Dude York are discussing the movie Crash. Not David Cronenberg’s 1996 flick where James Spader fetishizes car wrecks — but the 2004 Paul Haggis one starring Matt Dillon and Brendan Fraser.
“Wait, who’s Brendan Fraser?” asks guitarist and singer Peter Richards, who’s on a conference call with me and the rest of the band.
“He totally was Tar — no, he was George of the Jungle!” remembers drummer Andrew Hall, who nearly confuses one vine-swinging jungleman for another.
“Poor Brendan Fraser, I love him,” says bassist and singer Claire England, referring to the former leading man’s fallen star.
How they got on this topic in the first place is pure whimsy. (“Somebody named Bird York gets played in the ending credits of the movie Crash,” says Hall in an allusion to his band’s name.) The members of Dude York have a tendency to talk over each other and complete each other’s sentences — not to mention answer each other’s questions, a move that even spills over thematically from song to song — which explains how easily they can get into this conversational snowball. All tangents aside, though, the Seattle power-pop trio’s easy, rambunctious rapport, is as genuine as the title of their Hardly Art debut, Sincerely (out on February 24).
For Hall, England and Richards, who have been together for four years and released one other full-length, a 2014 digital LP called Dehumanize, “It’s all about intimacy between the listener and the three of us,” says Richards. “We want there to be no barriers between that connection.”
England concurs. “We may crack a joke in our everyday life, but yeah, these songs are sincere.”
Being mindful can’t be too difficult when you’re ensconced in a vibrant, like-minded artist community, the way Dude York are in Seattle. In fact, living and working among area artists is precisely how Dude York found themselves on Hardly Art’s respected roster.
Upon graduating from college (Richards first met England in high school, while Hall and the former connected later at Whitman College in Walla Walla), the three separately relocated to the rainy Northwest metropolis and began playing as Dude York, where they were surrounded by creative peers — many of whom also play in Hardly Art projects (Tacocat, with whom they’ve toured, La Luz and Chastity Belt, to name a few). After Dude York finished recording Sincerely, Hardly Art asked to hear it and signed them soon thereafter. Relative to other “will-they-won’t-they” chases between bands and labels, Dude York getting signed was about as drama-free as they come. “It was very natural,” Hall acknowledges.
Well…almost. There was one snag: The band had originally recorded a poorer-quality edition of Sincerely at a punk house called Magic Lanes. Deciding to scrap it and start over after getting middling reviews from friends, Dude York teamed up with Cody Votolato from post-hardcore greats The Blood Brothers and Head Wound City, whom they met two years ago at a “total disaster” of a fundraiser, where “the bartender stole everything from the bar.”
In taking over, Votolato brought in renowned producer John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Blonde Redhead, Sleater-Kinney), much to the band’s delight. “I’d wanted John Goodmanson to work on a Dude York record for forever,” says Hall. “Like, forever-forever. He was just an awesome presence to have around, ‘cause he knows how to encourage and get good takes out of people….he was just a really thoughtful, fun person to make a record with.”
The 13 tracks on Sincerely, are, in contrast to their booming, brash arrangements, plainly vulnerable, truthful and deal with familiar feelings of quarter-life malaise. Kicking off with chanting bombast, opener “Black Jack” is an open call for harmony: “Too afraid to ask for help / I tried to do it all by myself / Still believe in myself… As far as I can tell / Nobody does it all by themselves.” On the twisting “Tonight,” England matter-of-factly moves on from a relationship: “Clearly, we’re too different / I guess that means it’s the end… Let’s wrap this up, there’s somewhere else I’ve got to be tonight.” But the forlorn “The Way I Feel” directly contradicts the straight-up tone of “Tonight,” with Richards sounding despondent as he whines the titular lyrics. It just goes to show: it doesn’t matter what tone sincerity takes — as long as nothing is obscured.
“There’s a desperation and short-sightedness in ‘The Way I Feel,’ and then there’s a grounding perspective from ‘Tonight,’ agrees Richards. “Those songs aren’t necessarily related in any literal sense, but for me, I think about those songs as kind of asking a question and answering a question. And that question being, like, ‘Am I alone?’ It’s like, ‘No, but be respectful, and think about other people.’”