Social distancing? We want you to keep enjoying the music that Denver artists are making...but from the comfort of your home, rather than at a club.
One of the greatest things that's happened in the Denver music scene over the past couple of years is the resurgence of Dressy Bessy.
Last year, the classic Denver pop-punk band dropped its latest album, Fast Faster Disaster; it had big plans to tour in support of the record this spring. The bandmates were billed to play South by Southwest in Austin — one of the first big cultural events canceled as the coronavirus came to the United States. At first, the bandmates considered going to Texas to play some unofficial SXSW shows anyway, but ultimately decided to stay home out of concern for public health.
In the weeks that followed, as more and more closures were announced and the live-music industry came to a devastating halt, the band has showed up for community and even released some new projects, including the music video for the haunting song "Mon Cheri," from Fast Faster Disaster. The band is using the release as an opportunity to raise funds for Feeding America, a nonprofit addressing hunger in the United States.
Westword caught up with guitarist John Hill to talk about how the members of Dressy Bessy are managing the coronavirus shutdowns, mutual aid and thinking about this music video they just released.
Westword: How are you managing the crisis?
John Hill: Like most others, we're staying around the house, trying to get exercise, eat well and take it one day at a time. Our job when we're not on tour mostly happens in our house anyway, so it's not that different for the moment. We're also realizing there is a new reality to contend with. We've seen a few shifts during our twenty-plus years, but this one is a whole new challenge. I do think we are a little better equipped having dealt with 2008 while having a brand-new release. For the moment, though, we're mostly looking for ways to help others and stay healthy.
I've seen your band offering a ton of mutual aid. Talk about what you're doing, and why?
We said it during our album campaign: More recently, we've really realized the importance of community, here and everywhere. During times like this, although we're staying very busy, we're flexible and have time to help. Along with checking in on our neighbors, we've posted a few times offering help to our friends and fans. We also decided to request donations to feedingamerica.org for this video. We have limited resources, but some out there can really make a difference. We're in an unprecedented time, and in order to make it through, we all need to kick in, make some sacrifices, and make sure our neighbors are taken care of. We also need to find ways to help the small businesses we frequent regularly. If they fail, we have nothing to come back to.
What role does music have in this moment — both making it and sharing it?
It's a fine line, and we want it to be clear. Tammy is working so hard on videos, photography and art, and we hope it helps people get through this time rather than us promoting ourselves. While we toured through the 2008 crisis, it felt a little like a USO tour combined with a campaign rally. We could have canceled the tours, because we did lose money, but we felt obligated to push forward. It just feels like when times get this tough, people who are able need to step up and help out, whether it's lending a hand or donating money or cheering people up.
What can Denver do to support you all as artists? What can artists do to support the community?
First, we need someone running this country who realizes that the arts are the heart and soul of society. That sentiment also applies on the local level. While many elements of Denver are sparkly new and fancy, we really need to find a balance between economic endeavors and the arts. Property values mean nothing if the heart of the community can't afford to live. We aren't a mainstream band that generates millions in tax revenue for the city, state or the country, but we, along with so many others, generate revenue and promote the city wherever we go. We make money, but there are times when we don't, or even lose money, to get our music to the people. It would be highly beneficial if there were programs in our government to help support us and smaller artists like us. We support the community, and it would be great to know that our government has our backs, too.
What's the video and song about?
The song was inspired by our original bass player, Rob Greene, who passed away in 2018. He had left the band a few years earlier, but we spent fourteen years traveling the world together, and it felt like losing a brother. There's no reference to him in the video, because it's not specifically about him, but it was written with the feelings that came with his passing. Honestly, I can't listen to the song without crying, yet I'll keep it on repeat sometimes, which happened just last night.
Listen to Dressy Bessy and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.