Posted on 14 August 2012.
Enterprising Sidewalks is available on August 14th, 2012 through Slumberland Records
The NYMN Investigative Team is known for hard hitting journalism that cuts through the bull pucky and gets to the heart of the story. We try not to get into politics because we believe music is our democracy. However, we’ve uncovered that even musicians like Matthew Dingee, of the band Lorelei, have been part of the political machine for so long that they no longer see themselves as what they have become: a Beltway Boy. Maybe we’re over-reacting? Maybe we watched The Manchurian Candidate too recently. But what we do know is that this group took an 18 year break between full length albums and are releasing Enterprising Sidewalks today. What were they doing in those years? No one knows. What we do know is the same week they decide to come out with a new album, a new movie with a new lead actor in the Jason Bourne saga is released. Are these simply “coincidences” or have we uncovered something that goes all the way to the Governator?
NYMN: This is Lorelei’s first full length album since 1994. Back then, I stored all my CDs in a Case Logic binder and displayed my jewel cases like trophies on a CD rack I purchased at Pier 1. The way I consume music has completely changed. When I talk to my nephew about a life lived pre-iPods, he laughs at me. Were there advantages to being a musician in a pre-internet, pre-iTunes world?
Matthew Dingee: We could sneak up on you! I suspect more folks came out to our shows in the past having not heard our music as it was harder to get a hold of. That could work in our favor in that we could potentially surprise folks. Now it’s a lot easier to stream or download a snippet of our music and make a quick decision to go out, or not, to a show. Thus now when we headline it sometimes feels like we are preaching to the converted. We have a tiny, devoted fan base for which we are eternally grateful. But it’s more difficult to reach the potential audience who might be on the fence when deciding to spend their finite entertainment dollar on a bunch of old guys like us.
NYMN: Also, how have you evolved since those days when we were all glued to the TV to see what the Taylor Family was up to on Home Improvement?
We’re better at keeping our mouths shut. Sometimes.
NYMN: Also back in 1994 it seemed like most bands had four or five members – your standard lineup of lead guitar, possibly rhythm guitar, possibly keys, bass, and drums. The trend nowadays is bands either have two or three people or a stage full of people playing multiple instruments. Were you ahead of the curve when you went from five to three members in Lorelei?
It didn’t happen by any particular design. Trends tend to come and go. I concur though that there seem to be more two member bands than ever before. I suspect Nord Express to have been the catalyst.
NYMN: And if you can predict the future what can you tell us about the possible Mayan apocalypse in December?
The end is extremely fucking nigh. But it’s only just begun.
NYMN: I’m always interested in reading band bios provided by their record company. Your record company describes your albums as “subtle” which according to the definition you choose can mean different things. It can mean delicate, elusive, refined, expert, perceptive, or even obscure. All that being said, is Enterprising Sidewalks subtle?
I’d like to think it fits that description, but having had a hand in creating it I’m less optimistic. Someone tweeted this Robert Hughes quote the other day: “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”
That’s probably the height of arrogance to quote. To be clear I don’t consider myself a great artist. However, I do have a healthy amount of doubt regarding how the tracks will be perceived. That’s probably also tied to my strong desire to always be creating the next track. I suffer from wanderlust. In other words, I’m the wrong person to ask.
NYMN: When you go into the studio and you have an idea for a song is it this little acorn of an idea that grows and grows when you all start playing together or is it this large, hulking tree that you have to prune back and shape into something that isn’t overgrown?
Well, we usually create together and play the songs out to an audience and then make subtle refinements before we go into the studio to record. For this record we created 5 songs quickly between October 2006 when I returned to DC from the SF Bay area. We played a show or two, and then recorded the basic tracks in a studio in NYC in December 2006. Then we worked on overdubs for awhile on those tracks (6 months to a year). Then we wrote 6 more songs, recorded those in DC, and again went through a long period of time of slowly building up the tracks. Despite the length of time we were actually pretty restrained in what we added. During that time Stephen and I both went thru some massive life changes. We both got married, had children, and Stephen moved to Philadelphia. All that kept us from dwelling on the tracks and gave us a new perspective each time we returned to them.
But, yes, we grow the tree. Quickly at first, then slowly adding each leaf. We don’t prune until the end at which point Stephen and I usually need a third party to keep us from strangling one another.
NYMN: “Washington D.C.-based” is an adjective I see in a lot features about the band. Can you fill us in on the D.C. music scene? What are some not so obvious advantages to being a musician in D.C.?
Well, the scene is small in that the degrees of separation are tiny. There is a core group of people (musicians, venue proprietors, DJs, writers, etc.) who have made DC their home for a long time and they keep the scene going and tightly knit. For example, folks like Mark Williams & Les Talusan who put on the “Taking the Piss” monthly DJ night. That night was started by Mark and Alex Hacker (of Lilys and Ropers fame) ages ago. The fact that it continues is a testament to both a stubbornness of the organizers and the DJs who come to fill the guest slots each month as well as to the bar owners who begrudgingly let it continue despite not being terribly well attended (there is another night there as well, “The Big Takeover” put on by Rick Taylor and Brandon Grover which is also very cool). It gives us a place to fly our freak flag. That’s invaluable.
NYMN: Also, is there a D.C. band or musician you think we folks in NYC need to start following?
We seem to have a good collection of instrumental bands right now. Buildings, The Orchid, and Tone in particular. Stephen’s project Chessie and mine LU are both instrumental as well so we’re pre-disposed to paying attention to bands going that route.
NYMN: When are you coming back to NYC to perform?
October we hope. Our friends Dead Leaf Echo are setting something up. We’re trying to play more to support the record so we hope to be up to NY more often in the future.
NYMN: D.C. rapid fire questions:
Nationals or Redskins? Neither. DC UNITED!
Best way to get around in D.C. is… Train. Or run through Rock Creek Park.
Better state to border D.C.: Maryland or Virginia? Our practice space is in VA and Davis lives there. Stephen grew up there. Also, when I first moved into my neighborhood in NW DC there was a steady stream of Maryland residents driving down my street to buy drugs. Thus we’ll have to go with VA. But they are both on notice. They both need to start paying more for the Metro.
If you had to choose between these two D.C. natives, who would you pick as the Godfather of Washington D.C. music: Marvin Gaye or Duke Ellington? Neither. Chuck Brown. RIP.
Better movie to take place in D.C. which does not have the government essential to the plot: Wedding Crashers or The Exorcist? Neither. True Lies. Arnold and co. used the record store Stephen worked at (Smash, then in Georgetown) as their dressing room for some of the shooting there. Stephen sold Arnold some Dr. Martens and played him the first Lorelei record which he really dug. Arnold is a Lorelei fan! Sadly Stephen did not give him a CD. A shameful act that I will never let him live down.
Enterprising Sidewalks is available today for purchase.