Multi-instrumentalists Niki and Luke Tredinnick, of the jazz-infused neo-rock and indie-folk band The Dollhouse Thieves, moved to Denver in September 2014 and immersed themselves in jazz jams around the city. Niki recalls driving by the now-shuttered restaurant Brik on York on Colfax Avenue, near their home, in the summer of 2015. The wine bar, which promoted live music, was just opening, and the new space inspired them.
"We just turned to each other and said, 'Let's start a band,'" Niki says. Thus, the Dollhouse Thieves were born.
They have performed original songs along with covers of 1920s- and Civil War-era and circus music. This week they'll drop their self-titled debut on vinyl.
Westword caught up with Niki and Luke to talk about how the band's sound has evolved and the inspiration behind their first album.
Westword: Tell us more about the multi-instrumental aspect of your music. What was your intention in bringing in those sounds?
Luke Tredinnick: We have pretty extensive backgrounds. We went to geeky music schools, so along the way, we learned a lot about a lot of different instruments. My background is a lot of music education and performance; Niki’s background is a lot of music composition and performance. So we picked up a lot of instruments along the way. We started doing the songwriter stuff. We would hear some other groups play at open mics and play other shows and were like, “Man, that’s really cool, but how can we sort of separate ourselves?” I think it’s because we can bring a lot of instruments, even if it’s just the two of us playing shows, and still have a lot of texture and a lot of different sound colors. Like, “Oh, on this song, I’ll play saxophone.” It’s to keep the music interesting.
Was the transition from playing music individually to the band itself difficult at all, or did you find it rather natural since you had been immersed in music for so long?
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Niki Tredinnick: I was nervous. It can be kind of scary playing your own music in front of people. I was a film-score major, so I was writing music for movies, video games and TV shows. That was fun; I love writing music for people, using real instruments, involving people and letting them have a voice in something and performing for people. But playing my own music that I wrote [laughs] — I did this beforehand and am kind of separated from it, but here we are. That was a little nerve-racking at first, but I was fortunate enough to have Luke, my husband, Jean-Luc [Davis] and a really supportive community around us in Denver. It didn’t really take as long as we thought it would take to be comfortable. ... We’ve been all over the country. I’m primarily from the East Coast and Luke is from the Midwest. The music scene in Denver is thriving, it’s really supportive, and it’s really cool.
Luke: Having worked on a lot of different projects, I think it’s really rewarding to do the original stuff. Like Niki said, sometimes it can be a little scary, but at the same time, it just feels really good. We try to play a wide variety of venues, from really small places to the biggest rooms we can get into. It’s really fun. Every time we play, it’s like a different experience. Sometimes it’s a difference in location. There can be anywhere between two or three of us to five or six of us [performing]. [In] collaborating with other people, the sound continues to change all the time, which is really fun.
How has your sound evolved and changed since you started and in those collaborations?
Niki: While we’ve been focusing more on doing original music and we’ve kind of focused on incorporating Luke more on keyboard, we have added a drummer, a bass player, and now we even have an electric guitar player with us. I feel like it’s becoming more neo-rock kind of blending with jazz influences…It has kind of gotten away from a folk-y sound to a more progressive ne, kind of influenced more by electronic. But we still play weird things like circus music. ... We’re still trying to do a lot of different sounds and incorporate a lot of different instruments. Also, highlight what we want to play and what our bandmembers feel comfortable at.
Luke: Everybody brings their own take to things. We’re feeling really fortunate to be working with some other people in our band that are really fantastic musicians and really great people. ... Everybody brings their own ideas, and it’s really fun to workshop with them and be like, “Oh, what if we tried this?” The sound continues to develop every time we get together, which is really fun.
What was the inspiration behind this album?
Niki: Before Luke and I started dating, I was pretty much set that I wasn’t going to do music anymore at all. I was probably going to pursue a different career in some interest; I got a little burnt out. Luke [is] a high school teacher who teaches choir, and in Wisconsin he invited me to play in his pit for a musical. I agreed, and I had a really good time. I remembered that I loved doing it again [laughs]. I didn’t sell my instruments, and we moved to Colorado and formed this band. It has been pretty important to me in that aspect because we're doing it and are doing it with people that we love.
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With this particular album, our first and foremost focus was trying to feature people that we’ve met along the way in our musical journey here. We have a lot of our friends on the album. It took a while longer than we thought, because we wanted other people’s input. We worked around other people’s schedules to have them come in and record with us; we were both teachers, too. ... We wanted to feature different songs and people we met through playing music. All of the themes basically are our story, being here in Colorado and coming to Colorado. A lot of the songs are inspired by people just in conversation – the things they said to us and the people that we’ve met. The "In Colorado" song, for instance, is about loading up a truck and not knowing anyone here and coming because it seems like the thing to do. We have met a lot of people in the state that have a similar story.
Luke: It seems like a lot of people are like, “I did that!”
Niki: Yeah, bringing people together, ourselves included, through playing music and having fun — that’s the overall theme of the album. I think it’s always everybody’s dream to have an album, especially on vinyl.
The Dollhouse Thieves vinyl release
7:15 p.m. Thursday, June 7, BarFly, 4255 West Colfax Avenue, 720-577-4720.