Looks like the third time's a charm for Dualistics.
"I think there's a lot of excitement, especially with us, for this disc," enthuses bassist Jimmy Stofer of the band's new album, its third. "Even just the way it looks, the tangible product, and the way it sounds. I think we're all really passionate and excited about this. I think this really explains who we are. Even with the last disc — there was always something that wasn't quite there, you know? And I think this one came together. We're a hundred percent behind it."
Listening to Dualistics' new self-titled EP, it's evident that the band is truly coming into its own. The material is strong, the sound is polished, and confidence positively oozes out of the speakers. The progression from earlier releases — a pair of EPs titled Mirrors and Long Tail, both of which received middling reviews acknowledging that while the group had promise, it still hadn't done much with it — is impressive.
The act has certainly come a long way since 2001, when Stofer and guitarist Charley Hine were both living in the same dorm at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The two met and hit it off, both as musicians and as friends, and ended up in a band together. After facing off against guitarist Tyler Despres in a battle of the bands — Hines and Stofer's group placed second, Despres's placed third — Hine and Despres ended up working together while Stofer joined up with drummer Scott Russell to form a very early version of Dualistics. When they decided to seek guitarists, Hine and Despres were obvious choices. The early Stofer-and-Russell incarnation of the band released Mirrors, while the current lineup all contributed to Long Tail. Although the group stands behind the earlier material, there's a solid consensus among the members that the new songs are far and away the best they've put together yet.
"We feel like the last one, even though we all love it, was more sort of putting things together," says Despres, who points out that the album is self-titled for a reason. "This one felt more like a cohesive, real thing. This is like us."
"Each release has kind of taken us a step to get to the final thing, which is where we're at now," Stofer clarifies. "I think on this one we finally realized what we're all good at, or what our strong suit is, and we're kind running with that full-steam."
Indeed. Dualistics was recorded in the space of four days. "I think we kind of put a little bit of pressure on ourself," Stofer allows. "Only four days to record six songs is a little daunting, but I think we work well under pressure. Given that, we didn't overthink things, we didn't overshoot certain things. It ended up being a really good experience."
It didn't hurt that the bandmembers had written and rehearsed the material exhaustively through playing live. And when they entered the studio, they hoped to capture the feeling of a real rock band performing live on record.
"We went into it with the mindset of, 'Let's capture what we do live on disc,'" Despres explains. "Obviously we did a few dubs and stuff, but pretty much what you hear is the band, playing the song and adding texture on top."
One noticeable shift from the previous disc is the absence of pianos and keyboards. Despite the fact that those elements were a pleasant part of the Dualistics sound, the feeling among the players was that the keys diluted the focus and undermined the overall impact of the sound.
"We wanted it loud," declares Despres. "We wanted it a little more raw. When you've got keys on there with a guitar band, it sounds like it's missing something. We're probably sixty, seventy percent piano players. We're a hundred percent guitar players."
The focus paid off handsomely in the form of exceptional guitar tones, textures and riffs, which heightens impassioned vocals and a solid, consistently in-the-pocket rhythm section, resulting in a batch of well-written songs that, stylistically, fall somewhere between Born in the Flood and the Fray — slicker than the former and tougher than the latter. It's a style born from a nice mix of influences that begins with the now-classic sounds of the '90s rock revival — aka grunge — and flows through indie darlings such as Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel, Trail of the Dead and Menomena.
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"There's a different process for each tune," says Hine of melding their various influences. "At times, one of the singers will come up with a vocal line or a guitar riff, or Jimmy will come up with a bass line. But sometimes stuff just gets written in the room, as a whole. We'll have these uber-productive two hours. I wish we could get them all the time, but sometimes you try to write and it works, sometimes it doesn't."
"We like to call it 'progressive pop,'" Hine notes. "We're that metal-meets-punk sound, so it's grunge. But then it's kind of cleaned up a little bit, because we also love pop. Nirvana was still really poppy to me; you get the hooks. Basically when Nirvana really changed the scene, as far as mainstream, we were kids. That's what we saw; that's what sticks in our head."
"We really like guitars, but we're not Slipknot," he adds. "We like real vocals, but we're not Foo Fighters — we're not that polished. We're like something in the middle: We like pop, and we don't want to change the structure around too much to where it's like prog, but we're on that curve of trying to make sure it has a change you're not expecting."
Clearly, this has been a change for the better.