The Dry Look is one of the newest outfits in Champaign-Urbana — a five piece, happily serving up fun, fast, loud songs, with tons of influences — which you'll read more about through the interview below. I chatted with the guys about the their upcoming shows, and new EP due to be released later this year.
SP: First off: Who are the band members, and who plays what instrument?
Nico Hualde: Vocals
Michael Kramer: Lead Guitar
Sam Geneser: Rhythm Guitar
Tyler Atkisson: Drums
Ryan Brewer: Bass
SP: How and when did the band first form?
Kramer: We opened for White Reaper in October of last year right when we first started, so it's been about a year. I wanted to start a band where a friend of mine played bass and I played guitar. And I also wanted to play dumb punk rock. So we started a band but it went south. Sam and I kept playing music, and then Nico showed up. Ryan really wanted to be in a band where he played bass, and then Tyler showed up after the fact. Tyler is our second drummer but roughly speaking, it was just wanting to play loud, dumb rock-n-roll with my friends.
SP: Dumb punk rock would be an accurate description of your sound?
Geneser: I would say it started out with the intention of being a little more of a classic rock or early garage rock sort of band and we started incorporating more punk music into it and then some other influences came in and it's starting to kind of become it's own thing.
Kramer: It's loud and it's fast, that's for sure.
SP: How did you come up with the name The Dry Look?
Hualde: It comes from an ad for a 1970's hair care product. Like that fluffy 70's, feathery hair look. And the tag line of the product is, “Don't Be a Stiff, Get the Dry Look”. It sounds like a phrase that could have multiple meanings and that's what we liked about it. It can be a look you give someone, like this stone-faced tight-lipped disappointed facial expression or it could be a fashion thing.
SP: You have one EP out, Juiceless Glare, with four four songs that came out at the beginning of 2017. You're working on a new EP, correct?
Hualde: Yeah, we have a new EP coming out later this year with five tracks.
Brewer: Well, four solid-ass bangers and one theme song called “The Dry Look Theme Song” that was inspired by a promo flyer Mike made for us.
SP: How do you construct your songs? Is it an individual or collective process?
Geneser: I'd say most of the songs have been kind of a cord progression or a riff idea. Most of them have been something Mike or I have brought to the table and everyone sort of fills it in and collaborates on it from there. I think something we established as a key factor in writing songs for this band, originally was to not get too hung up in the writing process. And just let the song exist. Just get 'em done.
Hualde: One part of the writing process that has been consistent and a little different from other bands that I've been in is that usually in this band, the instrumental parts will be worked out before hand and then it'll be shown to me, and it's up to me to figure out what to do over them. Which sometimes is challenging and sometimes it clicks right away.
SP: With punk traditionally being a rebellious thing and with the US surrounded by political controversies right now, do you factor any of that into your writing of the lyrics?
Hualde: A little bit, yeah. I generally try to avoid trying to get too self-serious. I'm not trying to make some kind of deep statement about the world. We definitely have a couple of songs about that though.
Kramer: You're mad as hell, is what you are.
SP: What's the story behind the song "Sofa City Sweetheart"?
Hualde: It's more of a reference that a lot of people might not necessarily get right away. I got the idea from the movie Sixteen Candles. There's a part where Molly Ringwald's whole family is coming to stay at the house and all the bedrooms are being taken up by family members. Obviously, the premise of the movie is that everyone forgets her sixteenth birthday because her sister is getting married and her whole family is in town. In one of the early scenes, they're talking about sleeping arrangements and she goes, “Well, where am I gonna sleep?” and her jerk little brother goes, “Sofa city, sweetheart,” and then puts his headphones on. So, I liked that line. I took that and made a song about how you can just be on the sofa with your sweetheart and it's fine.
Photo by Tom Chandler
SP: What are your musical and non-musical influences in this band?
Geneser: As far as musical influences go, it's kind of all over the spectrum. I think part of the reason we click really well as a band is that we have a lot of common musical interests but we each have our own background and tastes that seep into the sound of the band. We've been kind of joking about how we could call ourselves “Champaign-Urbana's Most Influenced Band” and sound really important without saying much.
Kramer: The Clash. Exploding Hearts. Rockpile. Spoon. Elvis Costello.
Hualde: There's a lot of Thin Lizzy in there with guitar the harmonies. I take inspiration from some of the newer bands that are doing this synthesis of punk and classic rock, kind of like what we're doing. Like Sheer Mag and White Reaper.
SP: Nico, I know you have a DJ-ing side project. In this, you're like a silent person playing other people's music. How do you go from that to developing a stage personality and not playing an instrument up there?
Hualde: It's all gone hand-in-hand with me. It's basically just being a music nerd since high school. I got in really deep with obsessing over old punk and rock-n-roll records and it's listening to the old stuff that makes you want to play music that sounds like that. And then I also like to share the things that I like with other people which is why I like doing DJ gigs at Bentley's or where ever I can. I've definitely been doing vocals for a long time, probably a solid ten years, though I did mostly play an instrument. I kind of played an instrument as an excuse to be in a band. Now I've gotten to this point where I'm allowed to not play an instrument.
Geneser: It's been really interesting to see Nico work with the new music we're making because it's one of the first times in the band I've seen him struggle a little bit to come up with some lines, but to me it's a good sign. It shows that we're progressing as a band and that it's forcing him to tread new ground as far as writing vocals to songs, which I think is a healthy sign in a band.
Hualde: I've starting doing a little bit with more lower range talk-ey singing rather than just yelling.
SP: I know you do both house shows and venue shows. Do you prefer a certain kind of show, or are they different vibes?
Kramer: It's primarily dependent on the crowd, for me. Like either way, if the crowd is into it, I'm into it. It has nothing to do with the basement or the venue. It's the way the audience reacts. Whether you believe in rock-n-roll or not, God willing you do after we play.
Hualde: I personally prefer playing small spaces, whether it's a bar or a basement, because I enjoy the intimacy of it, of being just close to the people and you can feed off of the crowd's energy.
Geneser: We love to play for people who want to dance around a little bit. We're an energetic band and I think we feel comfortable when the crowd reflects that energy.
Photo from Facebook
SP: Describe what the local Champaign Urbana music scene is like right now.
Geneser: C-U is a transient university town. You've got people moving back and forth, so it's constantly changing. Over the years, there's been some show houses that have stayed and had shows for years, and sometimes certain ones only last for a year. It comes in cycles.
Brewer: I don't think it'd be news to anybody to say that house shows are in a lull right now, but that's not to belittle all the work that the houses we do have, like Blips and Chitz and Ghost Planet, do.
Hualde: There's always ups and downs, but hopefully we're on the cusp of a new up.
SP: What shows do you have coming up?
Geneser: The Canopy Club show will be one of the bigger shows we've played to date. Surfer Blood is a bigger-name band and we usually play with more local or regional bands, so it's a fantastic opportunity. We'll also going to be hosting a band-DJing night at Bently's in the beginning of November but the date still needs to be set.
SP: How can we find your music?
Geneser: We'll also be uploading our music on Spotify and iTunes soon.
SP: If you could describe The Dry Look in a sentence, what would it be?
Kramer: The Dry Look: start a fist fight with your dad.
Geneser: The Dry Look: less stiffs more riffs.
Brewer: An airbrushed photo of a 70's Firebird and a 'fridge full of Coors.
The Dry Look performs tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18th at the Canopy Club with Surfer Blood and NE-HI. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, doors open at 8 p.m.
Top photo by Tom Chandler/Odd World Photography.