By Ananda Martins | @rawnoise
Dirty Fences. A short name with such provoking music, I can't believe I just discovered them through YouTube (no thanks to my needle-less record player.) The song's called White Lies—the first few riffs are such a hook, I play it again and again, and get the chills every time.
Dirty Fences are four honorary New Yorkers—born and raised in Boston—full of energy and completely submerged in rock 'n' roll. For them, it’s no joke; their daily bread depends on music. Their voices do the heavy lifting, and while their guitars, bass and drums are serious, a spirit of fun remains. In fact, it's front and center. Their resonance is intense, complex, and simple all at once. Dirty Fences possess a 70s sound that varies between Ramones and Thin Lizzy, though their 60s garage/powerpop vibes are undeniable. Still, they manage to maintain true originality throughout all efforts. Their melodies carry uncompromising lyrics executed seamlessly. Late at night, when you’re nice and drunk, you’ll find yourself dancing bulky moves to these guys. It’s good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. Listen to their discography from the beginning and you’ll hear their evolution. It’s a tough call but I’d say 2013’s Too High to Kross might be the indispensible addition to my collection.
We interviewed guitarist/lead vocalist Jack Daves to find out a little more about their motivation to keep rock ‘n’ roll alive and well.
AM: First of all, a little bit of history—how did you guys meet?
JD: “I met Hersh in the ball pit at Mcdonald’s when we were five. I was trapped in this huge ball pit underneath a couple kids and a mountain of plastic balls. I was starting to suffocate then an ankle appeared in front of my face and I grabbed it. I heard a scream and the ankle pulled away. Then a little hand reached down and helped me out. It was Hersh. We became friends right there. My mom and his dad both noticed and started talking to each other. They exchanged numbers and we started hanging out. I think his dad and my mom even dated for a little while. The other two came along in highschool. We started goofing around on guitars as early as 15 but Dirty Fences didn’t really get started until a few years later.”
AM: What's the history behind the band's name?
JD: “In high school, a video of the Rolling Stones 1968 Rock and Roll Circus concert finally came out. We were really excited by the Who’s set. The Stones’ set was not that great (the reason they never put it out). We were obsessed with the songs by the Dirty Mac (supergroup including John Lennon on guitar and vox, Eric Clapton on lead, Keith Richards on bass and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums). We wanted to reference that group so we took the ‘Dirty.’ We just liked the syllable sounds of the word ‘Fences.’ Turns out Dirty Mac was making fun of Fleetwood Mac.”
AM: At what point did you know this was what you wanted for your life?
JD: “Pretty early. I told my parents when I was 10 years old that I was intent on following this dream. By that age I had seen that there were a couple different paths you could take. You could ‘nine to five’ it and lead a normal life or ‘let your freak flag fly’ like Jimi and live a pirate life full of adventure and travelling. Living hard but living good. I know this sounds like some cheesy hippie dream but how are you gonna look at these stars doing whatever they want, riding down the road with their friends, playing music and not want that? You have to be seriously committed to this kind of life and be in love with it to keep on the road. We are definitely in love with it.”
AM: Which bands made you want to be in a rock 'n' roll band?
JD: “The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, Devo, Velvet Underground, The Ramones, Parliament, The Saints, Chuck Berry, The Exciters, Johnny Thunders, The Kinks, ZZ Top, Bowie, GG and the Jabbers, Jimi Hendrix, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Motorhead, T. Rex, Queen...”
AM: How does the composing process work? What inspires you?
JD: “We are on the road a lot so a lot of writing happens in club bathrooms. We often arrive at the clubs hours early with little to do in an unfamiliar town. The clubs usually have loud music playing even before the night starts so we go to the bathroom to a find some quiet. The ceramic tiles help to amplify our not plugged in electric guitars and make harmonies sound great. We wrote the Tommy and C.C./ I’m Here 7 inch in about 25 or 30 minutes in a bathroom in Austria. On the road you’re playing every night and getting a little sick of some of the songs so its easy to visualize playing your new one that night instead of the song you’ve played ten million times. This gets me writing with a live show in mind.”
AM: You have been touring a few times in Europe... How was the receptivity of the audience? Is there any big difference between the European and American crowds?
JD: “People really love rock n’ roll in Europe. They are so passionate about it. They know every fact and album liner note of every American album but haven’t seen much real American rock n’ roll live. They are definitely thirstier. Watching people sing along to our songs in countries like Estonia or Portugal blew my mind. I never thought I would visit these places, let alone play them. So it’s a different feeling on stage too.”
AM: As with any good rock 'n' roll band, you probably have gone through a lot of unusual situations. Can you tell about a moment that impacted you most, positively or negatively?
JD: “I will never forget visiting the Italian island of Sardinia. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We played on the beach between towering cliffs and crashing waves as the sun went down. This part of the island is called Portixeddu. The landscape makes you feel like you’re at the edge of the world. Moments like this make me stop and think ‘how the hell did guitars get us here?’ We have that feeling a lot.”
AM: In your opinion, what are the main advantages and disadvantages of treading this arduous and rewarding path of music?
JD: “I believe that travelling, meeting new people all the time and never be tied to any fixed routine is a means to escape the crushing weight of time—a way to survive by slipping through the cracks. Keep moving and you can’t be caught. Living outside of society and time is a means to freedom. On the other hand, this path comes with great uncertainty. No guaranteed dough, sleep or comfort. Ever. Being on the road all the time means letting go of attachment to the idea of maintaining long-term relationships with friends and lovers. Road life is alienating as hell. You are gone all the time and when you come back you can’t relate to friends in the same way, and become depressed by the gap left in your life when your nightly 40 minutes of golden stage time is ripped away from you. Playing every night is a very intense, emotional, and physical release, so when you get back off the road you feel pretty stopped up. The road is hard but being back in New York trying not to go crazy is harder. I could never have guessed how stressful this life could be but also could never have guessed how goddamn motherfucking fun it could be either.”
AM: What do you think is missing in our present times? And what do you think has improved?
JD: “I’m not sure how to answer this one so I’ll just say it’s really frustrating to read all my favorite trashy rock n’ roll biographies about the skyrocketing careers of 70s bands like Aerosmith or whoever who got signed, had a hit, and exploded. It was such a different game back then—so much more money behind it, and so much more cake to be had. Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that rock n’ roll is alive and well all over the world but it’s just not the same monster it was. So it feels like we have to really carve out (with a dull knife) any success we achieve.”
AM: What have you been listening to recently?
JD: “Sheer Mag, Nancy, Dino’s Boys, Faux Ferocious,Eskorbuto, Barracudas, Coneheads, Big Country, The Lurkers, Mungo Jerry, Slade, Destroy All Monsters, UK Subs, Mr. Master, Casco, Blackway, The Telefones (check out “Bowling”), The Plasmatics, Jim Ford, The Dickies, Zappa, The Brats, Witchfinder General, Suburban Lawns, Slick Rick, Elvis Gospel, Stevie Wonder, Dow Jones and the Industrials, The Gizmos, Zero Boys, Judas Priest and Hector’s Pets.”
AM: About 2017—What will be your next steps? What can we expect from the new album?
JD: “We just wrapped up a new album. We recorded 14 songs. Ten are going to be on the album. The rest will come out this year on 7 inches. After a couple of years of touring we had experienced so much but lived through a lot of the alienation I was talking about above and were hurt by love lost. So the subject matter of the album is pretty dark. It’s a goodbye to love. But it is a very sweet goodbye to love. By that I mean its is pretty poppy. Tons of harmonies as always. A couple slower songs. You’re going to like it, Ananda. We are about to go on our yearly trip to play Club 77 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the album release we are going to head back on the road all over Europe and the US. And Brazil, I hope!”
AM: Thank you for this opportunity and I hope to meet you guys on Brazilian land soon. Add any final remarks and rock on!
JD: “We CANNOT wait to get to Brazil! Tell all the rockers were coming and we might not leave if that’s okay with them!”