not butt-rock.
B: I think we try and put a little more thought and feeling into it than just being rock and roll.
D: If you relate arty with our level of consciousness, then I guess that works, do you know what I mean?
B: We haven’t been trying to do something really weird. It’s not necessarily what we’re trying to with the band.
Why leave out the layers that other people put in? It’s just bass and drums and vocals, right? So why not layer it more than that? You know, even if you are going to be a noisy rock band.
B: One thing about not having more instrumentation is that it strips the songs down to their essence. We have to be very careful, just in the way we make a song, we can’t have a lot of bullshit in it. Just because, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t do it because we don’t have enough instruments. So we can’t have guitar solos or whatever. I think that’s probably the best thing about the band is that we managed to strip the songs down to their…
D: To their essence.
N: Taking the essence and turning it up all the way. There’s not going to be a part where somebody’s playing and somebody else doesn’t know what to do so they just make some random noise or something. Which could work in some places, but we don’t feel any need for it. We keep it economical.
How do you relate to other Baltimore music?
D: Yeah, we have a lot of brethren. Kindred spirits.
B: One of the things that’s interesting about Baltimore is… I feel like most of the bands who are good are doing pretty different things. I mean, we’re definitely the loud punk band.
D: It’s a small city, so…
B: And then there’s other bands who are… there’s Ponytail who are punk, but a little more art-punk. New Flesh, who are punk but noisy, fucked up punk.
D: Honestly the thing that’s kind of worrying is that a lot of these bands have been around for a while, they’re kind of winding down their activity. They’re not being as active as they were before. And as a result of all the good shit that came out in the past few years, there’s been a lot more things in the community to help keep that going. More venues opening, more opportunities and things like that. My concern is that, the younger kids or people moving into the city presume that that was already built in, and it wasn’t worked up. That they’ll take it for granted and we’ll be back to square one. So I hope that more bands keep forming and there’s a constant output of good shit.
It kind of seems like there’s a disproportionate amount of good Baltimore bands in comparison to another comparable city, or that’s how it seems here.
N: I think that’s true.
B: Baltimore’s a relatively small city, but there’s a lot of local bands I think are great or as good as bands anywhere else. I think there are more good bands in Baltimore than there are in a lot of bigger cities.
D: It’s not as competitive as, like, New York.
N: Yeah, the bands from Baltimore are for the most part… there’s no money, they’re not thinking, oh, we’re gonna get big, we have to do this industry bullshit. But like there’s other cities where you get that feeling sometimes.