A seed, a tiger, a noose and a queen

Dear Fawn celebrates debut EP at Jimmie’s Ladder 11

By Zach Rogers
Photo: Dear Fawn releases debut EP April 13: [l to r] Tifani Tanaka, Tyler Bellingar, Andy Smith and Kyle Melton; photo credit: Katie Sule

The hardest thing for any band is maintaining a balance between finding a sound and not getting pigeonholed within that realm. Dear Fawn succeeds in doing just that, and on their debut EP I Played the Queen, they provide a variety of influences while sounding distinctly Dear Fawn-ish in the process. The band will celebrate the release with a show at Jimmie’s Ladder 11 on Saturday, April 13, and you can expect nothing but pure rock n’ roll goodness from this loosely tight-knit machine.

I Played the Queen comes after a progressive time for the band. Although only a year old, Dear Fawn sounds like a band that’s been playing together for much longer than that. Maybe because it’s partially true. Three-fourths of the band – guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Bellingar, bassist/guitarist (and Dayton City Paper Editor) Kyle Melton and drummer Andy Smith – have a history in another local group, King Elk. However, Dear Fawn isn’t some offshoot side project, instead forming nearly by chance with Melton and singer/keyboardist Tifani Tanaka.

“Tifani and I were just hanging out one night and she asked if she could try singing into the PA at my house,” said Melton. “I was blown away. A few weeks later she wanted to try recording, and the two of us worked for like six weeks and came up with sketches for a few songs. I played the demos to Andy and Tyler and they offered their services, and it was obvious that it clicked.”

With everyone onboard, Dear Fawn started cranking out songs at a rapid pace. The experience of playing together in the past made this somewhat easier, although Melton points out that it comes from a completely different place than before. “I’ve never been in a keyboard-driven band, so that’s a huge part of the appeal to me.”

Pretty soon, the band had some tunes on their hands. “Initially, Kyle helped translate Tifani’s ideas,” said Bellingar. “She would sing and Kyle would figure out the rest. When Andy and I joined, things quickly became more organic.”

“Sometimes the music comes first from screwing around at band practice,” said Tanaka, “and other times the lyrics do. I write all the lyrics, mostly about the saddest shit you can imagine.”

The group has gained a reputation around Dayton as a solid live act, and it was on stage that the band perfected their early ideas and also started developing new ones. They’re known for swapping instruments, which came more out of necessity than entertainment. “It wasn’t really an idea we had,” explained Tanaka. “We all just started fighting over who got to play what. In an attempt to make everyone happy, we started playing musical chairs.” Whatever the reason, Dear Fawn fills each show with enough energy to explode at a moment’s notice, and that extra pep in their step pays off well for both band and audience.

All the songs on I Played the Queen display alternate sides of the group, and their influences are wide-ranging to say the least. “We all have different musical connections with each other,” said Bellingar. “Kyle and Andy geek on GBV (Guided by Voices) together. Andy and I listen to Curtis Mayfield and The Smiths in the dark and cry a lot. We all dug the newest Beach House and Tame Impala records. But I think the most obvious and tangible influence on our style is easily the theme song to ‘Charles in Charge.’ Magnificent.”

Opening song, “The Bad Seed,” sails like a desert storm. The guitar grapples the melody and it’s hard to tell whether it’s choking or making sweet, vicious love to it. Either way, the record begins with a velocity that carries throughout all seven songs. “Bandwagon” is an acid-laced stomp guided by a bunch of merry pranksters who assure that, “Everybody’s welcome in my band,” and the song is so entrancing it’s hard to resist hopping on the bus. “You’re a Noose” finds Dear Fawn at their poppiest, with the keyboard driving the song through various twists and turns. The EP’s closer, “White Russian,” sounds like a manic all-nighter with the Dude himself.

“We went in with John Lakes and knocked out the basic tracks in an afternoon,” said Melton. “We’d just come off a month-long residency at South Park Tavern, so we were pretty tuned into the material at that point.”

The band’s hard work isn’t going unnoticed. In addition to their hometown appeal, they’re also making waves across the pond. Recently, UK indie blog Independent Music News included Dear Fawn in their list of the Top 50 Independent/Unsigned Rock/Alternative Acts for the year. Touché, my friends. Touché!

“Of all the bands I’ve been in, this one has progressed so fast and so far,” said Melton. “To think back to Tifani trying to show me how a drum beat should go or trying to figure out if a song would work by playing a cowbell and a bass together, to where we are now is kind of mind-blowing.”

Dear Fawn will be celebrating the release of their I Played the Queen EP on Saturday, April 13th at Jimmie’s Ladder 11, 936 Brown St. Also on the bill is Pharoahs. Show starts at 10 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit facebook.com/dearfawns.


Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com

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