Week in Pop: Dinowalrus, Kate Grom, Versing

Sjimon Gompers

The proliferation & persistence of Dinowalrus; photographed live at Webster Hall by Silvia Saponaro.

Dinowalrus

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Dinowalrus live at Webster Hall; photographed by Silvia Saponaro.

Ever since their formation in 2008, Brooklyn’s ever-evolving/shape-shifting Dinowalrus have remained committed to the standard of being your favorite band. Lead by the visionary Pete Feigenbaum, the group has shown ever since their debut % that they can morph into combination of your favorite cult artist or group with a quick guitar-bar lick or riff. Fresh on the heels of their recent lauded album Fairweather, Dinowalrus returns with the world premiere of their Siouxsie and the Banshees cover of “Kiss Them For Me” that entertains the song’s own inherent dreamy & psychedelic facets. Siouxsie’s 1991 single is given the Dinowalrus treatment that zooms in on the caravan train rhythm arrangements that propels the song higher into the stratosphere than ever before.

Looping the cover around an old school Schoolly D. breakbeat, Dinowalrus dives head first into vintage-futurist rendering of “Kiss Them For Me”. All of the eastern leaning sounds found on Siouxsie’s original are exalted in a crazed chorus wailing wall-of-guitars that roar, moan & growl in unison like an array of ornery electrical beasts. Pete duets with Meaghan Omega in a cyclone of sound featuring further contributions from bandmates Max Tucker & Dan Peskin that blend together vintage hip hop & dance rhythms with the mind-expanding melodies that circle, spiral & plume like the secret science of convection cycles in the sky. The synths, drum bars, guitars & vocals transform the early 90s glamour pop single into an illustrious rhinestone that shines forth with a post-modern brightness & brilliance that combines the myriad elements of sub-genres together to create a new syntheses for which there are no titles. Ultimately the Brooklyn band’s take on Siouxsie’s classic points toward exciting upcoming echelons, events & further inventions soon to follow from our heroes. Following the debut of their Siousxie and the Banshees cover, read our insightful interview with Dinowalrus’s own Pete Feigenbaum.

Tell us about how you approached covering Siouxsie’s “Kiss Them For Me” and focusing on the dreamier components of the original.

Overall, I think our version is more maximalist! First and foremost, we wanted the recording to be a true duet between Meaghan and myself, a doubling rather than a harmony. Also, we completely reinvented the bassline; not surprisingly, it has a rolling Happy Mondays/Stone Roses groove to it, whereas the original is more sparse. Our use of guitars is pretty different. I kept it super minimal during the verse, but then brought on some wall-of-distortion textures when the chorus drops in. I also used a lot of synths to create a slow-moving background drone that ties everything together. Also, Max sampled his own drumming and then chopped it up to create a free-flowing breakbeat that complements the dreaminess of the track and embellishes the phrasing of the vocals.

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Dinowalrus live at Webster Hall; photographed by Silvia Saponaro.

With a Schoolly D. nod with the breakbeat, tell us about the time you saw the Philly emcee at the now-defunct pub Supreme Trading in Williamsburg.

At the time, I was moderately into old school hip hop, and “Gucci Time” was in regular rotation. I was pretty excited to hear that he was playing down the street from me. It was a pretty chill show; even though Supreme Trading was an officially licensed bar, the whole space had a raw DIY feel to it, with four different rooms. The show room was about the same size as Death By Audio, and probably only 50 people enthusiastically watched his set, which pretty much just involved a microphone and an iPod. I didn’t come away with an overtly strong reaction, but it was refreshing to see a back-to-basics hip hop set when the genre has become so crassly commercial. Anyway, there’s a sub-genre of shoegaze that involves looped classic breakbeats, and it suits us pretty well. “Kiss Them For Me” in that regard is pretty similar to “Pearl” by Chapterhouse, an all-time favorite. Anyway, the Siouxsie Sioux/Schoolly D sample is a pretty cool connection.

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Dinowalrus at Alphaville; photographed by Seth Applebaum.

What has post-release of Fairweather felt like for you, and what hints can you drop as for what’s next in the works?

I didn’t go into that album cycle with huge expectations, so luckily I wasn’t disappointed. I think those folks who took the time to check it out really enjoyed it and appreciated it. Obviously it would have been nice if it raised our standing or opened up some opportunities to play shows with bigger bands we love, but that remains elusive as always. As a band, it’s been fun learning to play live some of the deeper cuts that were previously album only tracks. But mainly I’m happy to be able to slow down a bit after plugging away pretty consistently for the last eight years. Fairweather may have been the end of the album cycle that started with Best Behavior in 2012—highly intricate, layered psych/synth-pop albums. Future albums will probably be simpler. The next album is going to be more overtly rock & roll, with power chords, Big Muff pedal, and driving beats. That being said, it will still be somewhat electronic and dance oriented and the synth textures will be harder-edged and/or retro, but there will also be some jangly psych-rock moments as well. I definitely want to move the band back into psych-rock territory and away from synth-pop.

What are you currently obsessed with media-wise and art-wise in your world?

I haven’t been getting out too much, but it was cool seeing the Lilys play Bowery Ballroom in January—there were a few folks I know playing in the band, which is always fun. I’m excited to see the Thomas Heatherwick “Vessel” stair sculpture open soon at Hudson Yards. And the Vito Acconci retrospective at PS1 last summer was cool. I went on the last day and Acconci was there roaming around the gallery. On the architecture front, I’m really excited to see Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center open up in Washington Heights; it might be the most interesting building ever built in NYC. The new Psychic Ills album, Inner Journey Out, is rad—even the deep cuts are engaging. And I really enjoyed Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band. It was like Patti Smith’s Just Kids, but better in a way because Gordon is more candid and less prone to name-dropping; plus, NYC in the 1990s seems quite tangible to me, as if it’s still connected to the present day, whereas NYC in the 1970s seems totally foreign.

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Dinowalrus playing Alphaville; photographed by Seth Applebaum.

In what ways do you feel people can get involved with today’s conversations on current pressing matters?

Get out in the streets; call members of Congress to put pressure on them; try to get outside the echo chamber to see what motivates people who feel differently about certain political ideas; and read some Enlightenment Age works of political philosophy to understand the conceptual roots of the American experiment.

Dinowalrus’s new album Fairweather is available now.

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