We the Animals’ frontwoman Kayla Brown and Bashful Youngens’ co-frontperson Carrie Chandler have teamed up to form a new duo: Dearie. If you are familiar with their respective projects, then you can likely anticipate what Dearie may sound like, melding the haunting, indie sensibilities of We the Animals with the harmony-rich, Americana sounds of Bashful Youngens. Well, that is, in fact, exactly what it sounds like, and it’s a fantastic combination. This is a band to watch.
Smile Politely: What was the inspiration to start Dearie?
Kayla Brown: Well, it kind of was the spawn of... we started working together at the Great Cover Up.
SP: Who were you covering?
Brown: The Spice Girls.
Carrie Chandler: We did Spice Girls last year. I had known Kayla before that, but I wouldn’t say we were close friends at that point in time.
Brown: That was the first time that we really got to work together — working on that Great Cover Up set. There were five of us. It was C-U Babe Alert. [laughs]
Chandler: This year, we couldn’t have everybody with us due to scheduling stuff, so we came back as Ace of Base. We had a blast with it.
Brown: After we did that, we just had a lot of fun working together, and were like, “Hey, do you want to work on some tunes?” And here we are.
Chandler: We became good pals, and here we are.
SP: How would you describe your sound?
Brown: It’s folkier than I think I am used to.
Chandler: I feel like it’s a nice meshing of the styles. My stuff is typically more folky, and hers has more of the indie rock aspect to it.
Brown: It’s a nice blending of the two.
SP: What is the instrumentation? Guitar and mandolin, or…
Chandler: I hate my mandolin, so I try not to play it as much as possible when I don’t have to. [laughs] But we mess around with guitar and piano a little bit.
SP: Acoustic? Electric?
Brown: Both. We do a little bit of both.
Photo by Sara Jo Brown
SP: Do you have anything recorded at this point?
Chandler: A live one!
Brown: Yeah, we do have a live one all recorded. Now they are just doing the editing and things [This video has since been released]. We did it over at Exile on Main, in the foyer, by the elevator.
Chandler: There’s marble everywhere, so it sounds awesome.
Brown: It’s a cool room.
SP: Who are your influences?
Chandler: One of my influences coming into this was the band First Aid Kit. It’s two really strong female vocals — they’re sisters, actually — and they have these really awesome, haunting melodies, and I showed Kayla early into this, and I was like, “I love these guys,” and I don’t think you’d actually heard them before.
Brown: No, you introduced me to them, and they’re awesome.
Chandler: I always love the idea of two female harmonies all the time, which is great. Not something I’m used to in a band of four guys. So yeah, I would say that if there is any influence, it’s that, but I feel like we are definitely trying to bring a lot more of our originality, and different aspects of our songwriting that we don’t get to do with our regular bands.
SP: Can you speak to that a little bit more? What’s the process like for you two, and how is that differnet from your regular projects.
Brown: I think right now we are kind of bringing song ideas in. Sometimes they are complete thoughts, and sometimes we sit and pick at it together. So it kind of differs per song.
SP: So is it some stuff that you’ve had for awhile, or is it —
Brown: No, it’s new, it’s all new.
Chandler: Some of it is ideas that I had shelved for awhile, but didn’t have anywhere to put it, as far as a project goes, so trying to dig those out and trying to start writing them again is tough. But I like co-writing, because it gives you kind of gives you a different aspect of songwriting that maybe you’re not used to. Sometimes it’s a challenge at first, because it is two, you know, different ways of thinking, but in the end it always ends up a really nice outcome, and different outlook on songwriting.
Brown: Yeah, it’s a whole new ballgame. There are things that I may not have thought about bringing into the song, and she sees it right away and dives into it, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh! That’s great!” You get this whole new world, with two brains worth of creativity.
SP: How does the process with Dearie differ from your writing processes with your other current bands?
Brown: Kind of similar. We the Animals, we try to do everything 4-way writing, which is very challenging, and very, very fun. [laughs]. So I guess in some ways it is similar, because some of the stuff that we are working on now, we are coming at it equally, and other times, someone shows up with a song, and says, “Hey, how do you feel about this?”
Chandler: It’s pretty similar to mine. With Bashful Youngens, it’s constantly Aaron and I co-writing, or coming to each other with song ideas, or full songs that we’ve written, and getting each other’s take on it. So for me, it’s a lot of the same, it’s just that everybody’s writing and creative process is different, so I’m used to Aaron’s writing and creative process now, and adapting to someone else is a nice change up.
SP: Can you speak to that further?
Chandler: I feel like the songwriting style, you know, lyrically, is a lot different, which is great, and forces me out of my comfort zone, and melodically it’s a lot different. Coming from Bashful Youngens, it’s a lot more Americana, rootsy stuff, and I really like digging more into the Indie side of it, and finding the creepy, haunting chords and harmonies that I don’t get to do normally.
SP: Cool. Lyrically, and vocally, are you sharing duties equally?
Brown and Chandler: Mmhmm.
SP: Where do you draw inspiration from, lyrically?
Brown: I think it’s — you know — the usual life stuff —
Chandler: — We’re saaad. [laughs]
Brown: — We’re super bummed out about stuff. [laughs] Just trying to process life.
Chandler: Yep. Just process different things that are going on in both of our lives. It’s nice having Kayla as a friend, too, so most of those things, she already knows what’s going on in my life.
Brown: We have a lot in common.
Chandler: I feel like our thought process, in terms of how we process emotion in general, is a lot of the same, so it’s nice to put it on paper.
SP: Lyrically, then, are you writing together, or is that more of an isolated thing?
Brown: It’s been both. We’ve got one song that is, “Hey, here’s a complete thought,” that I’d written at home, but we’ve also sat down together at a piano, and line for line, gone, “What would be a good way to do this?” And that is fun. That’s like putting a puzzle together.
SP: That’s amazing. It seems like it would be challenging to be that frank and open with your ideas in that moment.
Brown: I think us having a lot in common, and thinking about things similarly, we get to kind of have that conversation along with the writing process.
Chandler: Yeah. The conversation is already there, it’s just that now we have to find out, lyrically, how to put it on paper. [laughs]
SP: That’s a great approach. You had mentioned getting to work together at Cover Up, when did you decide to start Dearie?
Chandler: I want to say in March?
Brown: I know it was early Spring. I remember it was snowing.
SP: Kayla, it always seems like you have really great gear. Do you consider yourself a gearhead?
Brown: I guess I never thought about it like that. I like cool equipment, I like cool gear. I like instruments. I have my own full PA set up. I just keep getting new instruments. I’ve got a new synth coming. I like playing with that stuff. I like stuff that works well and sounds good.
SP: Carrie, where do you fit along the gearhead spectrum?
Chandler: I’m not a gearhead at all. I like the basic acoustic guitar and piano. I grew up as a drummer. I just recently within the year started working with electric guitar, and getting into pedals, and it’s almost overwhelming to me, just because I’ve been such a stripped down, acoustic person, like, “Songwriting, and songwriting only!” and I’ve just ignored that whole other aspect, and now that I have it, I’m like, “More!” and I just feel like I don’t have enough time to do it. It’s definitely addicting. I’m like, “Give me all the pedals!”
SP: So is that kind of liberating?
Chandler: Absolutely. I like constantly challenging myself, and making myself a better musician.
SP: Any other thoughts?
Chandler: I’m going to be cheesy for a second and say that it’s kind of crazy that I’m in a project with Kayla now, because growing up, going to open mics, Kayla was kind of my first female influence in town. I went to open mic, and became really good friends with Mike Ingram, and he was like, “You have to come back some night and meet my female counterpart, Kayla, and hear her sing, because I think you have a lot of similarities.” She was kind of the first female musician in town that I was like, “She can siiiiiing!” So yeah, it’s just come full circle, and here I am in a project with her.
Brown: Similarly, which is really great about this town, is that I can remember seeing you play with Aaron [Short] at Cowboy Monkey, and I had no idea who you guys were, but you know, just sitting and watching someone perform, and being in awe of their sound, having zero idea that, you know, in a few years, we are going to end up doing this project together. It’s cool to have that opportunity to work with people like Carrie.
SP: Can we expect Dearie to be a full fledged band of its own, or do you see it as a side project to your other bands?
Chandler: We the Animals is recording a new album, Aaron and I are writing for another album, so it’s a fine line, making sure that we aren’t taking away from our other projects. Personally, I have 4 other guys who would have my ass if that was the case, and she’s the same way. [laughs]
Brown: Yeah, I mean we both have our heels dug into something full-band-wise. For me, it’s nice to take a break from the boys [laughs], and have some girl time.
Dearie is scheduled to perform at this year's C-U Folk & Roots Festival, which takes place October 18-20, 2018.