Dandies as is: The Two Rockabillies from MoldovaAs ISis / Interview 20 Февраль 2020
Dandies from Moldova — Vitali, with whom drums are not needed and Irina, the incarnation of Brian Setzer and Nina Hagen — look neat and play hot
We’ve listened too much and a wide range of music and it inevitably shows in what we do. But what influenced us mostly is what all the “fathers” back in the ’50s have done — Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran et cetera, as well as rock-n-roll (primarily Chuck Berry), neo-rockabilly of the ’80s (Stray Cats in particular), jazz and swing (Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Louis Prima etc.), some punk-rock (The Ramones, The Toy Dolls), Tom Waits (this guy is not easy to categorize). We also keep in touch with what people do presently, there are very interesting contemporary bands worldwide, and in Ukraine in particular. At the moment, our most usual listening is Louis Prima, The Shakin’ Guts, The Reverend Horton Heat and Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer and Ellain between.
Dandies. Photo by Alexey Boyko
Vitali: I’ve been a musician as far as I remember myself. When I turned 7 years old, my parents sent me to a musical school. What has changed since then? My instrument: it used to be clarinet, now it’s double-bass. Another thing, I had the schooling of an academical musician, now, though, I am a rock-n-roller with a band of my own. This transition from academical music to rock-n-roll became inevitable when I heard Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran et cetera in my teens. I realized I want to play such music, too. So, I started learning to play guitar, then, in my first band, switched to bass guitar (I was unanimously entrusted with this function as the most responsible one of us, and the only one with musical education, too). Then the double-bass time came (we had to rehearse at home, and I said that I’d need a double-bass; my band mates happened to know of a place where to get one, it was just necessary to give something in return – so, we exchanged our amplifier for the double-bass).
Dandies - Take Me For a Long, Long Ride!
Irene: Just weeks after my graduation from high school a friend of my asked me, “Wanna come with me to a rehearsal of a punk band? They’re my friends.” I said, “Sure.” And that’s how I entered music. The band was Vitali’s, all I saw at the rehearsal — a completely new world for me, — blew my mind away. Since that time our lives have been running together (with Vitali, I mean). First I was a passionate fan of his band (it consecutively bore the names of Пупсики, Shalyapin Punk and Shalyapin Band, later we formed a band of our own.
Dandies - I've Got a Guy
Irene: After The Shalyapin Band ceased to exist, Vitali and I decided to start a new band
together. By that time, I’ve started learning to play guitar and already had several songs of my own, in Russian then. By the way, my first song was He’s a Cat!, and it’s still in our repertory, unlike most out early songs. We were a trio initially: me on guitar and lead voc, Vitali on double-bass and back voc, and Eugen Petrenco on drums (ex-drummer of the Shalyapin Band). We named ourselves Франты (Russian word for Dandies). It was the “first birth” of our band. Its “second birth” was years later, when Vitali and I decided to go on as a duo (after parting with our initial drummer we couldn’t find a new right one for a long time). By that time we were already Dandies, and all our songs were in English.
Dandies - He's a Cat
Irene: I bring lyrics and basic melody and harmony. Then out of this raw (in a bigger or lesser degree) material we together make a song. Vitali has a lead in the matter of the song’s arrangement. When a song comes freshly out of me, I’m more carried by its emotion, message and picture and feel its “bearing” features brightly and roughly sketched, while Vitali gets that picture and seeks to incorporate, shape it, make it be in the most adequate and right way. And it’s one of the most important things I treasure him for — that he really sees, feels the ideal shape of the song, precisely like it felt for me. The work on making a song is finished when we both are satisfied and like the result — to the last note.
Speaking about music is like dancing about a picture — far from easy, better to listen and get one’s own impression. So far we have released a music video Streets of My Life, 2014, a single Sea Side Rumble, 2016 and a full-length album Rock it!, 2017 (available on bandcamp, as well as on iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Amazon, Google Play etc.).
Dandies - Streets Of My Life
Our genre is neo-rockabilly. We bring some swing, jive, jazz into it, the songs vary pretty much, too. But the point here is that it’s neo-rockabilly played in duo form, when this genre
traditionally calls for at least one more instrument — drums. Actually, we distribute that missing drum element between just two persons and three instruments — double-bass, guitar and vocals. So, I’d say, primarily our genre is neo-rockabilly, and specifically — neo-rockabilly in two persons Dandies’ style or, neo’billy by two drumless psychos, as we were once called, ha-ha!
Dandies - Home
In Moldova, we don’t have a rockabilly/psychobilly scene. There is such scene in Ukraine, though – not a too big one but really rocking. And our first performance in our present form, as a duo, was in Kyiv in 2013. Shortly before that, we decided to quit hunting for drummers and go on just the two of us. We recorded a demo and contacted Alexandr Twaryna Kravchenko, the founder and chief of the Ukrabilly Bang Rockabilly & Psychobilly Festival, heart and soul of the Ukrabilly society. He invited us to come to play at the Elvis’ Birthday Ukrabilly party. So we did, and this was and is one of the crucial moments in our lives, and our gratitude to Twaryna never fades. In Kyiv we were accepted very warmly. We found there people with the same rhythm of heartbeat. The rockabilly and psychobilly musicians in Ukraine are very good, really high-class. We all learn from each other, we all develop due to it. The friendship of people with interests and tastes close to yours is a priceless thing to have. So, Alexandr, huge thanks to you for all you do for all of us! I think this music will live on — this subculture is not large, but is pretty steady, not some fleeting vogue. There seems to ever exist a certain amount of people who find it “theirs”.
Elvis’ Birthday Ukrabilly party (01.12.2013) poster by Yuri Pushkar
We don’t have any formulated ideology. Each song has its own message, but the total of them boils down to something like “have fun, live your life, use your heart and brain, and listen to or play good music”. Some of our songs are the songs of a girl addressed to her man, but most songs aren’t specifically addressed to anyone. They are just some stories, reflections, or pictures we share with those around and willing to listen. Though, I guess, “those around and willing to listen” is not an appropriate term here, it should be more like “friends”. For, by default, we percept our listeners as friends.
Dandies - Human Woman + What's on Your Mind
Speaking about plans, goals, tasks — it’s all one: to play music. To perform, to gain more
listeners, to widen our playing geography, to release our second full-length album (it’s already recorded), to record and release the ones that will follow (the material for the third album is in process now).
Our next performance will be in Kharkiv, on February 22, 2020, at the Atomic Snow Ball Rockabilly/Psychobilly Festival. Save the date, and if you are new to this kind of music and are curious — don’t hesitate to come and check it out, there’re gonna be killer bands there!