January 7, 2018
By Brian Tucker
Drop the needle on any Dirty Fences record and a party begins. From their Ramones inspired 2012 self-titled debut to 2017’s Goodbye Love. Their albums have arrived on vinyl (some on cassette), one attribute of an old school sound made new again combining infectious song craft inspired by ragged rock and roll music.
Like previous full lengths and one-off 45s, they contain an all-fired-up vibe without becoming stagnant. Each Dirty Fences album sounds a little different, what singer Jack Daves calls natural evolution and the latest release features bass player Max Comaskey writing the fiery, bruising romantic “One More Step” and sharing vocals with Sheer Mag’s Christina Halladay.
“We’ve always been into the softer ballad stuff. We’ve also always been into playing fast. We’ve always loved heavy and poppy equally,” Daves said of organic tastes changes. “So sometimes it seems like there’s a linear trajectory but really we’re kind of circling back and forth through the different types of music we’ve loved since the band started. Every once in a while we will all collectively get hyped on a band we hadn’t explored before and the ship will start heading in another direction. A week later our focus will change again.”
Hailing from Boston they call New York City home but Daves says there’s no allegiance to the city’s baseball teams – “I use to run home from school to watch afternoon Red Sox games. Fenway Park was a fifteen minute walk from where I grew up. Baseball was big part of life there. Somewhere in our late teens rock and roll and just music in general became more important than anything else. There wasn’t much room to think about baseball.”
It didn’t prohibit them producing a cool 45 for Obey Records with artwork by Daniel Irons of the band in uniforms and baseball cards of each member inside.
“As a kid I was always really excited by LPs that had a little something extra in the design like Zeppelin III’s spinning paper discs that would change images displayed on its cover, or Jethro Tull’s Stand Up album that has a pop-up book display of band members when you open the gate fold. I’m not even a Tull fan at all and I remember that record.”
The 45’s two songs illustrate shifting gears to something smoother, less fuzzed out, and vocals more focused. The sound found its way to Goodbye Love, and another record label – Greenway Records.
“It seems to be the state of things these days. There is a lot of freedom for bands at our level to move around and do one-off projects with this label or that label. We are currently working with Greenway Records. It’s been a great partnership so far. We are beginning to talk about a live album.”
While the vibe remains so does the running time – each album clocks in around thirty minutes, leaving the ear wanting more and a need to play it again. Daves says it’s about leaving the listener wanting more.
“Get in and get out,” Daves said. “Each time we’ve made an album we promise ourselves we will put out only ten songs. Ten is just the perfect length. Whenever we start voting on which songs to put on the record we can never decide. So we just put everything on. The next one will only have ten songs. We promise.”
Ten songs or twenty, or the possible live album, the result is fun rock and roll that brings things together instead of apart. It stems from musicians getting along well, and creatively, whether writing country-ish “King’s Cross, the psyche-fuzz of “Deep in Your Heart,” or shotgun trash confection of “Keep Your Kitten Inside.”
“We’ve known each other since we were kids. We already did all the fights. Finding success together brings us even closer together as family. I’ve spent more hours with these guys than anybody on the planet. There is also nothing more fun than playing a rock and roll show. We don’t plan to stop doing that anytime soon.”
Additional Q and A with Jack Daves
The baseball themed 2016 two-song 45 is great, with baseball cards of the band. Whose idea was it and did it surprise Obey Records?
We love making fun merch. As a kid I was always really excited by LPs that had a little something extra in the design. The cards were something we’ve always talked about doing. There is something so fun about the Beatlemania-gotta-collect-em-all feel of it. Obey records was really excited to make them and did a great job. Daniel Irons is the artist who drew and designed them.
You have a lot of material for shows on tour. Are there songs that are show staples?
We feature songs from all of our LPs, EPs and singles in our show. It’s definitely weighted more heavily with new material. People always want to hear the song “White Lies.” We give them that. At the end of our set things speed up and get a little heavier. The last four or five songs have almost no break. Fans look forward to this last “song.”
“One More Step” is a great song. Was a duet for the band long in the making and was it another way to shake things up for everyone?
The song is written and sang by our bassist Max Comaskey. Christina Halladay (Sheer Mag) is a close friend of ours. Max initially wrote this song with her voice in mind. The idea to do it as a duet came later. We’ve included other friends on other records but nothing like this. Just a little lap steel guitar or organ to flesh things out. We just finished filming a video for this song yesterday.
“King’s Cross” is somewhat of a diversion stylistically.
We love country music. This song has the same laid back feel. Maybe it’s more of a Cat Stevens rip-off than a country song. Anyway the song is actually about meeting the Detroit punk band Death. These guys were such sweethearts. It was very inspiring to talk with them
What’s an artist, performer, or something that has influenced the band people wouldn’t readily be aware of?
Joni Ekman. We just toured his home country of Finland with him. He’s fantastic. Rock and roll sounds beautiful in Finnish too. Please also check out Nat Brower. He is the truth
Is it hard to be a rock and roll band now? It seems like everything is under the microscope.
No it is not. Just be kind, respectful, and work hard. Eat your vegetables.