Not a lot of new music is honestly thrilling. The general output of the early 21st century is more concerned with style and texture, concept and cleverness, wearing well-worn uniforms well than it is with forging into the dark lands for undulating new forms. However, there are glorious exceptions like the Mike Dillon’s Band of Outsiders. When this wildly gesticulating, ferociously competent quartet launches into action the air crackles and hair stands up on one’s arms, something fresh and vaguely untamed entering the room. What veteran mallet master Mike Dillon (electric vibes, marimba, xylophone, tabla, percussion, vocals), Carly Meyers (trombone, vocals), Patrick McDevitt (bass, vocals) and Adam Gertner (drums, vocals) conjure is both alien and accessible, a grand cluster-cuss of tradition mud wrestling esoteric demons, wild hairs, and punk-addled energies. Put more simply, this shit is goddamn exciting.
After 400-plus shows and countless miles in the tour van in just the past two years, the Mike D Band delivers their lovely-jittery sonic manifesto in Band of Outsiders (released April 1 on the ever-excellent Royal Potato Family label). By turns charmingly nuts and surprisingly sophisticated, the album is equal measures vintage punk rock, small group hot jazz, boundary-less experimentation, and freak show house band. While Dillon has been involved in a huge number of projects (Critters Buggin, Dead Kenny G’s, Garage A Trois, Malachy Papers, Hairy Apes BMX), the Band of Outsiders allows the full spray of his imagination to run and root around. Chasing the Great Lake’s tuna and tossing folks in bonfires, Dillon and his talented, exuberant gang remind us that everything hasn’t been done, that genuinely original music is still possible if one combines the vast DNA available into non-standard helixes.
We got the entire Band of Outsiders to dig into DI’s signature questionnaire, and as you’ll see, they’re as fascinating as the sound they stir up.
- 1. Great music rarely happens without…
- Mike D: Sweat
Adam: Love and magic. You have to have a genuine love for the music you make. Magic is that unexplainable force the music creates that you can never control. When you combine both magic and love for music, it elevates everything to another playing field. You can no longer control what you do and everything becomes a euphoria of fun. Music is the most fun when it takes on its own entity and becomes bigger than yourself.
Carly: Risks. I feel that great music rarely happens without taking risks. If you keep the music too “safe” there’s no room for experimentation, or original self-expression. As much as it hurts to make a mistake on stage from taking a risk, I know that “mistakes are the portals of discovery” (James Joyce). Then thinking about it after the fact, it actually feels pretty liberating to make mistakes knowing you’re trying something completely foreign to you and taking that next step towards creating your own sound.
Patrick: Spending A LOT of time together with your band.
- 2. The first album I bought was…
- Mike D: Kiss Alive 1 and Led Zeppelin IV
Adam: The first record I bought was Galactic’s Crazy Horse Mongoose. My friend put a couple of Galactic songs on a mix for me when I was in 7th grade, and I immediately wanted more. My parents were thrilled that I liked Stanton Moore’s drumming. They helped me email Stanton and ask for a lesson. He got me to come out to the Denver Fillmore Auditorium and take a lesson. After my lesson, he put me and my parents on the list for the Galactic show that night, and got us seats side stage so we would be comfortable the whole show. The show was amazing, and I continue to still get lessons from Stanton. Pretty awesome first album!
Carly: The first record I ever bought was J.J. Johnson’s First Place, in probably 6th grade. After I started playing trombone in 5th grade it didn’t take me long to discover jazz. I was let into the school jazz band a year early and found my voice! My shit! My life’s future became two options: playing trombone or living in straightjacket at a mental hospital. There was nothing else that mattered anymore. It kept me sane and practicing became a daily meditation for me. I was the biggest nerd with swollen lips who lived in bliss under the radar of bullies and eventually transferred to the Arts High School. Anyways J.J. was and a HUGE inspiration through that time and still is!
Patrick: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. I still listen to that album at least once a month.
- 3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
- Mike D: I will go with Either/Or by Elliot Smith for the songwriter in me and Into the Future by Bad Brains for the hardcore freak in me.
And a record I bought yesterday by Milt Jackson called Brother Jim. I am loving it as I TYPE. Milt is my vibraphone hero.
Adam: The last record that freaked me out was Deerhoof’s newest record, Breakup Songs [this one make DI’s Favorite Albums of 2012, too]. It is such a fun record. You can sing along and dance to it over and over again! The best part is that they’re even better live. Their live show is different from their records, and I love it when a band does that. You can listen to a record whenever you want, but you can only see a band live every few months. They never cease to amaze me and once again, they are pure enjoyment and fun. Yay to dancing!
Carly: The last album that really freaked me out was Secret Chiefs 3’s Book of Souls: Folio A. Trey Spruance never ceases to be a total BAMF. This is the second Book of Souls in their mega-trilogy (fist being Book of Horizons in 2004). This record was over a decade in the making and is quoted as being “Secret Chiefs 3’s most elaborate work yet”. This record’s production took place in studios in San Fran, New York, L.A., Seattle, the UK and France over the past decade. Apparently he hired a small army of musicians with the usual culprits as the backbone of the band such as Timb Harris, Ches Smith, Shahzad Ismaily, Anonymous 13, Danny Heifetz, William Winant. You’ll leave gawking at the undertaking and smiling at how blissfully ignorant Secret Chiefs 3 is to current musical fashions.
Patrick: About a year and a half ago I discovered the songwriting duo of Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones. Since then not a day goes by without listening to their songs. I especially love the work they did on Off The Wall. Right now I am in the depths of a serious Charlie Parker binge. I could listen to him play “Cherokee” all day.
- 4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
- Mike D: The drummer.
Adam: I wanted to be a pilot when I was younger. I had my great uncle’s WWII bomber flight jacket, and my best friend had his flight jacket and we would pretend all the time. We had a bunch of G.I. Joes and army toys and we’d go to the creek by our houses and play in the mud and pretend. I had a fun, imaginative childhood.
Carly: When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be a horse trainer. This of course was before I discovered trombone. My sister loves horses so I would always go to the barn with her and ride. I loved riding and spent countless summers going for trail rides and scooping poop.
Patrick: An Egyptologist. I was really into mummies and ancient Egypt when I was in elementary school.
- 5. My favorite sort of gig is…
- Mike D: A small packed club where you can feel the sweat of the crowd and everyone has forgot the daily struggle and transcendence commences.
Adam: Any gig with magic is my favorite. Magic occurs when everyone is so into the music as a whole, the music becomes its own thing. For me, the times we are all so happy and having so much fun are the times this magic occurs. When no one is trying to force anything and we are all organically playing, we end up having so much fun that the magic just seems to conjure itself. Fun, happy gigs are my favorite for the magic it creates.
Carly: My favorite sort of gig is the magical, sweaty and completely unexpected night of music, the gig where you’re nervously wondering, “Is anyone going to show up?” And by the end of the night your clothes are drenched in sweat and somehow it’s already four in the morning. These unexpected shows are the ones that reaffirm the power of touring and fuel your road-dog soul to keep slugging it out.
Patrick: I love the late night sets that end with the sun coming up. Mike has an incredible amount of material that he has written over the years and I love getting to play through it all in one night. It’s an awesome experience because the rest of the band brings a really bad ass attitude to the stage when we’re about to rock and throw an all night dance party.
- 6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
- Mike D: In the age of Facebook, I am actually thinking people need to know less. TMI. That being said, I do like how we are all virtually connected. I guess I will go with I love reading the classics. I am going to finish Ulysses by James Joyce this year.
Adam: I don’t know what to say other than I’m an open person, and most of the questions people will ask me I will answer. So I suppose instead of telling people about me, ask me and I will most likely answer your questions.
Carly: One thing I wish people knew about me is that I’m not on drugs – my mom is just crazy. Ha! People come up to me all the time saying, “Oh yeah I saw you at that show. You were on speed, and blah blah blah,” and go on to list drugs I’ve never even heard of. Then I get to respond with, “Well, no, it’s actually just my genes.” My mom, grandma, and great-grandma all had crazy electric energy and I’m sure ADHD. I feed off adrenaline and can spiral into this vortex of spastic outbursts. I have a lot fun actually and think it may be a little overwhelming on any kind of drug. Ha!
Patrick: Please. No olives on pizza. Or mushrooms either.
- 7. I love the sound of…
- Mike D: Milt Jackson playing vibraphone.
Adam: Drums are probably my favorite sound. They bang and crash and boom in a very pretty way. The ring and hum that different woods and different features of the drums creates is fascinating. Drums ring like a human voice and it’s easier to talk by playing them than it is to use my voice. Drums sound beautiful to me when the right person is playing them. Go listen to Johnny Vidocovich and the drums might just become your favorite sound as well.
Carly: I love the sound of a running tour van. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard such a sad sound before hearing our van’s engine completely crap out. We had gotten the oil changed the day before, were on our way to a show opening for Umphrey’s McGee, and our van’s engine completely gave out. After diagnostics they said that someone put water in the oil and we’d need to get a whole new engine. Yep that was a sad, sad sound, and I now have an even greater appreciation for the sound of a running engine.
Patrick: The backstage about 10 minutes before downbeat of a big show. Carly’s amazing trombone warm up routine is always in the background while Adam and Mike are running through set list ideas and drumming on anything that makes a sound. I love hearing musicians warm up before a gig.
- 8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
- Mike D: I am actually pretty happy with where I am musically. That doesn’t mean I am not hungry. I have just learned that you are exactly where you are suppose to be. My relationship with my muse is pretty good. I used to cry after All State Band or Orchestra performances when I was a kid. I would beat up on myself tremendously. That was a huge part of getting into drugs. The creative process can be quite painful. To me making albums is about the process and I don’t really think the masters were doing anything other than speaking the language they knew how to make. But yes, I hope my muse continues to bless me with new ideas and I continue to wake up hungry and write.
Adam: I don’t know if I strive to make a record as good as some of my favorites, but I do hope to make quality music. My favorite records are the most simple ones. Rudy Van Gelder with Blue Note made some amazing records – just amazing musicians all together in one room recording to tape. Modest Mouse’s Building Something Out of Nothing is another simple favorite of mine. Beautiful songwriting, a great drummer, a fantastic bass player, and a few vocal overdubs made one amazing record. Keep it simple is a great motto for everything in life.
Carly: One day I’d love to make an album as great as The Runners Four by Deerhoof. Obviously there are so many records that inspire and come to mind when asked this question but I feel like The Runners Four a is truly unique original record that came out during our age of people saying, “Nothing new can be created”. BULLSHIT! This record was recorded in their Oakland rehearsal space with no added post-production, fully capturing their unbridled intensity and utter joy. I also love that I can listen to it a million times, put it on for the million and one-th time, sing along to every song, and still be excited by it. I think that’s the beauty of their catchy songwriting with Satomi’s unorthodox voice and phrasing, John’s guitar execution and tone, and Greg Saunier’s wild drumming and influences (classical music, and the Rolling Stones) colliding together. Each song on this record is around 2-3:30 min long with a total of 20 songs on the record, and I just love that concept of so many short, densely packed songs, flowing and juxtaposing each other. It feels like taking the punk-rock aesthetic of minute long songs and stretching it into this weird, what Deerhoof would call “pop” song.
Patrick: Right now, I’m just happy I made an album as fantastic as Band of Outsiders.
- 9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
- Mike D: Siam Thai!
Adam: We have had so many phenomenal meals on tour. We stayed at a friend’s house in North California once and they made amazing salmon cabbage tacos. They were local and so fresh – yummmm. We also eat Thai food everywhere in this country. The best Thai is in Telluride, Colorado at Siam Thai. Tuna that knocks your socks off, drunken noodles with duck so tasty you quack handle it, and tom yum from out of this world will have your head spinning it’s so amazing. Am I in love with Siam Thai? Yes Siam!
Carly: The best meal I ever had on tour was at Siam Thai in Telluride, Colorado. Mike had told us how amazing this Thai food was and I was thinking, “Yeah, okay, all the way up here in a one road in out mountain town, yeah sure.” But sure enough, the food was so fresh and exploding with flavor it was a foodie smack in the face or rather mouth haarhaar.
Patrick: Siam Thai in Telluride, CO. Entire tours are planned around this place
- 10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
- Mike D: Everywhere and every human that is brave enough to leave the safety of the digital glow and party with the musicians on the stage is the coolest audience!
Adam: Any gig where people come out and are excited to come to is the coolest. When the audience is excited to see you, everyone will have a good time. When the people are genuinely excited to see you, you get excited, too. And when there’s that much excitement going around how can it not be a fantastic party?
Carly: I always find the coolest audiences in… everywhere. Anywhere people are going to come out and dance to an electrified vibraphone and effected trombone in a rock band is a cool audience by me. I once had a 65-year-old woman come up to me at a show and say, ”I didn’t take any LSD before your show but I sure felt like I was tripping and I LOVED it!” For a lot of people, the Mike Dillon Band isn’t like the normal neighborhood band you go see every Friday night but to us it’s our everyday language and is our standard of “normal”. Any audience who can appreciate and open their mind to our freak-show is the reason why we live our dream.
Patrick: Anywhere where the audience is engaged and listening. I’m a fan of all music fans.
- 11. The worst habit I’ve picked up being on the road all the time is…
- Mike D: Looking at my phone.
Adam: I tend to swear a bit too much now. We are sort of modern day pirates, and pirates are sailors, who curse a lot right? “Curse like a sailor.” Anyway, kind of a bad habit, but I make a conscious effort not to do it in inappropriate situations.
Carly: The worst habit I’ve picked up on the road is going to Whole Foods every day. My wallet hates me but my stomach loves me. I have to say though at the end of the day when I’m jumping on stage to play with wild Mike D I’m happy I ate food I’ll be able to keep down after jumping around for hours.
Patrick: We go to Whole Foods almost every day and I have developed an expensive taste for their chocolate chip cookies and coffee.
- 12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
- Mike D: Def Led Zep. I got into Kiss, Led Zep, Blue Oyster Cult, Sabbath, Foghat, and Bad Company when I was 10 and the rock was always part of my language.
My mom had The Beatles and a ton of big band records, so I was into that side of music from a young age. I would go and look at the albums and read the liner notes and dream while I played all her records.
Adam: Radiohead has made some great records. They take their time to produce and record intricate records. There is always something new to hear when listening. Led Zeppelin was one of the greatest rock bands of all time. They rock so fucking hard and no one will ever compare to that. For me, The Beatles had the best of both worlds. They rock and have intricately produced records. A record and a live show should be two different things. I love a band that can improvise on stage and not play their record exactly the same.
Carly: Led Zeppelin or Radiohead…geesh that’s a hard question. Apples and Oranges. Although if I had to pick a band that flips MY switch it’d be Led Zeppelin. I mean Radiohead can produce and write the hell out of a song but Zeppelin’s rock power hits you like a punch in the stomach. It’s a visceral emotional reaction when hearing Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham rocking and creating their distinct unique sound for their era.
Patrick: It’s really tough to compare the two bands. They are from different eras and each do completely different things but I’m definitely a Radiohead fan. I love the progression of their music through the years and how every album is different. I really love Hail To The Thief and O.K. Computer but in the end, there would be no Radiohead without Led Zeppelin.
- 13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
- Mike D: I could go with dead bodies in front of CBGBs or horrific vaporized cars, but I will keep it on the Bad Brains concert at The Theater Gallery in 1986. HR came out and did a gainer into the crowd. The place erupted. It was my first hardcore show and still stands up as the best show I have ever seen in terms of raw energy. To me, it is almost a dream at this point. Those guys really set the cross bar high. That’s what I am more concerned with, trying to deliver constant energy from the stage!!!! Summer of 1986 I had the epiphany that I wanted to rock like Bad Brains when I grow up.
Adam: Mike Dillon’s penis on stage is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. It has popped out a few times, but the craziest was on Jam Cruise. It was the last song of the night, and Mike jumped up on the speakers and his pants ripped right open. It was hilarious and total Mike Dillon fashion. I don’t know if that is truly crazy, but for me it was pretty crazy.
Carly: Craziest thing I ever saw was seeing Kaycee Smith over me while crowd surfing at a Fishbone show at The Brooklyn Bowl. Kaycee (Fishbone’s merch girl) and I decided to go double crowd surfing and somehow after we jumped off stage the she ended up surfing over me and miraculously not smooshing me. It was obvious it wasn’t the audiences first time at a Fishbone rodeo and knew how to handle zig-zagging us around till finally dropping us back on stage. Of course, this is only one of many crazy things I’ve seen on the road. This band is pretty good at getting into shenanigans.
Name: Mike Dillon
Instrument(s) of choice: Vibes, Tabla, Drums, The Mic!
Nicknames: D. Greasy D, D Dawg Tree Frog, MC Silver Ice
Name: Adam Gertner
Instrument(s) of choice: Drums, please
Nicknames (if any): Radam
Name: Carly Meyers
Instrument(s) of choice: Trombone
Nicknames: Mc I-Scream. What can I say… love ice cream and love screaming.
Name: Patrick McDevitt
Instrument(s) of choice: Electric and Double bass
Nicknames: Patty, Pantree