Six string bass, huge amplifier stacks, drums and bubbles…
Just your typical heavy show in Columbus, right? That was the scene I walked into when I entered Dirty Dungarees Laundromat and Bar last week, as opener Reflex Machine set up in the back room. Obviously I wasn’t expecting the band to invite all the patrons of the bar to blow bubbles while they played, so I was immediately intrigued.
“We were shooting a video at Spacebar for our first single Faulty Apparatus. We wanted to do it all in one shot, but we needed something to fill the in-between time where there’s no action. Our director had the idea to have everyone blowing bubbles for the in-between shots,” explained bassist/vocalist James Garcia.
“So, I called (drummer/vocalist) Alex (Oakley) and asked him if he could pick up some bubbles on the way. He showed up with a huge bag full of bubble wands! I had to figure out what to do with the rest, and on a whim I decided to bring them to Dungarees. I wasn’t expecting a dozen people to pick them up and blow!”
When you’re a two-piece playing at a venue that is half laundromat/half bar, sometimes you ask yourself “Why not?” Fortunately the idea worked out splendidly, but I think the people in attendance were more in awe of the music than anything else.
As for the band themselves, Oakley and Garcia originally were in a four-piece called Etc Etc Etc, which split up and became two, two-piece bands, Reflex Machine and Ope. Both of the bands got together last weekend to do a unique “battle” set.
“We set up our amps facing each other and played songs back and forth and just blasted off as loud as we could,” said Garcia, “and at the end we got back together and played some Etc Etc Etc tunes. It was really wild!”
In their current form, the duo have been together for almost four years and released their debut EP back in 2016. Their name is borrowed from a quote from Philip K. Dick’s acclaimed novel “A Scanner Darkly.” Garcia says they are “the world’s premiere Philip K. Dick tribute band” and love to focus on chaotic and dystopian themes.
“We just didn’t want to have one of those generic doom names where a band just throws a couple words together,” he added.
The band has recently finished up their first full length LP Interzone (another sci-fi reference, courtesy of William Burroughs), which is slated for release on September 6. Their bio reads “The bass and drum duo locked themselves in their house in Columbus, Ohio, for five days with no outside contact to birth the sci-fi horror epic, which follows a twisted detective named Jones and his encounter with a sentient building known as the depraved Interzone.” I asked the duo to expound on their writing process.
“We don’t really have a formula. It’s a lot easier with two people,” explained Garcia. “When one of us has an idea, we throw it out there and go with it.”
“It’s so much more about experimentation and collaboration,” emphasized Oakley. “We’ll have a riff or specific lyric we like, and we’ll just mess around with it until we have a song.”
“On the new record, we’ve really been focusing more on making a soundscape… adding synthesizers and what-not. We really want it to be more atmospheric,” finished Garcia.
As far as singing goes, the band told me that it was much more “whatever needs to be sung, we just see who sings it better.”
“I would say Alex is the lead singer,” says Garcia. “I try to do the more harsh singing. Any time I try to make a melody, I struggle.”
“It’s definitely interesting to watch him try though!” laughed Oakley.
In spite of any deficiencies, the band says they love working together as a two-piece.
“It’s just so much more efficient that way,” says Oakley, “even when you have a three-piece… there are just multiple ideas and such bouncing around and it gets muddled.”
“We’d love to collaborate, but it wouldn’t just be another bass or guitar,” asserts Garcia. “I’m not saying that we want to make like, a country album, but I’d love to throw something crazy like a banjo in there!”
It’s a refreshing take on a cookie cutter musical world; do what you want, and make the best of it. No limits, no formula… just music.
In trying to find a genre, the band definitely had to wrack their brains. The main thing they both settled on was post-metal, with hints of Neurosis, Isis, and Sumac. And for influences, the duo ranged from Slint to Mastodon and The Mars Volta.
“Omar’s guitar playing… the way he structures things always weighs heavily on me,” admitted Garcia.
The band has paid their dues over the past few years, playing shows and doing mini-tours up and down the east coast. Their Facebook page shows over 950 fans, and the band says they were pleasantly surprised at the turnout at their show at Dirty Dungarees, especially considering Comfest was happening at the same time.
“We enjoyed playing Comfest last year, and we’d love to do it again. But all things considered, that ended up being a great night!” exclaimed Garcia.
The band has a few more shows in between now and the scheduled release date of September 6 for Interzone, and they will be playing a release show Saturday, September 7 with Columbus sludgers Weed Demon and Close the Hatch from Dayton. The video release for Faulty Apparatus will be next weekend, and you can believe we’ll have an album review coming for you for Interzone as well!