by: Thomas D. Mooney
Tyler Hardy and Torrie Atchison, one half (and guitarists) of Lubbock The Dendrites, are sitting in a makeshift sound booth in Hardy’s home. The walls and ceiling are padded with blankets and egg foam pads. It’s on Wednesday afternoon and the two of them are working on the finishing touches of “Leave Me,” which they released later that night doubling as their first single and as a free download.
You can tell without them saying it, that they’ve been staring at their computer screen for the last five straight hours–at least. There’s both a welcoming when I come in, knowing that my questions will give them a temporary break and a bit of anxiousness knowing they must finish their three-song EP as soon as possible.
The Dendrites, the already mentioned Hardy and Atchison, along with drummer Corey Alvarez and cellist Yvette Lara, have been creating a sound all their own–focused mainly on the classical melodic interplay between Hardy and Atchison’s guitars. There’s something refreshing, calming, and balanced about The Dendrites.
It all feels precise and on point–everything from Alvarez’ sometimes subtle, sometimes commanding drum play and Lara’s calming cello to Hardy and Atchison’s intertwining guitars. Like we discussed, people haven’t been going to Dendrites shows to socialize and get drunk, they’ve been going to watch and hear–which, isn’t exactly the easiest thing to convince people to do.
This Saturday, The Dendrites play at The GlassyAlley to release their self-titled debut EP. Listen and download “Leave Me” below. Like The Dendrites on Facebook here and for more details about Saturday’s show, click here.
New Slang: I guess starting off, when did you guys start recording this EP?
Tyler Hardy: March. Yeah, mid-March.
NS: As far as the songs being built and created, is it really a collaboration between the four of you or do you feel someone typically has a bigger input on some of the songs?
Torrie Atchison: I write the skeleton of them. Then I bring it to Tyler and we arrange them. But I guess I write the song.
TH: Yeah. Like all the moods, the meat of the piece, all the melody, she comes up with. And then like if there’s something not right or have an idea, I’ll help arrange that. Then I get to write lead [guitar] pretty much over whatever she does. So I pretty much write to her melodies. Sometimes they have vocals and sometimes they don’t. She writes a lot of instrumental stuff too. And then Corey and Yvette–we do the meat of the melody writing between guitars, between us just sitting down and working on a piece–then we take it to Yvette, and we don’t have music or anything for her set to play. We just say, “hey, write something and work it out over a period of time.” It’s something written specifically for that part, but she also kind of improvs with it. And then Corey, he just lays it down with whatever he thinks he should. He writes some crazy shit [Laughs]. I mean, he knows when to back off and when to play dynamic. He’s really tasteful. You don’t have to give him much direction. Everybody in the project is pretty much super on top of their game when it comes to writing and playing. Everybody really cares about what they write.
NS: With you guys, I really think you guys are masters of each of the instruments you play. I guess what I’m saying is that you can tell you’ve invested a lot of time and that you really care about what you’re playing.
TA: Wow. We really, really appreciate that.
TH: Yeah. Just a ton of practicing.
NS: Yeah, how often do you guys practice with each other?
TA: It generally depends on, for example, if I bring a song to the table, Tyler and I sit down and probably go over it for about four hours. Then, we would bring it to Corey or Yvette and probably spend on it a few days writing cello and drum parts. If we’re not recording, we practice like three times a week.
TH: Three times a week as a full band for sure. And then another day if we’ve got to play a show that week. And then when we’re writing or focusing on mixing or something like that, we pretty much see each other every day [laughs]. It’s a pretty good portion of the fucking week [laughs].
TA: Yeah. Like we’ve spent a ton of time in this room every day for like a month and a half. The recording process, sometimes I’m here 12 hours a day.
NS: Dedication. That’s something too though. You guys are recording this yourself. You’re producing, engineering, mastering, etc all yourself.
TH: I think that people–not that they don’t want to–but that they don’t think they can or that they don’t have enough time. They don’t believe in themselves. I think a lot of people can craft their music and spend a good amount of energy and time on it. You know, i don’t have a lot of money, so I have to do it that way. I think there are people out there who are maybe in a better position who feel like they don’t. If they took a step back though, they can realize that they can do it on their own. And I think it would be better.
NS: Going back to the songs, you guys do both songs with lyrics and instrumentals. How do you know or decide when a song needs lyrics?
TA: How the melody is singing. Sometimes it just doesn’t need vocals to harmonize with it I guess. Like, I don’t want to muddy a melody on guitar with a vocal if it’s not necessary. And sometimes, words just don’t come to me.
NS: So I’m assuming you write the music before you even consider writing lyrics.
TA: Yeah, definitely.
TH: I think typically, a part will just say “this needs vocals” or “this doesn’t need vocals.” It’s almost like you just go with intuition.
NS: I think a lot of people, they feel the emotional attachment to a song is directly tied to the lyrics of a song. How do you guys get the audience to attach to these songs (the instrumental pieces) emotionally?
TA: Hmm. That’s a good question. I feel like I emote really well. I just have never had a problem letting you know how I feel with my voice. Here lately, I’m really learning how to do that with my guitar. Tyler definitely does. Everyone in the band I think does.
TH: We were sort of talking about this last night. You may not be exposed to style or like certain types of music, but if you see something that you can just tell that they’ve spent a lot time to get to where they’re at doing what they’re doing–whether or not it has any singing on it–you can hear them singing through their instrument. I think harmony and melody, they way the interact can represent emotion. It’s hard not to feel solemn when you hear a minor melody and when you hear a major melody, it’s hard not to feel happy. Not saying that you should play in those intervals, but you can definitely communicate mood and emotion that way. You just have to be human and have ears to hear that. And I hope that’s what people hear in our instrumentals. Like, we play with enough emotion in our melodies that it communicates something. Now it might be something different to you than something somebody else feels, but as long as it ignites something inside the person listening to it, then that matters.
NS: You guys are really different sounding as far as genre labels go–especially for Lubbock. There for the longest time, it felt like there was just country and punk bands. I mean, I’m not sure if there’s been any other band that has sounded like you guys from here. It feels like there’s a lot of new and different sounds happening now though. You guys feel like you’re part of that first wave of pioneers when it comes to that? Or are you just playing music and not even thinking about that [laughs]?
TH: There is a wave going on.
TA: Yeah, I definitely feel that way with what you’re talking about. I don’t know if it’s conscious.
TH: Yeah, I think there’s a certain energy right now in Lubbock because, you know, Marcus passing away, The Prairie Fire opening up and then closing down. And everybody feeling like they can really focus on what they were doing. I don’t think it’s anything that we consciously do. It’s more that there’s just a lot of people really focusing on what they want to do and they’re putting it out there for people to listen to. And a lot of them, they’re doing it for free. That’s fucking awesome. That momentum, it’s really driving because you see somebody else really working hard, it makes you want to work really hard. So if you surround yourself with musicians of great caliber, all of a sudden, everybody is driving each other. That’s what I feel like is happening in Lubbock right now.