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Like any other form of art, music is not merely a stagnant body for entertainment, but rather, a living, breathing, and rapidly evolving form of expression. As a result of such an animate tendency, we see it rapidly morphing, evolving, and progressing year by year. From Bob Dylan’s transition to electric guitar, to The Beatles’ experimentation with psychedelic sounds, it is evident that artists generally kick off their careers with one unique sound, and then slowly broaden their horizons, experimenting with new styles and genres.
For guitarist and singer Peter Richards from the indie rock band, Dude York; however, such a progression does not appear to be slow. On the band’s latest album, Sincerely, released on the 24th of February, Richards strays from the natural inclination of a musician to assign one specific style to an album, and instead, leaves hints of punk vocals, classic rock guitar, and even Conor Oberst-style modern folk.
Despite the variety of sounds and clear experimentation on Sincerely, Richards wishes not to follow in the footsteps of other musicians, but, instead, create an original sound that is unique to Dude York, stating, “I think that part of what makes us Dude York is our commitment to eclecticism. A popular thing with bands right now is to be eclectic, and for us it’s kind of our second nature. I just think that there’s so many great writers in the annals of history that it would be crazy to focus so specifically that you cannot have anyone you want reflected in your sound,” Richards says.
Concerning variety in Richard’s music, the span of song meanings on Sincerely ranges from topics like marijuana to those of inner-city poverty, or sad farewell. According to Richards; however, the album has a general focus on the concept of moving forward from an emotionally dark place: “Sincerely is sort of like a process record. It’s about coming to terms with depression and trying to move forward from otherwise bleak circumstances with an air of hopefulness and strength, even when your personal infrastructure has been compromised again and again. It’s about how you keep going with a depression at the heart,” says Richards.
Using the record’s theme of triumph in the midst of hopelessness, the second-to-last track on Sincerely, “Twin Moons,” has a pop-punk style chop-chord sound with lyrics that paint a decrepit picture of a man living in a crime-ridden cityscape. Its verses have a simplified, slowed-down tempo, with a haunting electric resonance, but then later the track progress to fast, pump-up choruses followed by a final speedy electric guitar solo that builds in climactic energy.
Richards had written the piece as an ode to the homeless communities of cities around the States. “Seattle, and I bet all the other cities, see an unimaginable epidemic of homelessness, so that [song] was an attempt to address homelessness directly, talk about disenfranchisement from the systems in play, and take a stance about the necessity of passion for other people,” he says.
While focusing on suffering and the bittersweet recovery of hope, album cut “Paralyzed” has the appearance of a breakup song, with lines such as: “Since you’ve been gone, behavior, I can’t regulate, since you’ve been gone, all I do is hesitate,” one would not be likely to assume the track was actually written about a feeling of social anxiety Richards’ recalls experiencing after his days of excessive pot smoking. “It’s about smoking too much weed, getting kind of anxious in social situations, and needing social situations even though you can’t hang. That’s what the song’s about: wanting to hang, but not being able to hang,” Richards says.
Like “Twin Moons,” “Paralyzed” has a relatively upbeat tempo, and a loud, thrashing chorus that makes way for a catchy tune. Residual energy from these two songs; however, will be subdued by the record’s final track: “Time’s Not on My Side,” in which Richards breaks off from the alternative rock sound, and strips down to a live acoustic guitar and clean vocals. With a tamed, candid, and raw voice, Richards mentions having written this closer as an ode to a friend who had moved away without notice.
Using bits and pieces of what his friend had sent him afterwards, Richards used this all-acoustic black sheep to top off Sincerely. “That song probably has the most to do with my actual life…some of those lyrics were sent to me by a friend who had just left the city. He had moved out of town without telling anybody. The first sound of that song really resonated with me, and I thought it was kind of a bumpy situation to find myself in, so I wrote it to say goodbye in a long-distance sort of way…It just seemed like a good thing to write a song about,” he says.
Going acoustic also exposed Richards to a new kind of simplified recording which he had never tried before, but is eager to experiment with in the future. “It was just one take and one microphone for both guitar and vocals. I had never recorded anything in that way, actually. That was the first time I had ever tried to record something in a ‘folk’ style, and I was very pleased with it. I hope to get the opportunity to repeat that one day,” Richards says.
As opposed to previous Dude York records, Richards distinguishes Sincerely for both the prominence of Claire England’s vocals and lyrical writing talent, as well as the band’s increased prolificacy. “I would see the there are two big differences between the past album and this album: the first big difference, and in my opinion, most important difference is Claire’s editorial voice being significantly stronger on this album than any work we’ve put out in the past. The fact that this album features songs that she wrote is extremely important to me. The second part of it is just the amount of songs…I haven’t written thousands of songs, but I’m getting there, and I think that the closer I get, the closer I am to writing the kinds of songs I that want to write,” says Richards.
Richards sees prolificacy in songwriting as a series of steps towards more accurate writing about how he feels. He expresses a ceaseless desire to keep improving his abilities to accurately depict and share his thoughts and emotions through the songs that Dude York produces. “Hearing an idea in your head, and then figuring out a way to bottle that for an audience or for yourself. It’s a discrepancy between what you hear in your head, and what you record; those two things don’t always line up. I think that the more songs I write, the easier it is to write the songs I hear in my head,” he says.
Dude York will be playing at the restaurant “Chop Suey” in Seattle the night before the release of Sincerely, and then again at “Above DNA” in San Francisco after the record’s release. “I enjoy touring, it’s nice to perform in a new location every night – that’s my favorite part,” says Richards. “I like writing songs, but I like performing them the most.”
Standout Track: “Tonight”
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photos by Sam Gehrke