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A Dirty Dozen with DUST CITY OPERA – March 2022

| 6 March 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Today, emerging eclectic sextet Dust City Opera, who entwine strands of grunge, gothic country, punk, folk, and rock as the soundtrack to stories steeped in cosmic horror, transformation, and transcendence, has released their sophomore full-length album, Alien Summer. The 12-track independent collection features “The Unkind,” “Angie,” “An Okay Way To Go,” “It,” “Tile or Linoleum,” and “Stars.” Coinciding with the album’s release, Dust City Opera has issued the official music video for the title track “Alien Summer,” directed by Chris Walsh. Alien Summer is also available on CD and vinyl, with the latter shipping this summer. Dust City Opera – Paul Hunton [vocals, guitar, songwriter], Clara Byom [clarinet, accordion, keys], Travis Rourk [trombone], Chris Livingston [lead guitar], Scott Brewer [bass], and Dave Purcell [drums] – materialized out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, but they might as well have slipped through some intergalactic portal or stowed away on a derelict spacecraft before crash landing in the desert. After building a cult following and raising tens of thousands of dollars on Kickstarter to launch their next chapter, these six musicians perfect this otherworldly vision on Alien Summer, the follow-up to DCO’s 2019 full-length debut, Heaven. Alongside producer Matthew Tobias and thematic overdubs from GRAL Brothers, Dust City Opera expanded their sound on Alien Summer with cinematic flourishes and a grandiose backdrop befitting of the record’s overarching themes.” We get Paul, Clara, Dave, and Sydney Counce (manager) to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Paul: Any fans of the Handsome Family might find some subtle references or familiar words on our new album Alien Summer. There’s also a spoken cameo from a certain author some will recognize.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Paul: Somehow I got into piano as a kid, but it was hearing Superunknown by Soundgarden in elementary school that got me obsessed with trying to sing and then I was a closet singer for about 7 years before I owned up to wanting to do it. It was interesting because I’d refused to sing as a kid because I hated the songs that little kids are taught to sing.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Paul: Yeah, I mean I got hit hard initially by hard rock and metal and ate it up. Hetfield’s and Cornell’s vocals especially, but then Tom Waits came along and messed me up with the Alice album, showed me how to be cool without screaming and shredding all the time.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Paul: I think to have Brett Sparks [the Handsome Family] throw one of his demented, garish synth tracks on one of my songs would be awesome.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

Paul: I’ve been trying to read more, just finished a grip of Lovecraft stories. I’ve also been running for a couple months, an interesting new challenge. Most of my days end with a couple episodes of “Adventure Time” or a walk along the laterals with my kids.

Clara: Camping if I’m in NM, milking cows with the fam, cross-stitching, sewing, reading, and card games.

Dave: Reading, cycling, hanging out with my wife and Annie and Louie, our two Australian Shepherd rescues.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Paul: Idk, grunge folk or something. Basically, what you’d get if you had someone, i.e. me, heavily influenced from both Soundgarden and Tom Waits. Someone said Belle and Sebastian once, made me turn my head funny at them. Also have heard Neil Diamond a few times? Never had either of them on my radar.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Paul: We don’t hang out. I have better things to do.

Sydney: Haha. Clara and I cook from time to time (she’s the better cook!). We used to have morning band practice and I would make breakfast and coffee for everyone beforehand. Now that things are open again, we like to hit up the local breweries. Our usual spot is about 5 minutes up the street, which is awesome!

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Paul: Ian Felice [The Felice Brothers] and before that, Glen Hansard. I could’ve taken the opportunity to get an insight into their writing/performing but I pretty much stood there and gawked. More impersonal though, but amazing was seeing the Foo Fighters.

Clara: Right now I am on a Squarepusher binge. Hope to see him at a live show sometime.

Dave: I ran into Daniel Lanois (producer of U2, Peter Gabriel, and Dylan, among many others) and Brian Blade (drummer with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and Joshua Redman, among others) on a street in Pittsburgh after they had played earlier. I knew I had just a couple of minutes to blurt out how much they both meant to me. Fortunately, I was drunk which probably helped calm me down.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Paul: Making music, I guess. There’s really no scenario where I can’t be a musician, apart from being a vegetable. So, I guess in that scenario that would be my job, being a vegetable.

Clara: Best part is the connections you make – known and unknown. If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be milking cows.

Dave: The best parts are creating something from nothing with like-minded people, and being completely in the moment while playing a song. Other than playing music, I’d like to be a writer and teacher in Portugal.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Paul: I do like talking and learning about where concepts for songs come from, how songs come together. Like “Angie,” for example, where singing that name over the first chord bore this whole notion of an unconscious, dying guy confusedly running around inside his crumbling mind crying out.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Paul: I wish I’d been more committed earlier, taken more advantage of the resources online to learn about songwriting, production, tone, sick guitar licks, all of it.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Paul: Probably any later Tom Waits album, just how he arranges and gets those tones and those performances out of people and himself. Alice is probably the most meaningful to me, I was 18 and it introduced me to the devastating gravity that music can have, about which I was previously ignorant.

Clara: Dave Tarras and Sammy Musiker’s Tanz album. This album is the epitome of mid-century klezmer music and the arranging is phenomenal.

Dave: The session for John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. One of the greatest records of all time — recorded by one of the greatest jazz quartets of all time in the legendary Van Gelder Studio — was completed in four hours. It has to be magic. That record is like a religious text for me — I only listen when I have time to pay attention to the entire piece.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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