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A Fiendish Conversation with Dude York's Peter Richards

The Seattle indie rock trio looks to live up to its self-proclaimed title of "America's band" with the release of 'Sincerely.'

By Seth Sommerfeld February 21, 2017

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Peter Richards (right) gets colorful with the other residents of Dude York.

Dude York has been one of Seattle’s best bands for years, but the energetic, melodic rock trio really comes into its own on the group’s Hardly Art debut LP, Sincerely (out Friday, February 24). Frontman Peter Richards still doles out wailing vocals, heavy riffs (“Black Jack”), and shredding licks (“Paralyzed”) over drummer Andrew Hall’s tight fills, but the addition of lead vocals by bassist Claire England on a few tracks (see: the snarling powerpop perfection of “Tonight”) gives the group extra pep while expanding its sonic depth.

This Thursday, February 23, Dude York shows off Sincerely’s new tunes with a release show at Chop Suey featuring the blissfully unkempt punk of Mommy Long Legs and diaristic pop punk solo act Lisa Prank. The trio follows it up with a free in-store performance at Sonic Boom Records on Friday.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Richards about the sonic changes on Sincerely, Weezer album sequencing, and the art of the crowd selfie.

What do you feel like is the biggest difference between Sincerely and past Dude York recordings?

The jump that feels the best is Claire’s added voice on the record. Both her literal singing voice and her creative voice. To have her contributing songs to the record three-dimensionalizes Dude York as an entity. It helps me to figure what I want to say and challenges me to write better, because she is so talented and so phenomenal. I’m so lucky to play in a band where I get a peek at her creative processes.

So since that wasn’t an element in prior Dude York material, how did Claire’s incorporation come about?

As somebody who was pretty avidly following Claire’s career before she joined Dude York, her songs that she did with Brite Futures/Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head always struck me as being very in line with my aesthetics and just so good and dynamic. They’re still songs that I listen to. And when she joined, I think there was kind of a process of her acclimating to the new personal dynamic of Dude York, and navigating that.

Claire isn’t the kind of person who will just jump into a situation without considering it beforehand. A lot of Andrew and I’s impulses are to leap first and analyze second. Since we were working on Sincerely, I think that has also been the process of Claire fully acclimatizing to Dude York and sort of finally feeling like she can stretch her legs in that setting. One thing that I love working with Claire that she’ll play a song that’s just sort of like chords and voice, and as soon as I hear it, I hear that song orchestrated. Her material is so furtive, so many cool ideas just going on under the surface and on the surface. I just wish you could hear the Claire songs that we haven’t recorded yet, because they really pick up where the two that are the on the record leave off and even further.

I really can’t enough of “Tonight.” It’s sooooo good.

Oh, me too. I really wanted “Tonight” to come out after “Time’s Not on My Side” to have the male narrator on this part of the record just really losing control and in the depths, and then have this refreshing female perspective that Claire brings be like, “Are we gonna be here all night? Like what the fuck is going? This is stupid.”

But it does make sense how it’s structured in the record, because the stripped down “Time’s Not on My Side” works well as an album closer.

Yeah, that decision came from Claire’s insistence as well. Which Weezer album does it structurally mirror? Or echo? Is it the Blue Album?

Pinkerton. “Butterfly” is the acoustic ender.

Yeah, that’s the one.

As a songwriter who sometimes covers atypical territory—“Black Jack” being based on a manga, for example—is there anything that draws you to certain song topics?

I’m pretty sure I don’t have a consistent center from which I move out to write a song. It sort of is the juggling act between tropes and subversion. Like one of my favorite bands, the Misfits, have a lot of songs that are just a horror movie title and then the content is summary of said horror movie. But I take that to heart a lot with my reading material—for instance, Black Jack and a song that didn’t make the album that I think will be a bonus track on the Japanese version, “John Darnielle.” It’s basically just a summary of his 33 1/3 [on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality].

An excellent book.

I totally agree. Very, very well done. His other fiction is equally fantastic.

Another thing is when I hear a song on the radio, streaming platforms, or a friend’s turntable, sometimes I hear an idea I really like a lot that I feel really challenged by. And I think, “Wow. How can I steal that in a way that the most people will notice, but the fewest people will say something?” [Laughs]

At live shows you always introduce yourself as “America’s band, Dude York”? How did you earn that self-proclaimed title?

I feel like that’s something we earn every show. And I think we do that by challenging the audience’s expectations from a three-piece guitar band. Especially in the end of our set, the way we occupy the audience’s space a little bit and sort of challenge the physical expectations of the stage itself. Our focus on the freneticism of our performances is predominantly how we boast that title.

Speaking to that penchant for getting in the audience’s space, how have you developed the art of the mid-set crowd selfie?

Oh man [deep exhale], it’s been tough.  And it’s still an ongoing process, let me tell ya. At least a third of my phone’s memory space is dedicated to videos where I’m on stage, I turn on the camera and put it on my phone clip, and then it’s just an hour and 45 minutes of darkness.

What led you to include the phone call over a musical bed on “Sincerely I”?

So Andrew prank called LaCroix Water one night and said it was me. He was asking what was in the LaCola and what made the LaCola such a dynamic beverage or something. And they called me back. Just, wow, what a great little piece of attention to get that day. A personal call from LeCroix, one of my favorite beverage manufacturers? After showing the voicemail to as many people as I could, I took the voicemail over to Andrew’s house to make it an interstitial piece out of it. And then the legal department people at the record company was like,  “No, no, no, no, no. You can’t do that.” So I had a friend call me and do the same voicemail, and that one we could use.

How do you feel like the city of Seattle influences the music you make?

I think it’s always had an unexpected effect. When I was younger, I always felt like Nirvana was always kind of owned by the cool clique in my high school that I didn’t really feel a part of. So despite Nirvana being such ubiquitous Seattle music, I never really engaged with that. I mean, I listened to it, but I never really felt like it was mine.

The Vera Project has been instrumental for me finding my voice as a songwriter and my place as a musician in the creative environment of Seattle. I went there two to three weekends a month from 8th grade to senior year. So many formative music-watching experiences that I still draw upon for inspiration in the present were at Vera.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Don’t see Passengers. I think it’s the worst movie of last year.

Dude York: Sincerely Release Show
Feb 23 at 9, Chop Suey, $10

Dude York: Sonic Boom In-Store
Feb 24 at 6, Sonic Boom Records, Free

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