By Brad Lopez
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Paul Shellooe, the hard-rocking frontman and guitarist for Dirty Pool, is a software designer by day, so it's no surprise that he's eager to discuss his outfit's plans for using the latest whiz-bang gadgetry to achieve success in Colorado and beyond. But that's not to say he's averse to more down-and-dirty promotional efforts. Just last month, he and his associates (drummer Aaron Anderson and bassist Colin Mitchell) gained some additional exposure by participating in a battle-of-the-bands competition at Bare Essence, a nude dance club, at the same time that three peelers were exposing themselves in quite a different way.
When discussing the contest, which Dirty Pool won, Shellooe sounds a little uneasy. "We're really a bunch of clean guys," he insists, adding, "After we did it, I was talking to our bass player, and I was like, 'You know, 90 percent of the time I was looking at my guitar.' I'd look out every once in a while and think, 'Hey, look at that!' But for the most part, it felt like a regular gig." Nevertheless, he acknowledges that "there are similarities between rock bands and what strippers do in the way people look at you on stage. I don't think a lot of people see it, but I think there's an art form there. I mean, I've never been into strip clubs--I don't hang out in them, and I think it's a little strange for people to go to them all the time. But there's an art to it, and it provides a service, and it's part of the entertainment industry."
So, too, is Dirty Pool, which has played some of the better music venues in the area and opened for artists such as Ian Moore, Joe Satriani and Chris Duarte (one of Shellooe's favorite axmen) since getting its start in 1995. But these days the band is attracting even more attention thanks to its current release, Shoot Electric. The self-produced disc showcases the band's pleasing blend of funk, flash and impressive guitar chops. The fret work on the CD often recalls the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but Shellooe says Vaughan's influence has been lessening of late.
"A lot of people are looking for that Stevie Ray thing, and it was cool at first," he notes. "I'm flattered by it, and I'm honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, because he was an incredible player. But after I started developing my own songwriting stuff and my own style of guitar playing, I didn't want to be somebody else. I want to be who I am, and I'm not interested in rehashing what Stevie did. My goal is to be a real good songwriter and to progress and expand on the blues base. There's so much more to be done."
This approach has its drawbacks. In Dirty Pool's early days, when the trio mixed its own songs with covers, club owners were turned off by a sound they deemed "too loud, too young and too original," Shellooe says. Likewise, the performers' subsequent decision to focus almost entirely on their own stuff has irritated some diehard fans who savored the band's way with other people's material.
"People still come to the shows and want to hear the covers," Shellooe concedes. "I still hear them yelling up. Now it's nice, though, because most of them say, 'Hey, I hear some Stevie Ray in your playing.' They're not saying, 'You're just like Stevie Ray.' Now I see people singing the words to our songs instead.
"It's not like we're this wild avant-garde band or anything like that," he goes on, "but I'm pretty confident that what we're doing is something new. I don't even listen to a lot of blues anymore, because the records sound really cliched now. I hear a lot of the new blues stuff that comes out, and it's like, well, that's what everybody else did. I'm listening to a lot of electronic music and the newer bands getting newer sounds."
On Shoot Electric, Dirty Pool certainly stretches beyond the time-honored three-chord structures of its forebears. The band rolls through bluesy funkfests and chunky techno rockers, proving equally adept at Double Trouble-type workouts, Hendrix-like groovers, tasty ballads and melodic instrumentals. Throughout such numbers, Shellooe delivers plenty of six-string firepower, with an ear toward meaty, rhythmic playing and understated, head-cutting salvos. In addition, a few tunes feature decidedly modern touches, including drum loops and guitar tones that were made using considerably more than a Strat and a Fender twin.
The act's taste for musical science is matched by its fondness for the computer kind: Its Web site, www.dirtypool.com, has become an effective way of selling Shoot Electric and a previous tape to buyers around the globe. About half the band's sales have come via the Web, Shellooe says, and the threesome is currently planning to use the Internet's MP3 technology to distribute a fresh batch of tunes recorded with Mitchell, who recently replaced original bassist Dave Bakulski. According to Shellooe, "You can download clips, and then, if you're interested, you can buy a song or buy a whole CD's worth of mate-rial. It's a real powerful tool, and I've been doing a bunch of research into putting our music into that format and getting the most we can out of it. A big part of the cost of a CD is all the graphic design and the burning of the CDs. But with MP3, we could do the CD in its entirety and then put it all in MP3 format, and people could buy it over the Net. It's basically a 100 percent profit."
Shellooe hopes the combo's site will also prove useful when it comes time to promote an upcoming slate of Dirty Pool dates beyond the state line. "I want to tour, but I want to do it smart," he says. "I see a lot of bands going out and just slugging it out on the road, losing a bunch of money, going way into debt and playing for nobody in crappy towns. With the Internet, we're getting into a bunch of video stuff, and we'd like to do a live broadcast on the Web somewhere down the road so we can drum up interest and go to places where the shows might work rather than just going out willy-nilly."
In the meantime, Dirty Pool will continue to be visible on the local circuit, as well as at Bare Essence, where the mates have been invited to participate in the next round of band battles. Shellooe hopes the women who usually star at the venue won't mind. After all, he notes, a lot of the folks at the last match "were turning their chairs around and facing the band--and I felt like I was imposing on the dancers' business. They're there to make an honest living as much as we are, and if I were one of them, I might have been pissed off."
Obviously, even strippers can get the blues.
Tito & Tarantula, with Dirty Pool. 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $6, 303-322-2308.