“The band as a whole varies so much from member to member. Right now it’s soul. We took a soul turn and keep it real dirty, no pun attended.”
Scattered across five different zip codes and split between two states, Dirty Bangs was the “band that wasn’t supposed to be anything” that turned out to be nothing short of magic. Dirty Bangs has come a long way since its show at Baby’s Alright in Brooklyn, where the band had to come together and perform for the first time. In the last year alone, Dirty Bangs has recorded at the Bridge Studio in Cambridge (where Weezer famously recorded Pinkerton), performed at South by Southwest (SXSW), and will return to its roots this weekend for the third-semiannual Boston Calling Festival. For vocalist Evan Kenney, drummer Rob Motes, bassist Ben Voskeritchian, guitarist Steven Lord, keyboardist Anthony Valera, and guitarist Jesse Vuona, Dirty Bangs was the culmination of over a decade of different musical projects. We sat down with New York native Steven Lord and discussed life on the road and how “universe magic” launched Dirty Bangs onto its first festival circuit.
How did the band first get started?
Dirty Bangs has lots of members from other bands. We’ve been playing music together for a better part of 10 years or so just in different projects and bands. Dirty Bangs formed at the end of all of that when me, Evan, and Jesse, the singer and guitar player, were playing in a band and that kind of fizzled out. We took a hiatus for a bit just to recollect our thoughts and figure out what was the next thing we wanted to tackle, whether we wanted to throw in the towel or try another project. Evan started sending me some tracks that he was recording on his own on his computer and I was taking his tracks and rebuilding them. We built this really nice thing where we didn’t just want it to have it sit, because for a while it was just sitting on a hard drive. And then magically all of a sudden, we got offered a tour down in Texas in March for SXSW and we didn’t even have a band yet. So we had to form a band to do that. The tour was with our really good friend and his band Tigerman Whoa. We ended up recruiting two members from the band called These Wild Plains, where I was also the bassist. It ended up being this really great family experience.
When did you and the rest of Dirty Bangs first get into music?
I got started pretty young. My dad is a guitar player and he was in a band for pretty much my entire childhood. I would go to their practices and listen to them play “Smoke on the Water” and Eric Clapton songs. So that’s what got me hooked and I asked him to teach me guitar. I have slight ADD, so I started playing drums and I started playing bass and wanted to hop onto any instrument I could. I think everyone else has a similar background in that sense. Jesse’s dad was in a bunch of different bands in the ’70s, but everyone has some sort of musical background to some extent.
How does the songwriting process usually go?
With Dirty Bangs, I usually play everything personally and I do that all on my computer and in the studio. Evan is the lyricist. He’s the man behind the curtain. Everything we’ve released thus far was done all on my computer with Evan sending me skeleton tracks with him playing guitar and singing. Then I would take them into a session in my home studio, destroying them and making them sound a lot bigger than what he sent me. It started out as me and Evan writing everything and presenting it to the guys but now it’s more, “Alright this is my idea what do you think?” It takes on a completely new beast once we show it to the next guy. They’re full members and they’re not hired guns by any means.
So the question that everyone wants to ask is, “Why Dirty Bangs?”
Dirty Bangs came from a suggestion from a friend who has been around for all these different projects and has been with us through thick and thin. We were kind of just brainstorming some names and Dirty Bangs worked the best.
Tell me about what it was like touring at SXSW.
It was 12 to 13 guys opening for the AT&T center down in Texas. All the bands that I’ve been in were with pretty much all of these guys and we spent a reasonable amount of touring. We really formed a bond with all the bands. That’s how Dirty Bangs first started writing music live and got a feel for each other outside of the computer. SXSW was a very important trip for us because it was when we really started playing together as a band. We got to know each other better, we partied together, we drove for hours together, we slept in grimy hotels together. We also have a few festivals coming up, like Boston Calling. That is probably the most professionally-done performance. We’re playing a major stage with a lot of big acts, and it’s going to be quite an honor.
How did you guys get offered that gig?
That was some old school rock and roll sh—t right there. We got offered this tour when we didn’t even have a band. When we were on tour we were like this is pretty fun. We didn’t have any merch, we didn’t have anything. Two days after the show, we get an email that said, “Hey we heard about you on the road. Do you want to play Boston Calling?” That’s basically how that happened. Universe magic right there.
How would you describe the band’s sound?
We coined the “rock and roll soul” description because it started as me and Evan listening to The War on Drugs a lot so when we were writing all these records and songs, they had this strong War on Drugs feel. The band as a whole varies so much from member to member. When we’re on the road we’re listening to Deep South country and we all used to play punk and hardcore, that not that we play like that today. Right now it’s soul. We took a soul turn and keep it real dirty, no pun attended.
What’s next for Dirty Bangs?
We have a whole record full of songs ready to be released. We have a whole bunch of festivals we’re going to play. That’s the dream. It’s just to keep going on these great festival circuits. I live in New York City and the rest of the guys are spread out around Massachusetts. We try to really conquer these two major markets. The idea is to release another record probably in the winter and try to make as many festivals as possible until the weather gets snowy and cold. Dirty Bangs isn’t about to go anywhere. There are a lot of good things coming up in the next year.