By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Chicago experimental rock group Dendrons have released a new track “Halfway,” which will be featured on their upcoming self-titled debut LP out on May 22, 2020 via Earth Libraries.
Recorded in a span of two weeks in Phoenix, the record was also mixed by Matt Labozza and Tony Brant via Highland Recording Studio. It was mastered by Sarah Register (Big Thief, Protomartyr, Sonic Youth, Lower Dens) in New York City.
Formed on New Year’s Day, 2018, their combination of post-punk and blender pop are the culmination of every member’s extensive musical backgrounds, which span the last decade all across the United States. They’ve since toured throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. They were recently scheduled to tour in Europe, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, those dates have been postponed to early Fall 2020.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with band member DJ about “Halfway” and other topics.
Music Bugle – Beyond the postponement of your Europe tour, in what other ways has the Coronavirus outbreak affected the band?
DJ – In the wake of recent events, we’ve had two tours canceled in U.S. and Europe, as well as multiple festivals postponed. While it’s a wrench in plans, all of this is rather understandable and the health and safety of everyone is obviously the most important thing. Tours like these I’ve always seen as a living, breathing embodiment of your album. Tours are how we connect with an audience and get people excited about our music. It’s a way to get the word out that’s alive and immediate, so having to find another method to spread the music is a bit more challenging. The circumstances have caused us to take a step back. Instead of channeling our energies outward, we have focused them inward. Our culture is so used to this “productivity at all costs” model – constant improvement, striving for maximum exposure, resources, clout and so forth. Maximum engagement with minimal self-reflection. Caffeine propulsion. Now, so many projects and industries are on hold in the wake of Coronavirus. Not being caught up in those gears for once sort of puts it into perspective what’s really important. Community, friends and family, favor economies and all of this. Real tangible, emotional connections. The capitalist paradigm won’t save us, that much is clear. It’s gonna be by our hands. Seeing all of my friends supporting crowdfunding initiatives and donating to these go-fund-me’s for the struggling venues, small businesses and bands is beautiful. We’ve been taking time to read, meditate and catch up on films for once. Saw “The Peanut Butter Falcon” yesterday and that was quite good. As a band, we’re mainly writing demos for new material. Self-care is the primary focus, but new music is a nice side-effect.
Music Bugle – How did you come up with the name Dendrons?
DJ – We came up with the name by finding a somewhat arbitrary word in a book. Basically, we camped out in a library for an entire day until we found some word that struck us. A dendron is another term for dendrite, in Greek. In physiology, a dendrite is a “short branched extension of a nerve cell, along which impulses received from other cells at synapses are transmitted to the cell body.” The second definition is “a crystal or crystalline mass with a branching treelike structure.” Even without any knowledge of that, the word just sounds alien to me.
Music Bugle – How did the idea for the song “Halfway” come about?
DJ – “Halfway” is loosely about a time in our bands history, during a drive to play a show in Montana. It’s about this particular drive we had from Glacier National Park to Missoula. It’s about being lost in the moment with your friends inside a van and being humbled together by the experience of being in some place totally foreign. It’s about how the show we were playing later that night was kind of an afterthought and a reflection of the chemistry and comradery we had in transit. Almost besides the point, despite whatever crazy expectations we built up in our minds for it. It’s about this gut feeling that we’re always approaching some grand goal, but never quite arriving. Kind of like this joyful purgatory. There’s something vaguely Kerouacian about this song, probably in more ways than I’d like to admit. The song kind of edges on a feeling that you need to physically stake out your sense of self elsewhere, outside your hometown. Not true or false, but it was how we were feeling at the time.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your upcoming album release? How will fans react to it?
DJ – Writing the album was an all-encompassing process. Beyond that, we’ve been working closely with the label, Earth Libraries, who are really helping with the vinyl release, as well as organization of everything. They have been really, really great. We’ve been sitting on our upcoming debut record for so long that I think our perspectives are somewhat warped. How people will react to it is anyone’s guess, but we are proud of what we did regardless. It’s a good representation of where we were at the time.
Music Bugle – Of the videos you guys have put out, which do you feel represents the band the best?
DJ – It’s tough to say, like choosing between children. Shout out to Adam Stewart AKA Glasseye Merchant and Snakechimezen, though, for providing moving visuals for our singles. They are doing very cool work.
Music Bugle – How would you guys describe the experience of playing live? Are there certain aspects of your music you look to bring out in that setting?
DJ – The live show is definitely more about channeling unfettered chaos, whereas the recorded experience is more about taming it. There’s a certain “These sounds are raucous and noisy but fuck it, it’s how I feel in this moment” vibe to our live shows that is definitely put more under a microscope in the recording, but I think that’s what makes the live show special. There’s a sincerity there. Playing live is one the most pure joys we have as a band and we’ve felt real community by doing so. Face-to-face engagement provides for this.
Music Bugle – Overall, how would you describe the scene in Chicago for your genre?
DJ – I feel like it’s healthy. Chicago is fertile ground for so many exceptional bands. Post-punk, noise, outsider pop and jazz all seem to be coming together in really exciting ways right now and there’s a definite conversation happening between all those styles in the city.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
DJ – I think it can be trapping, in the way that I think content creation is becoming king and people are starting to lean more into quantity rather than quality. I think people can get really caught up in the dopamine trip of peer validation and immediate likes and seek to be edified by the immediacy of all that, rather than the time it takes to create an honest piece of art in isolation. What is your intuition telling you when you are alone? What is that voice inside your head guiding you to make? That’s the kind of art I want to hear. I consider the question more and more, “If my art did not exist on the web, did it really exist at all?”
Music Bugle – Which of your musical influences do you feel show the most in the band’s music?
DJ – There are just too many to list. It would be criminal to isolate one.
Music Bugle – What do you guys hope to soon accomplish as a group, generally speaking?
DJ – Finally put out our debut, self-titled record. Tour Europe and North America once the dust settles. Reschedule all of the shows that were canceled. Enjoy the company of our friends, in person. We are already working on the next album and aim to have that recorded and finished this year.