[Interview] Getting Lifted on Disco with Ryan James of Dot.s
Main image: Dot.s Facebook
Tune into the latest twelve-minutes single, "Down Goes the Elephant," from synth-heavy band Dot.s. Along with band members, Ryan James (vocals, guitar), Joe Crabb (trumpet, synth), Bonnie Hardie (vocals, synth), Nick Lynds (bass), and Garrett Goss (drums), the single-track release includes guest vocals from Grace Bellury of Karaoke and Catherine Quesenberry, formerly of Qurious and Shampoo. The additional vocals weren’t the only colorful touches added, as the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra plays the intro - something that singer Ryan James finds “sexy.”
For Atlanta’s own Dot.s, electronic disco might be the main thing, but Down Goes The Elephant establishes new textures and highs, right down to the artwork. Ryan James took a few minutes to talk with us before the band’s EP release party at The Earl on Sat., Dec. 30.
BM: You have a new EP out, Down Goes the Elephant, what’s new about it?
RJ: I try to put one thing out a year. Like last year we did our second album and I immediately started working on this right after.
Would you say your scope is changing in terms of thought process? What with featuring the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, multiple collaborators and the long length.
It’s not going to become a permanent thing. I mean, this is twelve minutes long and the next is thirty. Obviously, it’s longer but it’s not really like that. Making music is something I've always done, I like to keep it interesting.
Is that a reflection of the success you guys have been seeing?
No, not really. I don’t necessarily think that people are impatient enough to listen to something this long. I like to operate under the pretense that people are patient. It’s hard to listen to/watch stuff these days, I’m guilty of it too, which sucks. As much as I listen to music I fall into the "swipe next" thing. If it’s not blowing my mind it’s not worthy of my attention. I think the best way to challenge that is to make stuff that resists it, and people that like it will listen to it. It’s a thing of reassurance for me. I’m aware that if it’s the same thing for twelve minutes it's not going to be fun. I think making it really segmented, making it change and wind is important.
Let's establish some facts. Where are you from?
I’m from here (Decatur), in the way people from D.C. say they’re from D.C. "But you’re from Maryland." I went to Decatur High School. I was in bands there, not that they were any good
Were you in some sort of music program or magnet program?
No, no, not at all. What’s weird about that is that everyone I went to high school with was active in bands, they’re still doing stuff. We still play together. I think it’s unique.
Is Dot.s your project, or is it more of a collaborative thing?
The way I work right now is, I get something by myself to what I feel to be 100 percent done. Then, I bring it to a practice and have my four best friends tell me that it’s not actually so good as well as the reasons why. The 100 percent version is actually only 20 percent done. It feels done in your head but once you give it to somebody else you realize it’s not done. The general thing is it’s easy for stuff to feel perfect if it’s just by yourself.
Do you spend more time listening to, or making music?
I definitely make more than I listen to. I’m really bad about keeping up with newer stuff honestly. The last thing I listened to was Smile by Brian Wilson, I listened to that this morning. I don’t know, I like what I like and just listen to that.
For a band like yours, right now, do you ask yourself how to start packing out regional audiences?
I mean that’d be nice, but I get into trouble when I worry about packing out venues. It’s obviously the end goal but you don’t get to that by focusing on it. I think you get there by just focusing on the work. We're not on a label right, but we're always trying to find one.
You’re pretty crazy on stage. Is that a fair reflection of your persona or are you kind of an introvert off stage?
I guess I'm introverted. Most of my extended family, when they come see us are like, "what the fuck was that?" If you adopt an attitude which is confident, for me personally it helps me think about what my fingers are doing. I can ignore the social tension. I’m a reserved person, but being a crazy person on a stage is fun to watch for the audience. There’s nothing I hate more than having a wall between a band and audience. That’s why we have a really extensive light setup; I needed a fucking huge light in front of my face so I couldn't see the crowd. If you can’t see them, they’re always in.