Local noisy rock outfits Dope Body and Roomrunner both have new releases out—an LP, "Lifer," and an EP, "Separate," respectively—and they are joining forces for a release party on Friday at the Metro Gallery and subsequent tour. We took this opportunity to gather all eight members of these two bands at the Copycat loft and recording studio of Dan Frome, bassist of Roomrunner, for less of an interview and more of a conversation between the two groups. They touch on their new releases, which by mere coincidence both happen to be more stripped-down and melodic compared to prior efforts, while also placing their fingers on the pulse of the Baltimore scene and discussing the dynamics of making it in the indie world without really “making it,” the machinations surrounding said world, and much more. There was a great deal of self-deprecation and ribbing among friends (worth noting: John Jones has the unique distinction of having been a member of both bands), but a lot of what was discussed could serve as a good road map for any young kid with a notion of starting a band. What appears below is a long, thorough version of their conversation. For a truncated version, visit your nearest yellow box for a physical copy of City Paper.
City Paper: Alright, so Andrew, I figured I’d get you guys started with something I read you said in The Skinny, it came out in October. You said, “The very idea of being in a band in the year 2014 is pretty stupid. I feel like we’re holding onto some sort of dead art like analogue photography or something."
Denny Bowen (lead singer, Roomrunner): It is pretty stupid. Well it’s like it’s stupid, but it’s also dumb. That’s why it’s fun, because it’s dumb.
Zachary Utz (guitarist, Dope Body): [joking] Well it’s not stupid, it’s dumb.
Andrew Laumann (lead singer, Dope Body): [joking] They misquoted me. I clearly said dumb.
ZU: I’m just gonna say, we haven’t toured in a while, and I’m really looking forward to this tour we’re about to go on. It’s gonna be really fresh and I’m really excited about it.
Dan Frome (bassist, Roomrunner): What was the context in that interview? What were they talking about?
AL: Well he was asking about how being on tour works. We were also misquoted as being on tour for 19 months straight.
AL: They’re like [adopts foreign accent], “How did you manage to do it?”
ZU: You know how we did it? We didn’t do it.
AL: It sucked. Uh, all our relationships became destroyed, we lose all this money. In this day and age, there are so many bands. There’s so much competition on the internet or on the live circuit that people are oversaturated. There are so many bands touring. But you tour constantly, or you try to tour constantly, to keep up with your label base or fanbase it’s like—it’s impossible, unless you’re making money. When you’re not making money, everything suffers and you start to dislike each other.
John Jones (bassist, Dope Body): Being on the bill with solo performers, and everyone’s sharing the same guarantee, whether you’re renting the fan or hauling all these big amps and drums in, and then someone rolls in with a laptop and then gets the same amount of money as you. Which isn’t anything.
ZU: You’re the dude that’s late to the dance. You showed up late and you’re like, “Fuck man, why am I even here? I missed all the good shit.”
AL: People don’t care as much ‘cause there’s just a lot of things to see. There’s a lot of bands traveling through in general, I think, that people don’t really care to go to live shows.
JJ: I can’t think of a band in mainstream pop culture in terms of alternative rock, besides something like the Foo Fighters, something that’s already been a staple in the eyes of the public for so long, that is still maintaining that career status. It’s really difficult. There’s new bands that do it that are designed, in a way, to fulfill this role of alternative band, but I don’t know, it’s weird. I think both our bands share an equal bitterness because we see a lot [of] trust-fund bands, people that actually don’t work when they’re not playing music. And that’s something we often pride ourselves on but also hinders us, because we kinda fall on that, “Well, we have to fucking work.”
DF: It ends up not mattering anyway at some point, but it still kinda makes you feel like shit.
AL: It’s the length of being in a band too. You know, most bands that are hyped up and are big, on Pitchfork or these other websites, they’re only around for two or three years and then you never hear of them again. They get Best New Music and then they’re gone. So I think the longevity aspect is kinda what gets everyone too. Dope Body, specifically, has been a band for five or six years. There’s a certain amount of time of complete dedication to that you can do in your early 20s, but as you start to reach 30, you realize your life is kinda getting to a point where you should start to think about other things.
ZU: Starting to get a little beat.
AL: Start feeling a little beat. You’re kinda like, "Yeah, maybe this is really stupid to jump in a van every other month with a bunch of dudes and play to a room of five people in Ohio, and you’ve been there six times." It’s hard. It’s a job. But it’s a cross you bear as a band.
DB: There’s just so much other bullshit that you have to do, you can’t just be a band and concentrate on making records. You have to be doing internet stuff, and, I don’t know, it’s too distracting from what you should be concentrating on, which is just working and making music.
David Jacober (drummer, Dope Body): That’s what they meant by the trust-fund thing, too. If you have money already, you don’t need to work, so you can spend all your time on music.
AL: I don’t think that’s a crutch. There’s plenty of bands that are great that came up from it. I don’t want to just be saying we have it hard because we don’t have a trust fund. But they don’t need to make it, and we kind of do. We either need to make it, or we just have to work and not have as much. That’s the paradoxes of it.
ZU: That’s part of why we live here, man. I feel like none of us work that fucking much, honestly. We shouldn’t make it sound like we’re all out working 50 hours a week here.
AL: Baltimore is good for living cheaply, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you hustle. You kinda just chill harder.
ZU: It makes it easier to chill, living here, man.
DB: It’s a small, small city. It’s a small scene. It’s never seemed smaller than ever. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just because of the geography of it, it’s a small town. To be like a rock band, there’s not a lot of contemporaries. And not to say that the contemporaries are bad, they’re good, but there’s not a lot.
JJ: There’s a lot that we’re unaware of. And I can’t, [to reporter:] like I was telling you earlier, I can’t tell if it’s because I’m getting older or these new bands are not creating enough of an energy to where people are just drawn to it. Or who’s to say what the science of that actually is, but it definitely feels like there’s less of a forward band mindset.
AL: I think that has to do with there’s no underground in Baltimore.
JJ: There definitely is, but not in the rock community.
AL: There’s not a place that we could play. If you’re above a certain tier of band, you can only play The Crown, The Metro [Gallery], or the Ottobar right now, and it really fucking sucks. I’m just gonna say it. I’m tired of playing all those places. I think everyone’s pretty sick of it. I don’t want to go to The Crown and see these new bands—I see new bands popping up and I’m like, the last place I want to go to is The Crown to pay seven bucks and sit at the club on a Wednesday night. I’ll go to a warehouse. When we [points to Bowen] lived in the Copycat, we both ran spaces. It was like, just walk to each other’s houses and watch shows. I was exposed to so much, and that’s why those years are really special and why we have a connectivity to that. But there isn’t really that kind of scene now. It’s kind of growing back a little bit.
DB: It’s good that those places are around, because we’re not down in that hole where we were 10 years ago, where touring bands would just play Philly and D.C. They will play Metro and they will play The Crown or the Ottobar. And it’s like, that’s a good thing, but it’s not coming from an underground network, it’s coming from a network of booking agents.
ZU: It’s outsourced. It’s not homegrown.
DB: And I’m not shitting on those places, because they need to be there for those bands that want to come through town and play. But it’s just a different type of network.
JJ: It creates a safety net. Recently, PC Worship asked me to host his show, and I asked all the DIY venues and they were like, Nahhh, probably not on this night. So I was like, Well, The Crown will take it. And they did.
ZU: It’s kinda like lowest common denominator.
JJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And a lot of people just skip the idea of throwing a show in your basement or whatever public living space you kind of have going on. And now it’s just like, we’ll do it there because we know we can do it there, and it’ll be safe, you don’t have to worry about your landlord coming in and kicking your ass or whatever.
DB: Me and Jeff went to a basement show a few months ago in Charles Village, and that was cool.
JB: Yeah, that was cool.
DB: But that was also like, "Whoa, this still happens?"
ZU: Yeah, how does that fucking happen?
DB: Especially in Charles Village.
AL: [referring to the reporter] Don’t tell him the address. [laughs]
DB: [laughs] No, I’m not going to say the name of it.
AL: [to reporter] My question to you is: What do you think the City Paper’s role has been in the past of shutting down DIY venues in the city?
CP: I mean, it’s not something we’ve ever done intentionally.
AL: Well no, I’m not saying that. But it definitely happened.
CP: We wrote a blog post about when one of our photographers got arrested outside of.
Several almost at once: Coward Shoe.
CP: Yeah. People were kind of pissed that we wrote about it, but at the same time it was us standing up for our guy, you know? It was kind of hard for us to ignore. I don’t know, maybe that exposed it. Do you guys think we fucked up on that?
ZU: I think this shit just comes in waves, honestly dude.
DJ: It seems like the city was after that place for a while at that point, so it probably didn’t hurt it any more.
ZU: I haven’t honestly been in the city long enough to comment on this, but I feel like there are people who have been here a long time who say like, "Yeah dude, I remember back in the ‘90s, shit was crazy and it went like this [points hand downward], and then it came back up when Wham City came in, and it’s going back down again."
Jeff Byers (guitarist, Roomrunner): Even before [Wham City]. When I was in high school, I’d come down here to see all these basement and warehouse shows. All those places are gone, they’ve been gone for fucking eight years. That’s just the way it works. Every place that’s going on right now is going to get shut down, even the legit places.
ZU: It’s like Death By Audio in New York. Dude, it’s like crazy, that’s just the end of an era. That had to happen eventually; that whole area’s going that way. It had to happen.
AL: I could see Coward Shoe getting gentrified. That area is definitely still so far away from . . .
DB: Who’s gonna want to live there?
AL: If someone had the proper money [to fix it up]. That place was great for a while.
I think the problem with the DIY scene today, and with everything being connected to the internet, is things can get really hyped and underground scenes can kinda get exposed in a way where it’s like—City Paper isn’t writing about Tribel Haus; Tribel Haus doesn’t want City Paper writing about them. I think it’s kind of a paradox of having these events and still being able to do these special underground things and not having it be hyped up and media-sized in this way—not blaming alt media, ‘cause it’s in their nature to do it—but it’s a thing that’s kind of harming underground culture is people wanting to know . . . Nobody knew about the shit we were doing. During Wham City’s first couple years, everyone thought it was a joke, no one even touched it. That’s why some of us had the craziest fucking two years [laughs]. Shows every fucking night, like crazy raves and shit.
DF: I feel like a lot of that kind of stuff is not for everybody.
AL: For us, by us, you know?
JB: I think you made a point with the internet, and talking before about being a band now and all that shit and how it’s kind of dumb and a joke, and I think that’s part of it, is because it’s so easy for people to find out about everything. It’s not a big deal to find some obscure band that’s coming through your town because they played at some obscure DIY space. It’s all right there. And so there’s no hardcore fans of bands that are new.
AL: The mystique is gone for sure.
JB: It’s like, Oh yeah, they’ll be back, or whatever. They’re no big deal.
AL: Listen to 30 seconds on their Soundcloud before. You’re like, Oh, this show’s happening, listen to little bits of each [song] and decide if you want to go. I can’t even tell you how much stuff I’ve give the time of day. Maybe I’ve give it the time of day after I’ve seen it live, accidentally.
JB: And the people that look up and see—on the internet, look up Showspace—"Oh, these shows are happening this week, I’m going to go to that." Like not even care really about the bands. Like, “Ah, that’s gonna be fun, my friends will be there.”
ZU: I think our bands are setting an important precedent for live music, because we have never ever sounded live like we do on our record. And people go see us live because it’s fucking crazy, and that’s what we’ve built a mystique off of, more so than any record we ever made.
AL: And both of our bands are so fucking loud, so we know that people can’t really fuck around during our sets. You can’t be in the back conversating because it hurts too much or they’re going to get hit or something. And I think that’s the biggest thing our bands bring that you can only get in a live setting, is that it’s going to be a controlled riot for a certain amount of time.
Bret Lanahan (drummer, Roomrunner): Yeah, people come for the release. I know a lot of people that aren’t necessarily into my band that are like, "Yeah, I’m coming out because fucking sweat, and I want to jump around. Your band’s good for exercise.” [snickers]
AL: We’ve had some of the sweatiest shows together, some of the Coward Shoe shows and stuff like that.
DB: That Coward Shoe show two years ago was one of the best shows.
ZU: That was a hot motherfucker, that show.
AL: That was the first one, right?
DB: It was their first one, yeah.
AL: We were [playing] on the floor. That one was great. That was like that raw shit, because it was totally outlawed and lawless. Someone took [the chance]. That’s what’s missing in the DIY scene is also people taking the chance. [That space] only lasted a year, and it was the great fireball that it was and went out with a good flame; it didn’t fade away like some other DIY venues that I will not talk about, that just stopped doing stuff but still exist. And I think that’s bullshit. We’ve all done our time with having spaces, but it seems like people need to step up and start doing it again. I don’t know, though. It’s hard.
DJ: It’s getting harder and harder.
ZU: It’s hard when you have to cultivate the space from scratch. Like the Copycat always existed as a thing, but I feel like we caught the death knell of it the last couple years, where it was okay to do this shit. You couldn’t do it like that in here anymore.
DB: We’re lucky we get to practice here.
ZU: Frank was straight up like, “Nope. You guys can never practice here again.”
DF: I ride a pretty fine line [with the studio].
AL: I remember when Dope Body first started here, we trying to build a sub-wall and fill it with sand. He thought it was a good idea to bring in 2,000 pounds of sand and fill the walls.
ZU: My dad still jokes about having a conversation with Frank. He was kinda like, [adopts Southern accent] “Who the fuck was that motherfucker?”
ZU: “Jesus Fucking Christ. He wanna bring a dump truck up there?”
AL: It’d be leaking everywhere, dead rats all over the place.
DB: How are you going to haul sand up five flights of stairs?
DJ: He didn’t even know that we had a neighbor next to us that didn’t want us to play anyway.
ZU: Where is Frank at? Why isn’t he here anyway?
JJ: There’s still tons of people trying to do it, and I’m sure if anyone reads what we just said, they’ll be like: “Fuck you! What do you mean? I have shows in my house.” We’re just unaware of it because we come from a different era, and we have different ideals.
DB: But it seemed like before the shows would stretch across all eras of people.
AL: There was less genres, less fetishizing that way, where it’s like all the punks, all the hip-hop people, everyone had to go to the same things because there was only a couple places, everything happened in the same places. And I think that’s kind of what’s different now, there’s a lot of subsects of things, and there’s also The Crown, which kind of homogenizes everything in this weird [way], it just makes everything kind of taste the same. All the bands smell like the kitchen. Almost like, “I don’t know about the vibe of this place.”
DB: It is cool that there’s one place that has everything going on. It’s not restrictive to one type of music. I mean, that’s kind of the way the Talking Head was, at least the old Talking Head.
AL: Not the one that went to Sonar.
DB: Yeah. Not Talking Head 3.
DF: Does it come down to what’s the next step, then, to make it slightly better?
DB: Is it up to us old dudes?
AL: Exactly. I don’t think it’s up to us old dudes.
DF: Is it to get it off the internet and the normal two or three channels the whole world uses to communicate now?
DJ: Pshew, good luck.
DF: Is that the way to save all communication, is stop using the two giant, conglomerate-owned media channels?
ZU: One on one.
DF: Yeah, then you can actually talk to people about things.
AL: The apocalypse will have to happen. You’d have to lose all technology. We couldn’t go back.
JJ: As much as all of that has made things stale, it’s still helped out both our bands considerably.
Several: Oh yeah.
JJ: So it’s a love/hate.
DF: That’s part of that double-edged thing about it is you can’t . . .
AL: I know a lot of bands that disregard the internet that are fucking sick, like Rats and, what was that? Rats and Bats? What was it? That Boston band . . .
ZU: Oh, Bugs and Rats.
AL: Bugs and Rats. [To Bowen:] You ever play with that band?
AL: That band fucking rips, but they totally have the worst band name ever. There’s a lot of bands like camouflaging themselves in band names and shit too. But I still like that idea of bands that just really don’t give a fuck. I mean, it’s hard to find. They’re definitely still out there. I doubt they’ll read this interview, or I doubt they read any interview.
JJ: I’m sure they have internet presence.
DB: You think that every band has to have internet presence?
JJ: No, I don’t. I’m just saying that specific band probably has [one].
AL: Yeah, what’s the point of being in a band if you don’t want people to know about it?
DJ: Unless you want to have a secret band, then that’s the purpose of it.
DB: That’s what Dan was saying, it’s like a double-edged sword. You can sign up for all that. OK, I’m gonna be in a band, I want everybody to know about it via the internet. Then you have to put shit out there or people will just fucking forget about you, because everybody’s got a short attention span or something. I don’t know.
DF: There’s a fantasy of a big goal that everybody’s going for, which is really easy to pretend that you’re doing. It’s pretty easy to present yourself as some cool, popular thing or to pay a PR company to do that for you.
JJ: I think that’s a big misconception with both our bands in this city. When we go around town, you’ll be at the bar and people will be like, [in gruff voice] “Damn, you guys are really killing it.” They’re like, “How much money have you got?”
DB: Uh, I’ve got like 63 in my checking account.
JJ: I’ve got like negative dollars right now.
AL: There’s only a few bands making money in this city.
ZU: [in faux sinister voice] We know who they are.
AL: We’re friends with all of them, and they are so much harder working than any of us. It’s crazy.
DB: Not to say we wouldn’t be hard-working if we were in those positions.
JB: The market’s just not there.
AL: I feel like it’s just this aspect of going for it. You know, I think we’ve all tried to go for it, where you tour relentlessly and go on these ridiculous tours and dry yourself completely out.
JJ: We’ve seen bands go around the U.S. twice thinking like . . .
DB: We’re gonna get a hit out of this. [laughs]
JJ: . . . we’re gonna connect through this. It’s like that whole ‘80s hardcore mythos, pre-internet, just connecting and fan zines.
DF: Pre-$4 gas.
ZU: Gas is coming down though. It’s at 3 right now.
DF: If you shop at Safeway, you can get more off. Club Card, Safeway card, ya know?
DB: I guess we’re just not into that whole thing where it’s indie bands with managers type of vibe. It’s just like, Why? Is your life really that unmanageable if you’re in a so-called indie band?
AL: Having a tour manager is kind of sick though.
DB: A tour manager. But I mean manager.
AL: It’s nice to have people doing shit for you that you don’t want to do, that’s why you have a booking agent. You don’t want to be emailing someone a million times: “Hey, give me a show, give me a show, give me a show.” When you get a booking agent, when you get a manager to talk to the douchebags in the industry you don’t know how to talk to, you make it easier on yourself. When someone represents you, it’s a lot easier to negotiate your deals, because they don’t have the emotional sense of they’re the artist showing them how much they’re worth. They represent the artist so they have an x-line of what they’re willing to go for, and the artist doesn’t have to think of themselves being demoralized or bought out or sold out. That’s the goal of a manager. Neither of our bands need one.
DF: Is it worth it?
DB: Probably not.
DF: Are a lot of people hiring dudes who say they’re managers to feel cool, to feel like they’re in the biz?
DB: People are just doing things completely backwards now, or their thinking is completely flipped. For instance, I was talking to some band, and this was a while ago, and they were pretty young and had just put out their first cassette or something, and they’re like, "Yeah, we’re getting someone at Sony to shop our next thing," or whatever. I’m like, already? You guys did one tour that was like seven days. That’s the thing, I think, Dan was trying to say earlier—everyone’s on this same track and everybody’s jumping over people to get there without doing it the way that we’re used to, I suppose.
JJ: There’s also these PR companies that contact bands, “Give us $400 and we’ll push your stuff around, and we’ll show you that we can really do it for you.”
ZU: That’s capitalism, man.
JJ: Yeah, yeah. It’s such a racket.
DJ: “We can make you cool.”
JJ: We’ve had kids ask us, “What do you think? Should we give this company money to promote our band?” It’s just, nooo, dude.
AL: [sarcastically] I’m thinking about buying some Twitter followers for my band. I think it’s a good investment.
DJ: Dude, we’ve only got 900, man. We bought like half of them.
AL: I always think it’s funny when you post the thing on Facebook about a show, and it comes up, “If you pay $40, we can give your post to many of your fans.” Motherfucker, how are you not going to give them to everyone that likes us?
DF: I like the organic reach on how this works.
DJ: We got that organic reach. You can’t buy it.
AL: That culture’s been around since—I mean, my favorite movie, “Airheads,” that was the whole point of the movie: They recorded the one shitty demo and they’re like, “We’ve gotta get it to Capitol!” And they took over a fucking radio station.
ZU: That demo was so shitty too.
AL: No, that song rules, man.
JJ: Wait, who was the original band?
AL: The Lone Rangers.
JJ: No, they covered some other band, a real band. [Ed. note: Reagan Youth]
DB: Do you want us to talk about . . .
DJ: Yeah, that was only the first question.
DB: Do you want us to talk about each other’s records or something?
CP: That’d be good. Yeah. You guys both have new records coming out, you’re playing a show together. Have you heard each other’s records? What did you think?
AL: I leaked it to Denny and then he leaked it to me.
JJ: I put it on Soulseek. Just the Roomrunner one, not the Dope Body one.
DB: I started a blog and put the Dope Body record on it.
JJ: That’s it? It’s like that and Slipknot? Soulfly, Dope Body, Slipknot.
AL: All my music I get from listening to YouTube, honestly. I find out about something, look on there.
ZU: Yeah, that’s the database.
AL: Yeah, I don’t need no trail.
JJ: I like that Ad Hoc post today, where it’s just something about nu metal. It’s just like, dammit.
AL: That’s the thing about music writers, is they always find the one piece of the article that’s the stupidest thing you said, and they put it up on the headline. Every time they’ve interviewed us, it’s been pretty fucking dumb.
ZU: Sensationalized shit.
DB: You guys always gotta escape the nu metal thing.
JJ: The new record is not nu metal at all!
ZU: Yeah, it’s not.
DB: No, it sounds like ZZ Top.
ZU: That’s what I’m talking about.
AL: That’s what’s up.
JJ: I would definitely go more ZZ, less Slipknot.
AL: I think the nu metal references we were just talking about, combining different styles of music and how we do that in our band, as a stylistic approach, trying to making unlistenable music listenable in some way. You like this kind of bad music for some reason—bad pop music, bad radio pop, old indie stuff in the ‘90s—it’s cheesy, you know you like some part of it, and you have to dissect it and figure out some way to make it contemporary and fit to the new aesthetic of what you’re doing.
JJ: Most of it happens pretty organically. It’s not till after we make something, then someone goes, "Wow, that really sounds like Rage Against the Machine just shat a Fugazi pile."
ZU: Obviously you’re not thinking about that when you’re fucking doing it. Jesus Christ.
JJ: Yeah, yeah. You’re just playing.
AL: I think a lot of bands are, because then they also start dressing like the other bands. I feel like that’s a weird trend that happens in music now, where people don’t try to start bands, they try to start bands that already exist.
DB: If you give me shit for that sweater. [laughs]
AL: I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry.
DB: I can’t take it anymore!
ZU: I don’t know how you can honestly think about another band while you’re writing music.
JJ: Yeah. I’ve often described our band, as well as Roomrunner, as subconscious rock. It’s not based on nostalgia.
ZU: How can you sit there and channel, like “We’re gonna go full Rage on this one.”
AL: Honestly, every kind of music we talk about we want to make, we never ever make [that]. We’re like, “We should do something like this” and then it never happens.
JJ: “Let’s do a lot of cocaine and try to make a noise song, man.”
AL: Yeah, we did that once.
JJ: I think the new Roomrunner record, the fact that you guys worked with J. Robbins—I mean, we worked with J. Robbins [on “Natural History”], and we really enjoyed working with J., but I think we all walked away from it, the record came out, you promote it, and the more we lived with the record, I think everyone went like, that is, it just felt disingenuous for Dope Body’s sound. But when I listen to the Roomrunner album, I really felt extreme progress. But there was also a part of me that went like, damn, Dan Frome can do this shit though.
JJ: But you all spent all that money. No diss to J. though. I love J., J.’s really great.
DB: We also didn’t want Dan to have to work on that side of things.
DF: I’m happy about it, I’m happy about it.
DB: The end of “Ideal Cities” was pretty frustrating for you.
DF: I mixed “Ideal Cities” 75 times. And I had to make the guy who’s putting it out pay me for not working so I could live here and still finish mixing it, and I felt bad about that, which I didn’t want to have to do. Even though it’s this nominal, tiny amount of money.
BL: I think the thing was, we had you at our disposal as the band, like, “Hey Dan, tweak that shit real quick.” Whereas with J., it’s like, “Uhh, you have to be done now.” And we’re like, [snaps] “Oh, that’s good.”
DB: And also J. was like, "You can’t be here when I mix. I don’t want you chiming in."
BL: Yeah. We literally wrote notes and that was it. With Dan, it’s like we were hanging out all the time.
AL: J. has like an ego with his recordings for sure.
DJ: Well, he has a sound. He has a total sound.
JJ: I wouldn’t call it ego, I think it’s a confidence.
AL: I’m not saying ego’s a bad thing.
DJ: You know what you’re gonna get. If you go to him, and you’re a rock band, you’re gonna get a certain kind of recording.
DB: We went to him because we knew what kind of sound we were gonna get.
BL: I specifically said, we have to do it, because I want my drums to sound like fucking “In Utero.”
DB: J. knew what we were doing, you know?
DF: We totally needed to step up from here, and we totally accomplished that, I think.
DB: Step up from here and go down the street.
JJ: Yeah, right? It’s like two blocks. What I think is going to be fun with your record is, music writers especially, with everything else you guys have released, have always fallen onto the Nirvana blah blah blah. Me just mentioning it right now is perpetuating that curse.
AL: [notions to reporter, jokingly] He’s writing it down.
JJ: But honestly, the new record is completely separate from that whole . . .
DJ: It’s definitely moving away from that.
JJ: Yeah. The song structures are really amazing, definitely think the new Roomrunner stuff is completely separate from what you guys have previously done. And it’s gonna be fun to see where you guys go from here. I don’t know. What are you gonna do next? Like, what the fuck?
AL: You need to evolve and show that you don’t have a small, select set of influences too. I think the bane of both our bands is that we’re kinda trying to prove that we don’t just listen to one kind of thing or we’re really not a one-trick pony. We haven’t found a sound we’re gonna try to commercialize, we’re exploring. Once you realize you’re not gonna “make it,” make it, you have the freedom to be creative and explore the things that might not necessarily be popular but are what you feel like you need to do and what the band’s mission is, which is ultimately to create sound that doesn’t exist yet.
DB: Yeah, because that way no one’s putting pressure on you to be a certain thing.
DF: It’s a big trap to start from that in the first place.
JJ: One thing I thought was really funny recently, with pop music, is Grimes released her new single, which was supposedly supposed to be for Rihanna, the production and the song itself, and she put it out there, and the entire media and all her fans were like, “Fuck you for being so ingenuine!” She pulled the single and went like, "All right, I’m just gonna rewrite my album." It’s because I think she got trapped in that mindset. That’s completely unrelated, but it’s also what you’re saying: You get trapped by what people expect your next move to be. It’s more fun to always go in the other direction, even though it may not be very fruitful. But I think that’s something that we, as bands, try to do is, you want to please your fans, but not in a way that they’re expecting it. And yourself. You write songs and you play them for a year, and by the sixth month you fucking hate those songs. You get really tired of playing them in that style or feeling or whatever. So it’s really always a pleasant experience to step back and be like, let’s just go this direction. And that’s been every band I’ve ever been in or anything I’ve ever done. And I think that can translate to any form of art or anything that you do, even with stay-at-home moms that go to Giant and they’re like, "You know what? I’m gonna step my game up to Whole Foods. I gotta change it up."
DF: A lot of our songs are full of this keyboard [points] over there, the Casio.
JJ: That’s cool.
DF: Every part.
JJ: I mean, I’ve known pretty much all of you—I don’t know Jeff as well as I should—but with everyone else I’ve known, I’ve seen this weird progression as everyone as an individual, and it’s fucking really cool to see. And I think what’s really been awesome about both these bands is everyone’s always peering in to see what everyone is doing. Everyone’s still motivated as an individual, and I think when it comes to writing music as a band, that is somehow reflected as well, you know what I mean? Everyone, like [Andrew was] saying in the interview you did today, needed time away from each other, but when we do jam, it’s still cool, it feels fresh.
AL: Yeah, I think it’s ‘cause, with Dope Body specifically, there’s no songwriter. Things come together for Dope Body because we’re all coming from so many different directions.
DB: Probably it’s the same case for both bands, but since we’re not touring all the time on some crazy schedule that some label wants us to do or whatever, we’re able to work on ideas in a little different way and let them evolve and change, as opposed to just like putting the first thing that comes to mind out there ‘cause you have to or something. So I think that changes the writing process, probably for both bands—I don’t know, I can’t really speak for you guys. That definitely does for us, because when we were touring a lot during 2013, I wasn’t writing as much ‘cause that didn’t really help my writing process. That’s just the way it goes.
AL: Yeah, it’s definitely hard to write when you’re on tour.
DJ: Yeah, it’s impossible. You only get to play for the 10 minutes you’re doing soundcheck or whatever.
CP: It seems that both of you guys have come to this more of a stripped-down, kind of more melodic sound compared to your other stuff. How did you guys arrive at that point?
ZU: Jesus Christ. The songs were written over such a huge span of time. I don’t really know when it started or why it started, you know?
JJ: We just jam, and then we find a riff we really like and then we play that for two hours until all the little parts are in place. And it just so happened that was more melodic.
DB: It’s so crazy, because we do not jam at all.
DF: Well, we’ll jam for like four or five seconds at a time.
DB: Yeah. We’ll have a couple minute-long jams before.
DJ: We have to make sure we don’t jam too much.
AL: Yeah, that’s the thing. We’ll jam for like six months, and not choose on anything and we’ll have all these demos. I’ve got demos of shit that I love that we’ll never ever play again. But we played for 40 minutes and I have this amazing track of it. And it’s never gonna see the light of day, because we’re kind of like the band that’s like: We’re the sum of all the parts we’ve done so far, so it’s always about the next thing we’re gonna write is better than anything else we’ve written thus far. It’s not like we’ve reached any pinnacles, it’s just kinda like, there’s all these influences that are there. You make the painting, you expect everything you’re doing to be the sum of all the things you’ve done, so you’re not really worrying about having a certain style or a certain feeling translate, I think.
JJ: When we recorded “Lifer,” we did it all on a two-inch tape—it wasn’t into a computer, it was a live band—and we spent half the time just jamming with Andrew in the room doing vocal stuff. And we finally got Travis to send us all that stuff, and now that we’re listening back to it . . .
AL: It’s way different than the record.
JJ: It’s way different!
ZU: It’s like what we wanted to be doing while we recorded all the songs we knew we had to record.
JJ: We might do something with the six hours.
DJ: I think we’re going to.
ZU: We absolutely have to do something with that material.
DJ: As far as the stripped-down, more melodic approach, I think it kinda happened just as a result of us trying to focus a little bit more on dynamics and the songwriting just changing a little bit. I don’t think we necessarily meant to go more melodic, it just kind of happened when we tried to focus more on dynamics.
JJ: I think I fucked that up too.
DJ: [whisper] Dammit John.
JJ: As a second melodic instrument and me not being as skilled a musician.
DJ: I wouldn’t say you fucked it up. It’s not a bad thing.
JJ: I would say Zach couldn’t go as wild and as hard, because I just wouldn’t be able to keep up.
DJ: But in another way he can go more wild, because he has someone to play bass.
AL: We also need to slow down a little bit too, because if you listen to early Dope Body recording it’s seriously like, dur-dur-dur-dur!
JJ: I can’t keep up with that shit.
AL: That’s the thing that happens when you play in a live band, you’re just trying to play things as fast as possible without even knowing it. So you’ll be playing song and I’ll be like, "Guys, slow the fuck down, I can’t get out the fucking words." It’s supposed to be a 30-second verse that’s in like 15 seconds because everyone’s like [mimics fast guitar playing]. It’s like a race, every song’s a race. It’s hard to think about, all right, we got this slow part. The new dynamics on our songs force us to have these breaks, which is really important to kinda just like space out the set. We used to not be able to do a 20-minute set without being keeled over at the end of it. Now, we can play an hour if we have to. It sucks, but . . .
ZU: I miss a certain aspect of that early spontaneity.
JJ: Dope Body as a three-piece is my favorite Dope Body.
AL It was definitely raw and primal.
ZU: I really hope you print what John just said.
AL: That should be the photo.
AL: Just a picture of John . . .
ZU: With three fingers up and then a thumbs up on the other hand.
DB: He decides Dope Body was way better off without him.
JJ: He ruined both bands, says rock is dead.
AL: I think you guys can have two bass players now, that’d be pretty tight.
JJ: Nah, you need a DJ Lethal, that’s what you need.
DB: Don’t steer it back in that direction.
AL: Roomrunner’s gonna take on the nu metal cross, and I’m gonna start wearing sweaters.
JJ: Nah, we’re gonna start wearing sweatpants, we already decided.
AL: We need a schtick, you know? I think that’s our problem is we need a schtick. We need like some jumpsuits or some Halloween masks or something.
DB: That’s the thing about our bands, it’s like there’s no hype angle.
ZU: No! We’re fucking boring, man.
DB: [laughing] Both our bands are four white dudes.
AL: Yeah, we’re like the most boring-looking white dudes.
ZU: I’m so whack. I’m so whack at dressing. John, you’re like OK. Dave, you’re pretty whack.
DB: Both bands of four just white dudes.
AL: Also, it’s funny how you see all these new bands come out and their press picture, it’s like man, we are some white dudes—playing white-dude music for other white dudes. I don’t need to see any more white dudes in hoodies at the show, with their hands in their pockets fucking looking at me. I’m over that kind of crowd. We’re not gonna diss any fans, but . . .
DB: I saw a big picture of you guys at Webster Hall, I was there this past weekend.
ZU: [excitedly] What’s it look like?
DB: It’s the black-and-white one where you [to Zach] are all smiley in the front.
AL: Sick, man. It’s the different Z.
DB: You guys are playing Webster Hall? Like, the big stage?
JJ: No, no, no, no, no. The studio.
DB: I saw it [and] I was like, "Oh, shit!"
AL: We’re playing with Big Ups and a band that has a worse name than us, which I never thought we’d find, Slonk Donkerson.
ZU: It sounds like a band we made up.
DF: I was gonna say, did you guys make that up?
ZU: Yeah, exactly.
AL: It’s real.
JJ: They’re really awesome dudes.
AL: Yeah, they’re nice dudes.
JJ: Good band, good band.
AL: They’re the 285 Kent dudes who were in Mexico working for Todd [Patrick].
JJ: Yeah, they’re cool dudes.
AL: They’re nice dudes, it’s just funny. I kinda like that idea where it’s, sometimes our band names so fucking stupid and whack, and people always ask me [adopts low nerdy voice:] “Why’s your name Dope Body?”
DJ: Every time.
AL: It’s like, I don’t know, why are The Beatles called the fucking, why is anyone called anything. It’s a band name, dude.
DF: ‘Cause at some point you gotta be like, OK, that’s the name and stop talking about it.
AL: Right. So I kinda like it when you have something so obscenely dumb.
ZU: We didn’t have to deliberate on that name at all. It was just like [snaps].
DB: That’s a good band name. And I get compliments on the T-shirt all the time, from people that obviously don’t know it’s a band, like teenagers getting off the bus.
ZU: Like the Dope Body-Dope Body shirt?
DB: Yeah. [Adopts kid voice:] I like your shirt!
JJ: I’m just glad the emo-band days of like the 12-word band names is done.
DF: John Keats Poem Title or fucking . . .
JJ: The Star Will Ride On Into the Sunset. [mimics emo guitar and vocal wails]
DB: I think Roomrunner is a bad band name because it sounds like someone with a mouth full of peanut butter trying to say something.
JJ: I think it’s perfect.
ZU: What are they trying to say?
JJ: Yeah, are you guys about Prohibition, or . . .
DJ: So we need a schtick?
AL: Yeah. We’re drunk. That’s our schtick.
DF: That’s fucking great schtick.
AL: We’re going Christian rock. I feel like it’d be fun to do Christian rock for like a year and see what happens.
DB: Get saved.
DJ: We don’t have tattoos, leather, or anything.
AL: Right. I mean, you automatically get a couple million fans when you’re a Christian rock band.
DF: [laughing] Automatically.
ZU: Built in. All of God’s children.
Dope Body’s "Lifer" and Roomrunner’s "Separate" are out now. They play The Metro Gallery on Oct. 24 with Big Mouth and Smoke Bellow.