A big thanks is in order for DRYC for putting together the best local showcase that I've seen in the past two years. Even the venue is great!
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Describing Dry River Yacht Club's sound is no easy task. Not only does the Tempe octet sound unlike any other local band, but thanks to their use of such unconventional instruments as the bassoon, French horn, and accordion, they really don't sound like anyone else, period. Imagine Björk singing for DeVotchKa and you'd at least be in the ballpark, but comparisons don't really do the band justice. Percussionist Henri Benard describes Dry River Yacht Club's music as "a very eclectic blend of Gypsy, western folk rock," which is probably as accurate a description as any.
Typically, bands that push the boundaries of popular music the way Dry River Yacht Club does are destined to languish in obscurity, which makes the band's growing popularity all the more surprising. Over the past few years, DRYC has cultivated a big enough local following to headline several local music showcases at Tempe's Marquee Theatre, the most recent of which was recorded for the band's forthcoming multimedia release Live at the Marquee Theater [sic]. The CD contains four live tracks, two of which ("The Rape of Persephone" and "Sweaty Sax") are previously unreleased, as well as a pair of videos shot by Andrew Benson and Adam Wheeler.
The live release comes hot on the heels of the band's debut album, The Ugliest Princess, which was nearly universally praised in the local press. Even though Princess is less than a year old, it was difficult to pass up the chance to release live recordings from the band's recent Marquee show, Benard says.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to take advantage and do something cool on the big stage where we had good sound and a good crowd," Benard says. "That night was just so awesome. We had fun. It's always awesome to play on those big, big stages 'cause it really feels like you're getting somewhere as a musician. When you're playing a bigger stage like that, you're just like, 'Cool, this is working. We can play a big stage like this.' The intensity level is always really high and really strong."
DRYC might be playing big stages now, but even in the band's early days, landing gigs wasn't much of a problem, despite not sounding like any of the bands they played with. Since most of the band members had previously played in other local bands, they had already established relationships with other local bands and venue owners. As unusual as DRYC's sound is, it typically fares well with other bands' fans, Benard says.
"I'd never book us with any metal bands or anything like that, because I don't think that's our crowd, but for the most part, I think we play to a pretty diverse audience," Benard says. "I think that actually works to everybody's benefit, as far as the bands go, because I know a lot of our fans will like a lot of other people's music that may not exactly sound like ours, but it's just very good music. If bands support each other and work hard and promote well and do the right things and have the right attitude and the right songs, it doesn't really matter specifically what your genre is. It's kind of more like that festival approach these days, and I think that really is an advantage for everybody. I think it's cool to get flavors of sounds instead of getting three bands that sound the same every time you go to a show."
Okay, so even if the band's unique sound hasn't been a detriment, surely having eight members in the band must present a host of logistical nightmares, from fitting everyone into a tour van to squeezing everyone on stage? Right? Not so, say Benard. Despite having twice as many members as a typical bar band, DRYC benefits from using mostly acoustic instruments.
"We bring a couple amps," Benard says. "Megyn [Neff] brings an amp for her violin. Ryan [Probst] brings an amp for his guitar sometimes, just 'cause they sound good out of the amps. Everybody else just plays into a mic. We're very minimal as far as our gear is concerned. I think it's actually very nice, not having to haul a ton of huge amps on stage all the time, move a whole bunch of stuff. Set-up and tear-down is done very quickly. I like that about the way we travel and the size of our setup. I think that's to our advantage. Not only do we not have to move a lot of stuff, but we can do it without all these crazy electronics."
Even songwriting presents few challenges for the band, Benard says. While it might seem difficult to collaborate with seven other people on a song, Benard says the band's songwriting process is remarkably smooth. Most of the songs are written by Probst and lead vocalist Garnet, with the other band members fine-tuning the arrangements on their respective instruments. In fact, if Benard is to be believed, DRYC is practically devoid of any internal strife or conflict. He compares being in the band to being part of a family, and the stability of DRYC's lineup since the band's inception appears to support his case.
"We don't really like to do lineup changes at all," Benard says. "We try to find family members. A couple of our players have moved out of town. They come in for the big shows — we fly them in — because we think it's important to really have the full sound at these bigger shows. I like the people that we work with and I think everybody in the band feels the same way. It's a band of best friends, and it makes it very easy to write, to travel, to work together, to spend time together and really dial into the thought and the idea and the concept of Dry River Yacht Club, in our collective lives and in our individual lives."