"We smashed a few genres together and ended up with a rippin' tune that sounds like a dark ’70s cop-show theme song, where the bad guy always wins." That's Denver musician Nick Dolan on the sound of his ska band's new EP, Lunchin' With the Dendrites, which dropped in April.
Since the band formed in 2003 as a five-piece, straightforward ska act playing homage to Jamaican groups like the Skatalites, the Dendrites have been evolving. Over the years, the musicians have played with the likes of the Bosstones, the Aggrolites, Chris Murray, the English Beat and Fishbone.
"Our shows were big, high-energy dance parties," explains Dolan. "Over the years, as we grew and evolved as a band musically, we added in quite a bit of soul, funk, Latin and pop elements to expand our appeal to a broader audience in a natural way."
All the bandmembers contribute to the writing process, and on this latest album, the group, long focused on instrumental music, added a singer into the mix on a couple of songs.
"At the heart of it all, we still love and embrace our ska foundation, and it's always present in the attitude and feel of the rhythms, no matter how weird and lunchin’ we get," explains Dolan. "Our drummer and his circle of friends have a unique, rather bizarre vernacular of slang. In the earlier years of the Dendrites, the term 'lunchin'' was a phrase used to describe things that were out of place, weird or mind-blowing. After listening through some of the recordings, it really hit us as a group that these tunes were indeed quite a bit different in feel and sound from previous releases. 'Lunchin’' was used to describe this grouping of songs, and it kind of just stuck."
While Dolan was worried the new album was perhaps a little too lunchin' for the ska purists who gravitate toward the Dendrites, he says the community has embraced the new sound and given the band "a tidal wave of support."
Even so, the bandmates were frustrated that they couldn't give the record a proper christening after it came out. So they pooled their contacts and started promoting the album online, to podcasts, fan pages, review sites and radio stations around the world.
"We have folks from Europe, South America and even Asia blasting out our new EP," Dolan says. "All the reviews have been tremendously positive, and with general unsolicited interest that we've never seen before as a group."
Although the band's summer tour plans are scrapped — along with every live show, given the shutdown of music venues — fans can still help keep the act afloat through the pandemic.
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"As a band, we rely on merch sales and show guarantees to keep the band machine running," Dolan says. "This is absolutely a hindrance for those of us who rely on music to support our livelihoods. You can support the Dendrites by grabbing a copy of the new EP or a T-shirt on our Bandcamp page, and help us spread the word on these new tracks to friends who may dig the sound."
That sound is rooted in everything that makes the experience of a Dendrites concert special, he says.
"We play loud, with huge energy and big hearts leaving everything out on the stage," explains Dolan. "That's a universal music language that anyone can understand. Our shows are more parties than concerts, from our perspective. We got a little something for everyone at our shows, and that seems to have led us to the inspiration for these new songs more than anything else."
Pick up the album and hear more from the Dendrites at Bandcamp.