An Interview with Dreadnought – The Cutest Doom Band In The World
I’d been charmed with Dreadnought when I first discovered them a few months ago through a promotional copy of their new record Bridging Realms. These guys craft stunning progressive and heavy music that uses horns, keys and woodwinds to help craft a unique sound that I predict the world will soon be raving about. On top of that… these dudes and dudettes are fucking adorable.
Wholly unique and ready to take on the world, I got the chance to interview them on a scummy Philly street corner and talk about music, life and more. This is what heavy music is about – innovation, power, and fun.
How the hell are you?
Kevin (K): So awesome! It’s Saturday so we’ve been on tour for eight days now, and it’s just been a badass tour. We’ve made so many incredible connections. We’re living the life that we love.
Jordan (J): This tour is great, not just musically but also in terms of what we had to do to get to this point. It’s a pleasure being here. So that’s a great question, how the hell are we? Fucking great!
What in particular held you back?
J: Money, finances… making the time off happen too.
K: I was unemployed for July so I had to really push to have the money for this. My savings for tour that I had set up in April evaporated, and I wasn’t sure I could make this happen. But now here I am, my August bills are paid and my September bills are getting there! We’ll find out! Maybe they’ll get paid.
J: We’ll worry about it after tour and we’re happy to be here and happy to be playing tonight.
Is this the first DIY show of the tour?
J: Well we played a DIY show in Wyoming a little south of Cheyenne.
K: That was stellar!
J: It was in an old car garage with some old car equipment, and it turned out to be the most exciting show of the tour. The venue reached capacity!
K: I remember we were unloading and tearing down after our set and we loaded back into the van. I tried to go back in to see the last band and I was locked out because of fire marshal laws! He locked the door on me! It was mindboggling, especially that it happened in Cheyenne, Wyoming!
J: We love the DIY scene which is why we decided to book another one. One of our favorite places to play in Denver is the DIY venue Seventh Circle.
K: We grew up in DIY. We’ve never felt at a loss in DIY venues. Even though we’re a difficult band to mix with a lot going on we’ve always been able to work with minimal PA. We cut our teeth at a really small bar in Denver. It was owned by the guys in the sludge band Adai and they had a five channel PA. It was right when we were figuring out that we wanted keys and saxophone and flute and all that. When we’d show up the sound guy would be like “What are you bringing in this week!”
How did you end up incorporating so many instruments?
J: Well we’ve all grown up with music. As for me I always wanted to learn the drums, but I studied love and saxophone for the love of music. It was through marching band and jazz band that I really fell in love with the saxophone. For Kelly as well… she loved the guitar but wanted to pursue a concert instrument in school and she fell in love with the flute. After we broke up our old band we were searching for a new sound and didn’t want to disregard anything. We didn’t cross anything off the idea list. So I was able to bring in my saxophone without there being a lot of judgement about how “There hasn’t been a lot of saxophone in metal.” Kelly was able to bring the flute in for similar reasons.
K: I think that’s definitely what helped us out. In our past groups we wanted a specific sound, but when we started Dreadnought we wanted to be individuals and have our own thing. As long as it made sense we wanted to bring something new into the mix, but it was never just for the fun of it! For me with me adding mandolin playing on top of bass… it just kind of gave me a platform. That was awesome, and I got to pick up a new instrument, and I learned it quickly. It’s definitely something I’m going to be working more on and will be featured on the next record.
J: On the next record we’re going to have trumpets and orchestrated instruments as well.
How are you going to pull that off live?
J: Sometimes loop stations will come into play. Also I will try to do both sax and drums at the same time if possible. Kevin will wear two guitars or a mandolin and a guitar to make it all happen. As long as I have a hand free I can do a woodwind instrument. The trumpet will allow me to hit the full range of notes whereas with saxophone I’m limited to the left hand stuff. I’m still learning trumpet and it should be ready for the album but we’ll see what the future brings.
How the fuck do you even arrange a Dreadnought song?
K: Typically it starts with someone presenting an idea, a riff or a vamp. We all use different terms because we have different backgrounds. We take that central idea and build off of it and maybe go on a tangent. Then when it stops making sense we cut it back. We really just build off a few central ideas. At first we were trying to be more ambitious and introducing three or four ideas at a time but we weren’t able to use all of those. When you are having a collaborative process like this you can’t really do that. That’s the kind of thing that Kelly and I sometimes have trouble with. The collaboration has a mind of its own.
When I heard Dreadnought I was like… wow this is the band for me! Because I have both a classical background and a jazz background as well as being into doom.
K: Jordan and I have jazz backgrounds while Kelly and Lauren have classical backgrounds.
How do you communicate across genre boundaries like that? In my own experience I’ve had difficulty explaining stuff to musicians who come from such a different place musically from me…
J: We don’t typically have a lot of issues with that. We can all do the sheet music stuff but we really do feel it out. If a music gets technical we’ll write it out.
K: Sometimes though if it’s too hard we sit down and have heart to hearts to communicate it. Our new record Bridging Realms was especially difficult to write. It took a lot to explain the behind the beat type drumming to everyone and then get it to work in the context of the songs. It makes sense though because a lot of this doesn’t make sense to people who have classical backgrounds! You’ve got to find a middle ground. We do that in a number of ways. Sometimes it’s with drawings, sometimes it’s with sounding out stuff. We go down to brass tacks and then raise it back up.
You use drawings to write songs?
J: We have a sketchpad in the basement, and it has all the drawings that are tied to the songs. Like the song Ode To Ether is supposed to be icy so we portrayed an icy planet with crystals all around in ring formations. There was a castle made of ice and eerie things that came as we were writing the album.
Is any of this on the Facebook page?
K: We want to post it at some point.
J: The closest thing we have is our Saturn shirt which portrays a Saturn like planet with lots of icy protrusions and rocky formations.
Who does those drawings?
J: I primarily will. But a lot of times the girls will come in with a pencil or two and mark up some drawings. I take care of most of the artistic side of things. We all like being able to see the songs. We all have color associations too…
I have synesthesia too and I hear that!
J: We were literally just talking about that at lunch today and about how we all see similar colors for similar parts. I’m still attempting to taste our music.
I try to do that too…
K: Spicy is one I get a lot…
What’s the best tasting record?
K: I would go with Stanley Clark’s debut record. It’s delicious. It’s creamy and has some spiciness.
J: I like the cream but it’s the fresh nature of Chick Corea’s Friends that tickles my tongue.
To head towards the end… I want you to finish this sentence for me… I’ve never told this story before and probably shouldn’t but…
K: It’s our long standing tradition to have breakfast burritos at like three in the morning. So we were in Sacramento, and we asked our friend “What’s a good place to get breakfast burritos around here?” So he recommends this place and we head over to this place and it was really cool. A whole bunch of our friends came with us, so we were just a bunch of dudes.
There was this group of people in front of us who we thought were women and who ended up being drag queens.
I was looking at this girl and she was really marketing her ass. She had squeezed into this tiny pair of high waist shorts and she had a just a phenomenal butt. And we’re all talking about it and she’s bending over at the counter and was smacking it and looked back and smirked. One thing leads to another and they’re putting dollar bills in her belt. It was outrageous. Then we hung out with them while we ate our burritos!
What do you love so much about music?
J: I love the power of music. I love how you can listen to a band and feel emotions for the first time. Music has an incredible power that we’re only now becoming aware of. That’s my favorite part of it.
K: I would say what I love the most about music is that it speaks however you want it to speak for where you are at any point in time. It’s a language really. I love that about it because there’s generation and location defining artists. I love that music can capture so much of what defines the human experience.
Any final words of wisdom?
K: I love you.
I love you too.