Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
The cover art for the latest Dude York album is a cake, obliterated upon impact with the immovable surface of a poor, poor floor. Cover art only sometimes conveys the themes of the creative piece therein, which makes this image such a striking thesis for the songs on Falling – the Seattle pop-punk trio's fourth full-length for Seattle's own Hardly Art Records. The cake could have easily come from or been for an anniversary party and then, with little or no warning, it slips out of secure hands and ends up collapsed and smeared all over the ground. It's a pretty handy metaphor for being in a relationship. A beautiful thing slips out of our secure hands and is left in colorful ruins.
Falling in, falling out. The thrilling and finite nature of romantic relationships are both hyper-specific and one of the most universal experiences we as human beings share. If you've taken time to read words on a website about music, chances are you already know there are more love songs floating on Cupid's arrows in the ether than a person could possibly listen to in one lifetime. But that's part of why we listen to music, to get that chance to have it intersect with some of our deepest moments and find a window for personal significance. A moment of solace and comfort, a moment to celebrate our best moments and confront our worst. Falling finds Dude York at the height of their powers, using both the nature of relationships and the nostalgic properties of pop-punk music to emphasize their strengths as songwriters.
What happens when we feel too much? Dude York's writing contains a great deal of empathy and they are easily one of the most emotionally intelligent groups writing music today. Their songs which contain passages about self-destructively texting your therapist carry the same resonance of the songs which get high off the sugar rush of that familiar feeling when a crush turns into a relationship.
Falling in. "Longest Time" is the opener of Falling, sung by bassist Claire England. It's a huge, instantly memorable song, lifted by skyward guitar lines and England's affecting words about the early stages of a relationship. It conveys all the things we think about and feel when we're flush and giddy about someone we might have feelings for. England's lyrics run the gamut of emotions we cycle through – and are sometimes confronted with – when we've acquired a new boo: Excitement, caution, remembrance of past relationships, fleeting winks at destiny quickly brushed off by a remark of "just kidding."
"You and me, we're just getting started," England sings in the chorus. "This is the best part."
Falling out. The Peter Richards-penned "Box" visits the bookends of a romantic partnership by observing the ruins after its dissolution. Heartbreak like a broken bone. Red lips and a messy mane of hair. Wondering if the love the two characters in the song lost was good to the last drop, or so unsatisfying that they're chewing on the pit of the fruit in order to savor a little more flavor. In the song's chorus, he pledges to never love again... for as long as he can make that promise last.
"Now on your own," Richards sings. There's no one left to hide from behind your phone."
Falling's various stages of romance were conceptualized early in the preproduction stage of the album, an alchemic process melding fictionalization and real-life details. Whether it's creative nonfiction or fiction culled from slivers of experiences that have actually happened, part of the fun is not knowing which is which. In our interview, Richards, the band's guitarist, said Dude York wanted to make their version of Fleetwood Mac's timeless Rumours (only with significantly less cocaine).
"I feel we sort of talked about doing a concept relationship album, but in the end, we stepped back a little from the narrative aspect of it," England says. "We had like forty songs to choose from, and 'Falling' came later in the demoing process, which felt like a crystallization."
Nostalgia is a prevailing theme on Falling, as natural a theme buzzing around the hive of romantic relationships as should exist. On the album's title track, England sings of the quiet space in the air before the drop and introducing ideas of long drives and the audio deck of a 1990s Volvo.
"Do you think we'd be friends in 2006?" she sings. "Falling" is a beautifully curated collection of intimate illustrations: Tasting kiwi from a kiss, 10 pm wakeup times, takeout for breakfast along with an episode of The Bachelorette, the fall being an intersection of passion and practicality.
"Here's a metaphor for you," Richards says to lighthearted groaning from his bandmates. "Nostalgia is the first breaker you should flip when you go into writing music. The lights are off. You walk into the creative mind, you flip the breaker of nostalgia, and then you start playing around in there. It has to be engaged for the instruments to fire."
He explains that combing over a song with detail – strengthening the visuals and narrative moments – they are inherently infused with nostalgia because most of the time the perspective of a song is written in the past tense.
England adds, "[A song sounding nostalgic] is something I'm always interested in trying to get to. I love how a big, well-produced rock record sounds, and it's something that's hard to do for a band at our level. I think it's always kind of hard to express that you wanted a sound like that."
"I think there is an element of making a record that sort of reckons with who you are now and what you feel now and how that's unlike the music of your adolescence," drummer Andrew Hall says. "I guess your teens in general sort of informed that person and informs what you like and what you like to listen to."
Dude York recorded Falling with Patrick Brown at Different Fur Studios in San Francisco. Studio time being as expensive as it is, the band writes a lot of demos (in our interview, Richards' prolificacy is praised by his bandmates). In the studio environment, Hall's impeccable ear is a useful skill that thrives. "Last-minute assists and causing problems for everybody" is how Hall jokingly describes this utility in the band to go along with his powerful and versatile sense of rhythm.
Hall further explains the process of his creative input: "I feel it's really easy in the creative process to not necessarily get stuck, but to be in a place where there's something to elevate -- and it's not always apparent to you in the moment or right away. And then you come back to something that you have a shot at saying to yourself, 'Oh, what I like didn't actually suck and I have a chance to make something more powerful and useful out of it now."
After I pose a question about the fictionalization of their songwriting (and including a quote from Charlie Kaufman: "All writing is autobiographical, even Transformers"), Richards offered a little more insight: "That really resonates, but my further caveat to that is if you can't tell what's fiction and what's factual then I'm not going to tell you. There are definitely a couple songs where I'm personally afraid of how real they are. And certain others where I'm delights how fictional they came out and how people will ask about it. [They'll ask] what are the details of the story, who are the characters in your life that populate the song."
"And then I feel like a real writer," he says with a smile.
CID Block Party Takes Place This Saturday
A celebration of Seattle's Asian Pacific American community, the second annual Chinatown-International District Block Party -- an all-ages, free event -- will be held at what is historically known as the "intersection" of the CID's neighborhoods, the King Street Colonnades underneath I-5. Not only will Prometheus Brown and Bambu be headlining the event, but local favorite Chong the Nomad among many, many others will be performing. There will also be a bar scavenger hunt, a screening of Crazy Rich Asians, an import car show hosted by the car club Namsayin', and much more. For more information about the CID Block Party, visit their website.
Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in th...
Dude York, the power trio from Seattle, play music that rocks, music that makes you move, music you've never quite heard before. They are an amalgamation of musical inspirations and this has never been more evident than on their new record, Dehumanize. KEXP caught up with drummer Andrew Hall to t...
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Mi...