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Friday, 22 February 2013 10:47

'Everything complements everything' An interview with Dots Not Feathers (with bonus MP3 download)

Stephen Baier of Dots Not Feathers Stephen Baier of Dots Not Feathers Jarred Gastreich
Written by Blair Stiles

On a dreary February night, Stephen Baier moves through Shock City Studios. Dots Not Feathers' central songwriter has to be reminded to slow down: His brisk shuffle hurtles him back towards the studio where Ryan Myers, Jessica Haley, Katie Brookings, Nick Blackburn and Chris Dickey await his return.

Once visitors absorb the splendor of this $5-million recording studio, they encounter the sounds emanating from the recording space. Those sounds are intriguing enough to make even a misophonic gravitate towards them like a proverbial moth to the flame.

The musicians sample Bop-Its, cue their synths to Space Invader decibels, believe in the power of an R&B tempo drop, encourage jazz vocals and add the sound of a firing shotgun. They drop the shotgun.

"That's what happens when you leave Nick and Chris alone in the studio," says guitarist and vocalist Ryan Myers with an inflection of amused disbelief. They try everything suggested by group members and prodigious engineer Luke Arens.

"There is so much freedom in this band to do whatever you want," explains drummer Nick Blackburn, who met Baier when they played in the hardcore band Sing Me a Fiction. "That's the thing about this band: everyone is so open-minded. Whatever you bring to this band, it fits."

Bassist Chris Dickey adds, "Everything complements everything." Vocalist and omnichord player Jessica Haley states, "Being a musician like this has been what I've wanted to do with my life for a long time now. When it comes to music, these are the most talented people I know."

Balled up on a couch fit for a bohemian grandmother, keyboardist and percussionist Katie Brookings attests to the kinship experienced by DNF's members: "It's like knowing a foreign language and finally being able to talk to someone."

The notion of the "fit" is one new to DNF. They parted ways with drummer Jonathan Goldstein and founding member Katy Durrwachter last fall. Baier then began to recruit what he called his "Dream Team" -- a reference to the incomparable 1992 Men's Olympic Basketball Team and Baier's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He added vocalist Haley, Brookings, then Blackburn. Then bassist/vocalist Ravi Raghuram left the band citing a desire to pursue his degree in music education. Baier was then introduced to Dickey, who is Blackburn's Send Money bandmate.

Founding member Myers was next to Baier during the tumult. "We just had so much change in such a short period of time," he says. "Finding new members, and trying to stay motivated and relevant in the St. Louis music scene. It's been a lot in a very limited amount of time." The cerebral Myers is swift to sum up the growth in DNF caused by the new lineup: "We're less hesitant in the direction we're taking. There is a change in mentality and group and individual expectations."

This paradigm shift is illustrated by "Timid Man," the single off their upcoming record "The Readiness Is All." The song's ability to frolic harmoniously among disparate genre patches typifies DNF's borderless new sound.

"There are contrasting styles presented from part to part," says Baier, gnawing on a Granny Smith Apple. "And I think within that, its strength is that it flows succinctly without feeling disjunct or cacophonous."

"I feel like it's really poignant that 'Timid Man' is the first single we are releasing off 'The Readiness Is All.' That was the first song we built from scratch as new idea machine," states Myers. Baier nabbed the line "The Readiness Is All" from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to articulate DNF's attitude as a new idea machine.

"I think you reach a point creatively and artistically where it is tough to predict what people will get out of it," Baier says. "And it's tough to demand what you want them to get out of it without it becoming disappointing or mismatched on some end. I'll never be satisfied if I am looking for something in someone else in terms of my creativity."

Dot Not Feathers performs Saturday, February 23 at the Firebird. Show starts at 8 p.m. and the lineup includes Union Tree Review, Palace and Wildeyed. Download cards featuring "Timid Man" and an unreleased remix of Palace's "I'm Still Learning" will be given to all in attendance.

"Timid Man" - Dots Not Feathers


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