Q and A with Callan Trippe of Dirty White Rags
By Brian Tucker
Dirty White Rags, a local jazz and blues group, will be having an EP release show this Saturday with Benny Hill at Bourgie Nights in downtown Wilmington. The show, and specifically the new music DWR recorded at Hourglass Studios, is a real treat, a short but sweet gem of a local debut.
The band – Callan Trippe (lead vocals), David Vaughn (piano), Patrick Carr (guitar), Stuart Currin (drums), and Samantha Lynn (bass) have created an amalgam of jazz and blues, echoing the past while feeling perfectly rooted in the present.
Across five songs, the band delivers smoky, sultry sounding music that oscillates between romantic atmosphere (“Fly Away”) to tongue-in-cheek playfulness (“Serial Lover”) or cabaret flavored (“Spice”). At the center is Callan Trippe, a self-taught singer from Wilmington whose voice is as timeless as it is alluring. Angelic and soulful with a hint of rasp, Trippe is simply wonderful. The band’s equally elegant playing surrounds her, making the EP a repeat player, a long lasting affair that hopefully leads to more music.
Trippe works at Fermental on Market Street, a bar and music venue that helped the band grow. Owner Steven Gibbs let the band perform as they were evolving and adding band members and they perform there once a month. Below, Trippe discusses how the band came together and making the album.
When did you begin performing?
Trippe: My mother would always bring me to blues and jazz shows around town as a little girl, but I didn’t start trying to perform until about six years ago. I’ve usually worked in places around town that have been a space for local musicians to come and flex their muscles, so I was able to see how they prepared, how many times they would do a song, how they reacted to their audience. I met David Vaughn at an open mic about six years ago, and we’ve been performing together ever since.
Regarding singing, do you feel like an old soul, more suited for another decade?
It’s been suggested before. I think it’s easy for everyone to feel lost or out of place, but rather than worrying about when my place should have been, I try to focus on where I need to be, and find a way for the decade to fit me. I sing the only way I know how, I have no formal training, people have compared me to Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday. As far as I’m concerned though, that doesn’t make me suitable for another decade, those women made themselves timeless because they were so unique, and I consider it a huge compliment to even be considered in the same field as them.
When did you first become enamored with those genres?
I’ve always been enamored with sound rather than style. I remember listening to Library of Congress field recordings as a little girl, they were so different. There was sparse accompanying music to back up these songs, sometimes none at all. It gave me a healthy respect for the tenacity of music. How something as simple as an old man beating a broomstick against a wooden floor can give you goose bumps, and maybe affect you more than a sixty piece ensemble who have rehearsed six months for a two-hour long recital.
Do you still get excited (or nervous) taking the stage to perform?
I get nervous, every single time. Someone once told me if you’re not nervous then you’re no longer committed. I still have problems making eye contact on stage. I usually find a spot on the ceiling and stare at it.
The band evolved, added musicians. Playing and creating, was there a quick connection together?
We have grown so much in what felt like a small amount of time. We’ve been with our drummer Stuart Currin for about two years now. Our bass player Samantha Carradori has been with us a little under a year now, and we just started playing with guitar player Patrick Carr. Stuart and Sam were immediate – Stuart got invited to play with us at a show once and made himself indispensable and I met Sam on a random night out and decided right then and there that she would be a part of the band. I even argued with a guy from a different band over her, before hearing her play once.
Patrick was a more level headed, adult choice. We actually put an ad out for a guitar player and he was one of the people who responded. It’s been fantastic to have the opportunity to get into styles that were almost impossible to pull off without the blues guitar he brings to the group. We all are friends outside of the band, and we have learned each other’s quirks and body language, so it’s easy to give cues on stage. Occasionally things get a little silly on stage, but it’s led to some great changes with the material.
The new EP, is it all original material written by the band or you?
Everything on the EP is original. With the exception of one song that I wrote alone, I’ll usually approach David with a bare bones melody, and a mostly fleshed-out set of lyrics and we argue and nitpick over the bridge and chorus for months before they finally come together. I criticize him for an overabundance of nautical themed metaphors and he tells me that I’m a bully and my puns are terrible…we agree to disagree.
Usually performing the songs at least once in front of an audience solidifies it into what finally made it on the EP. You can certainly tell what songs were being worked on when we started to take on more musicians and new concepts that we didn’t have the tools for before.
Was this your first time in a proper recording studio?
It was my first time in a proper recording studio. We recorded a couple things in rehearsal and did a couple of low tech videos before. I was so nervous the first day I tripped and fell knuckles over kneecaps into the vocal booth. Luckily no one was looking and had no idea what happened until they heard the crash.
What, if any, adjustments did you make to performing while making the EP?
We actually added new instrumental tracks to the EP that weren’t written before we started recording. Sam and Stuart have also been a huge help with harmonies and backup vocals. I learned that as good as you think you might be you’re always going to find something wrong with your voice when you hear it recorded. It was an incredibly humbling experience.
Working at Hourglass, did you record the songs live?
We did record the songs live, we did it once together, and then went back through to each instrument and each level, then recorded those again, then back to the beginning again to do it all over again. It took longer than I thought it was going to, and definitely gave me a healthy respect for the patience it involves to be a sound engineer. Trent Harrison was incredibly patient and polite, but he didn’t let us get away with skimping on a track and didn’t hesitate to point out problems.