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It’s been six years since the last official release from Denton’s neo-psychedelic, math-rock-infused, space-cult band Dome Dwellers, but recently, the band put out a short series of singles that find them looking back at the old while they push forward for something new.
The band’s 2014 debut Maybe I Should Have Some Pride and its follow-up, the three-song Ivory Tower EP the following year, showed the band’s technical proficiency and earned singer and lead guitarist Michael J. Slack the Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Guitarist in 2017.
Those releases were raw, fearlessly walking the line between symphonic precision and the punk rock chaos that worked itself in, inspired by the clubs the band most frequented.
In April, Dome Dwellers broke their studio silence and released the first of a series of three singles beginning with “Way It Goes.” The song instantly showed a slightly new direction for the band. Gone was the distortion in favor of a polished atmosphere of spacey sounds. It was as if Dome Dwellers had finally replaced the needle on a worn-out record player and we were finally hearing them clearly.
“The reason why it took so long is that the recording process was pretty lengthy for us,” Slack says. “We spent a lot more time on these recordings and the conception of them than we had previously. A lot of it was in the works for several years. This wasn’t something that just kind of happened in like a six-month period.”
And it shows. “Way It Goes” was followed by “When I Cave” in May and “21 Days” in June, each song diving deeper into the band’s complete vision.
“We wanted this thing to be big, something that we haven’t done before,” percussionist David Gore says. “It’s a bigger undertaking for us because we didn’t want to do what we had done on the previous records. We hadn’t done what we thought we wanted to do, you know? With this one, I was like, let’s do it, and if it takes the time, it takes the time.”
The band’s recording aspirations contributed to the six-year wait for new material, but Dome Dwellers also underwent several lineup changes that saw the band dwindling down to its core before building back up again.
“Our lineup has been somewhat permeable over the last couple years, but we finally got a keyboardist,” Slack says. “All of our press stuff says it’s Blake Montgomery, but he moved to New York recently. Now we are
working with a guy named Matt McNabb, so he’ll be playing live with us starting in August.”
The band also added back bass player Cullen Dean to the lineup after Adam Sewell moved to Boston. Sewell was a key figure in transforming the way the band approached songwriting, but being a longtime Dome Dwellers fan and friend to Slack and Gore, Dean was able to hop in quickly.
“Being able to hear this band as a member, and just as a fan, is a unique perspective,” Dean says. “I got the chance to know how they think, how they write, and what’s really in their musical minds. I could hear bits and pieces of what they’re talking about for demos. Moving forward, I know what I can still bring to the band playing with these guys again.”
What stands out lyrically in the band’s last three releases is a theme of growing up and growing out of the old way of doing things, which you can hear in lyrics such as: “Smoking and tripping / Is all that you do / Where’s all that tripping / Gotten you” in “Way It Goes” or “Growing up is hard but failure feels like shit / You best be better boy, or you’re gonna pay for it” in “When I Cave,” and then, “As I choke back my goodbyes / My world won’t feel the same” in “21 Days.”
“Some of these songs were starting to be brought to the table as demos or something all the way back to maybe 2013,” Gore says. “No, it’s like seeing a portrait, you know, it’s kind of like a time capsule.”
“We were all pretty young, trying to figure out what we were,” Slack adds. “There’s definitely some young-twenties energy to a lot of these tracks. This whole record is finding your place in the world and deciding who you are or kind of feeling like you have your foot in more than one camp.”
Dome Dwellers is looking forward to playing its first shows since the lockdowns last March, starting with an Aug. 6 show at Rubber Gloves with Austin’s Calliope Musicals and Denton’s Springtime and the Changes.
Live performance has always been a way for the band to work out kinks in the songs with audience feedback, and while several new songs were developed without the help of a crowd, Dome Dwellers say that just the thought of a live audience has been helpful at this stage in their development.
“It will be nice to play them live and see those reactions,” Slack says. “With this record, we really expanded our sonic palette, especially with keyboard, second guitar parts, backing vocals and stuff like that. It’s been fun to think about how we are going to replicate this huge sound bringing a keyboard, second guitar player and samplers. Just thinking a little bit more beyond the studio kind of lets us expand that sonic palette even more.”
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