Ryan Solomon: “I learned the hard way that an audience doesn’t really care about an energetic visual performance if the music sounds sloppy and horrible.”
‘I’m a big fan of bad band names,” Ryan Solomon says. Solomon, 26, who is plotting a move to Golden Hill at the time of our interview, is DUDES chief architect. “I used to be in a band named ‘Da Bears,’ and when my friend suggested it, I fell in love with it. DUDES is in all caps, of course,” Solomon cautions.
DUDES was nominated in the Best Electronic category at this year’s SDMA awards. As of January, DUDES includes Ryan Solomon, bassist E.J. Binns, and Matt Billings on keyboards. In July, the self-proclaimed “swag rockers” returned with Summer Vacation, an EP of new material.
About that SDMA nomination: would you have put your band in that category?
“No. But, then, I’m not sure what category I’d put us in. Anyone who’s ever listened to a full release of ours or seen us live wouldn’t categorize us as electronic, so I think it goes to show how fickle the whole concept is. At first, we shrugged the nomination off, but then we decided to embrace it and take some shots at the whole thing. We made a silly campaign video, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to push us to the top. Spoiler alert: the whole thing is rigged.”
When did you know that you wanted to make music your profession?
“When I was seven. I used to go over to my neighbor’s house and listen to his dad’s heavy-metal CDs, so it must have been around then. But, now I’m thinking about when I realized I did not want to make it my profession, and it’d probably be around when I realized that even if I was moderately successful, I still wouldn’t be financially very well off. I guess my goal is to be successful enough making music for myself to the point I could say, ‘Damn, a few decades ago I’d be rolling in cash.’”
You once told me that you were gonna release a video game with your record Narcissists Anonymous...
“Yeah, the video game download instructions come with every Bandcamp download for that EP. I spent a lot of time making that happen, but I don’t think too many people tried it out. The biggest problem is that it only works for PC users. It’s a no-go on Macs. Still, I saw a few write-ups from people who said they tried it out and were impressed by the depth of it.... I’m considering coming up with a prize for the first person who can prove they beat it.”
What was your first band like?
“My first band that wrote original songs and played shows was basically an At the Drive-In rip-off. I guess I wanted an excuse to be angsty and jump around like a maniac onstage. I learned the hard way that an audience doesn’t really care about an energetic visual performance if the music sounds sloppy and horrible.”
What are some of the local venues where you cut your teeth?
“In high school, it was super cool to play at the Scene [now closed] and Club Xanth [also closed]. We also let Soma rip us and our friends off a handful of times. After that, I fell in love with the Ché Café and played a bunch of shows there.”
SOMA ripped you off?
“The last time I played there was probably six years ago. We were the only local band opening for a touring showcase of douchey Universal [Records] bands. They charged all of our friends $12 at the door, and we received $1 of the $12 back as payment. The audience was 90 percent our draw. Then, our keyboardist forgot his unsold presale tickets at home, so the door lady made us front $60 to allow us to play. After the show, when he returned the missing tickets, she refused to give us the money back. It was insane. We eventually got that money back, but not before we swore we’d never ever ever play there again. The only element of the show that made it worth it was making and wearing T-shirts that made fun of one of the Universal band’s lyrics.”
How did you arrive at the sound of DUDES today?
“A lot of experimenting with computer software by myself. I’ve been really influenced by the rapper Lil B over the past few years. He doesn’t really seem to have an M.O. as an artist, and I’m the same way. I just sit down with some instruments and ideas and try and express myself.”
What does the future of DUDES look like?
“Lots and lots of money and legions of new fans. Hopefully. I’m just going to keep recording songs and releasing them on the internet. Maybe one day enough people around the world will like DUDES and we can go travel to cool places and play said songs.” ■