Friday, November 18, 2011
An Interview With Terry Banks (Dot Dash, St. Christopher, Glo-Worm, Julie Ocean) -- And Another Free MP3!
When I jumped on the Dot Dash fan bandwagon I was first intrigued by the band's muscular, postpunk sound which seemed to owe little to either D.C.'s hardcore punk (Fugazi, Bad Brains) past or all those jangle-y bands (Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine) that once called this area home.
Little did I know that lead singer Terry Banks had a bit of a past in jangle rock -- you ain't gonna hear the word 'twee' here as it's an insult and doesn't fit the melodic pop that I'm a fan of -- with a tenure in seminal Sarah Records alums St. Christopher (!).
So here are some questions Terry Banks was kind enough to answer recently.
KENIXFAN: How did an American wind up in one of the bands from the legendary Sarah Records?
TERRY BANKS: I make no claim to the Sarah thing...
Unbeknownst to all of us at the time, what turned out to be St. Christopher's last single on Sarah came out about three weeks before I joined the band. They had also just got back from Japan (great timing on my part, eh?) The only St. Christopher record I played on was the Radio France Sessions EP that we recorded in Paris and was later put out by Slumberland.
KENIXFAN: There's still a free MP3 up on the Slumberland site. Download "Cathedral High" here.
How I ended up in the band is that I spent a total of about two years in England in the late 80s and early 90s…I came back to the States for a stretch in the middle of that. During that time, I used to buy NME and Melody Maker (at Olsson’s in Georgetown -- KENIXFAN: Me too! -- and Plan 9 in Richmond) and I saw a little blurb, or a live review, or something in Melody Maker saying something about "York indie combo St. Christopher is seeking second guitarist." I had seen them in London in '89 and liked them and I was sort of looking for a reason to go back to England...I had the "You Deserve More Than A Maybe" 7 inch which had the Rowes Cottage band address on the back of the sleeve, and, for the heck of it, I sent the Tree Fort Angst 15 Songs of Vim and Vigor cassette I had recently done, saying basically "Here's some stuff I did...Are you still looking for a guitarist?"
Long story short, they were. And so I decided to go back to England. It was a cool experience… We played lots of shows around the UK and on the Continent. It was not exactly the top rung of the showbiz ladder, but I got to go a lot of places and do a lot of things that I never would've been able to do were it not for joining the band, so, in that sense, I consider myself lucky to have done it.
KENIXFAN: You've now been in two bands with ex-members of Velocity Girl. What are some of your favorite moments from your work with The Saturday People and Julie Ocean? On a non-VG note: What about Glo-Worm with Pam Berry from Black Tambourine?
TERRY BANKS:I loved playing in all of those bands. The Saturday People was a laugh riot, we made a record we all loved, and we played some fun shows... I could say exactly the same thing about Julie Ocean -– great people, a record we loved, and fun shows -- with the added bonus of us having a sizable (for us) budget. Transit of Venus, the label that put out the Julie Ocean record, paid for us to go into a really pro, residential studio and make what was, for us, a really slick, really "pro" record... A few of the tracks from that record have ended up being used in TV shows here and there. "Bright Idea" is going to be in an NBC "Movie of The Week" in December -– so the tracks are still "out there," which is kind of cool...
"Bright Idea" from Julie Ocean. An awesome slice of pop!
KENIXFAN: There's still a free MP3 from The Saturday People up on the Slumberland site. Download "Slipping Through Your Fingertips" here.
TERRY BANKS: Glo-Worm was equally enjoyable. My favorite memory from that band is opening for Radiohead at The Washington Convention Center at this weird college-fair thing sponsored by WHFS. Radiohead had their equipment stolen the night before in New York and Thom Yorke asked me backstage if he could borrow my acoustic guitar for the show. I really only knew "Creep" (although they were at the beginning of the US tour for their then-new album The Bends) and I was convinced they were some sort of proto-grunge thing. I was sure my guitar would come back to me as kindling, but saying no would've been a total wuss move, so I said "Yeah, sure," thinking to myself, "Oh well, it's a cheap guitar..." Then I watched their set after we played and thought: "Wow… these guys are excellent." And, by the way, my guitar was returned to me in much nicer condition than I lent it -- new strings, a fixed bridge, improved intonation, etc. Their guitar roadie had done some kind of overhaul on it -- wish I'd lent it out earlier...
KENIXFAN: Julie Ocean and Dot Dash are named after songs by The Undertones and Wire, respectively. What is it about that early punk/postpunk era that so appeals to you?
TERRY BANKS: Yeah... Wow... 1977-81... That's the time period for me. The songs, the sounds, the graphics, everything. It's timeless, but also very much of its time –- not an easy trick.
KENIXFAN: Tell us how Dot Dash came together.
TERRY BANKS: Pretty simple. Hunter and I were in Julie Ocean. We knew Danny from around town -- KENIXFAN: I should add that Danny was in D.C. punk legends Youth Brigade, as well as Strange Boutique and radioblue. -- and had talked to him about potentially doing something. He was playing with Bill for a one-off reunion show of Modest Proposal, Bill's old mod band. We were all interested in giving a new band a whirl and we did.
KENIXFAN: The album has a remarkably live feel and some credit goes to your producer (Eric Tischler of The Jet Age). How did the recording sessions for this record go?
TERRY BANKS: Yep, Eric helped us get a ton of songs down in a very short span of time: 14 songs in three afternoons. We could've done fewer songs and spent more time on each, but we decided to do all of our stuff and go for sort of a "live in the room" feel. It was kind of a no-frills, "let's-get-it-done" vibe and we came out with 14 songs that ended up as our first album (thanks to The Beautiful Music.)
KENIXFAN: What's next for Dot Dash? I know the band has been playing some new songs at recent shows.
TERRY BANKS: We hope to make a second album. We have a bunch of new songs that we're playing live and, hopefully, we'll be able to get a second album out in the coming year.
KENIXFAN: Do you ever get nervous opening for some real legends? (Hugh Cornwell, The Chameleons, etc.)
TERRY BANKS: Ha, I should, but no... Not really... Famous last words...
KENIXFAN: Thank you for your time Terry, and I look forward to seeing you at the Chameleons gig!
TERRY BANKS: Sure thing – see you there!
There's no denying that Dot Dash have some great influences behind their unique sound and The Jam is one of them. Recalling mid-period greats from Paul Weller's seminal band, "Alright, Alright" is melodic and tuneful. This is one of the better showcases for vocalist Terry Banks on the debut album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, and you can download it below:
"Alright, Alright" by Dot Dash
Don't forget: Dot Dash are opening for a line-up of the seminal Chameleons called Chameleons Vox at D.C.'s Black Cat. Dot Dash are playing with Black Swan Lane and Chameleons Vox on 11/28 at the Black Cat. Doors are at 8 PM.
Follow Dot Dash on their Facebook page.
You can buy the album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, as a download via Amazon.com.
You can also get Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, via iTunes in the US here.
And the physical CD is available from TheBeautifulMusic.com.