Thursday, January 03, 2008

Interview: The New Dress

Bill and Laura of Brooklyn's The New Dress are a duo playing a punk/folk hybrid that taps the past without leaving the present. Their album, Where Our Failures Are, is one of the best I've heard in this burgeoning genre (and it made my Best of 2007 list). If you aren't familiar with them, check out the review first.

RnRnNM: Brooklyn seems to be an indie rock hotbed right now. Do you find that beneficial, detrimental or unimportant?

Bill: I think it has the potential to be beneficial. I don't think we have taken full advantage of it so far, but there are great bands doing cool things around here, and teaming up with them and playing shows together... that can only help your band.

Laura: Definitely beneficial—there are so many venues for indie bands to book free and cheap shows in Brooklyn right now. I was worried when North Six closed that it'd be hard to replicate that basement show feeling at other venues. But places like 538 Johnson, 131 Tompkins, Lost & Found, Pete's Candy Store, Don Pedro's etc. are putting on great shows for independent bands and we've really benefitted from the close community of friends and bands that lends itself to.

RnRnNM: What are your live shows like?

Laura: Since it's just the two of us, playing shows is sortve just like hanging out with our friends, singing songs we all know the words to. And when people don't know the words, it's feels like hanging out with Bill.

Bill: Our best shows are the ones with other bands on our label, Red Leader Records, and with friends' bands in Brooklyn and New Brunswick. I mean, with just the two of us, what you see is what you get. So, when people are singing along and having a good time, you can see that we genuinely are too.

RnRnNM: How is being a two-piece different than the traditional vocals-guitar-bass-drums approach?

Laura: I think people get to know us as a band a lot quicker than fuller bands—I mean, you can hear us up there breathing! Sometimes I wish we took up the same "space" that other bands do, but only because the songs are important to us.

Bill: In my experience, there's definitely that aspect of the live show being more... intimate? I don't think we're projecting any image and as a result, I feel like we are approachable. Y'know, come and talk to us afterwards or whatever. I can't say for sure if that's a result of us not having a rhythm section, or if that's just our personalities.

RnRnNM: What/who are your non-musical influences?

Laura: Our brothers influence us quite a bit, I'd say. Likely more than they know! And, while our songs are clearly influenced by disappointment and anger towards current events, we are also equally inspired by the new friends we make playing and the support bands give each other. Oh, and Seinfeld.

RnRnNM: If you could play a show with any artist or band, past or present, who would it be?

Laura: Yikes, too much pressure to choose only one! It would be pretty outstanding to play with Ted Leo and then get to talk with him about World Cup, Project Runway and the upcoming election. I suspect we'd see eye to eye on most of those topics.

Bill: I say Randy Newman, he seems like a cool guy. (And a magical band called TheClashRancidTedLeoTomWaits)

RnRnNM: Like Billy Bragg, a clear influence on your music, you have an ability to write meaningful songs. What do you think is the key to that?

Bill: Maybe it's because ever since we started doing this the only thing that matters is that the band and the experience remain meaningful to us. The songs are important to us. But it's also important to us to have fun, and I think that can be found in the songs, too. We write and do the things we think are funny... our logo is a drum kit!

Laura: I think laughing (essentially, all Bill and I do at practice) with friends you trust and admire helps you to make meaning out of troubling times….it helps give you perspective.

RnRnNM: What's right and what's wrong with music today?

Laura: What's right with music today is American Steel's new record. I could probably name what's wrong too, but people like what they like I guess.

Bill: I think it's silly to complain about "the state of music today" like an old man or something. I don't remember any kinda glory days when things were any different. There are always great new bands, and there's also always a ton of crap out there too. It just so happens that most people like stuff that sucks, so it's the crap that's popular. You may have to search out the good stuff, but that makes it more meaningful to you. One extremely positive thing about music today is our access to pretty much anything we want. So if you're not discovering new cool music everyday, you have yourself to blame.

RnRnNM: What's coming up in the future for the New Dress?

Laura: We are working on a couple really sweet new songs that have us excited about the possibility of recording again, and hopefully touring again in the spring or summer. We met some amazing people on tour upstate and we're looking forward to getting back there when it gets a little less snowy. For now, while we are hibernating, we're playing lots of shows in Brooklyn and New Jersey with our friends and Red Leader siblings, and hoping people like the record.

RnRnMN: Pick one of the following:
Beatles versus Rolling Stones
Billy Bragg vs. Dead Kennedys
Hank Williams vs. Johnny Cash
Sex Pistols versus The Clash
Husker Du versus Pixies

Both. But probably the Beatles.
Umm, Billy Bragg.
Tough one! Hank Williams.
Psshh! Easy. The Clash.

Laura: I don't get it—is this to the death, or to the awesome? If its to the awesome, I'd go:


If its to the death…same answer.



Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

"I think it's silly to complain about "the state of music today" like an old man or something."

Poetry, however, we must ALL complain collectively about corporate rap and prefab douche music, then get over ourselves and find cool stuff, like he suggests...dig it.

10:07 AM  

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