Amor or Armor?

A look at Dirty Socialites’ latest LP

By Gary Spencer

Angela Abnett, Gretta Smak  and Derek Gullett of Dirty Socialites.

Angela Abnett, Gretta Smak and Derek Gullett of Dirty Socialites.

Before even dropping the needle on this record, Dayton’s Dirty Socialites are already winning points with me. First, they have a cool name (don’t ever underestimate the power of having a good band name). And second, the fact that a non-national (yet) local group has the audacity to self-finance and self-release a full-length, vinyl-only LP in the digital age means Dirty Socialites are pulling their figurative balls out and betting the house on their art.

Dirty Socialites certainly live up to their name on their debut LP put out by Consumer Value Deluxe Recordings, Amor or Armor. The album begins with the buzzing of a guitar amp, and from then on the instruments and music sound dirty. From Gretta Smak’s guitar to Derek Gullett’s rumbling bass to Angela Abnett’s drums, everything here sounds distorted to some degree. Musically, Dirty Socialites is comparable to “The Woods”-era Sleater-Kinney (Smak’s singing reminds me a lot of Corin Tucker) with a lot of Sonic Youth-ish chording and guitar tones woven into their audio tapestry. But Dirty Socialites are no one trick pony — they successfully pull off gorgeous shoe-gazer balladry (“Beautiful Apologian”) as well as straight up thrashy garage punk (“Rocket Barrettes”).

Perhaps the most intriguing element of Amor or Armor is the vocal interplay between Smak and Gullett. Gullett’s backing vocals sometimes serve as melody, sometimes they reinforce, and other times they serve as a melodic or lyrical counterpoint to Smak’s lead vocals.

Dirty Socialites have come up with a promising and impressive debut album comprised of well-written songs that are diverse enough to be easily remembered while still retaining the band’s own sonic identity, and may be an indicator of even greater music to come.

To discover more about the method to their madness, I sat down with band members Smak, Gullett and Abnett in order to let them speak for themselves about the making of Amor or Armor, and the group in general.

Tell me about the origins of the band. How did you all meet?
We all knew each other for years, you know, small town; we had partied and what not. We’d arrived at a place where we desired a change musically. [Greta Smak]
We had a hunger for something different; creatively, musically, lyrically. Content and intent. [Derek Gullet]

Making your recorded debut solely available as a full-length, vinyl LP in the year 2011 is a ballsy move. Why did you decide to only make it available for purchase in this manner? How many records were pressed? If you were to sell out, would you press more copies?
250. No more, no less. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. [GS]
It’s like a performance you can only get it while it’s there in the air. When it’s gone, it’s just a memory. [DG]

Tell me about the recording process — how was it recorded/mixed/mastered?
ADAT into 1/4” Analog into Pro Tools. [DG]

There’s a lot of depth musically on Amor or Armor. Who would you consider to be the band’s musical/lyrical influences?
Swervedriver, Brainiac, Long Wave, Joy Division. [Angela Abnett]
Sonic Youth, Pixies, Wipers. [GS]
Velvet Underground, Thurston Moore, Breeders, Vaselines, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Death From Above 1979. [DG]

One element that stands out to me is how everything on the album is distorted to some degree. Was that intentional?
Do you ask a painter if they meant to use that color? [DG]

Generally speaking, what kind of lyrical themes do your songs explore?
Here’s a little secret: it’s the same old story. Two people care too much for two people and are torn together; apart. Right? [DG]

Tell me about how you put together the artwork for Amor or Armor.
Three days of totems and power objects. Look out! [DG]

What kind of plans do you have to take Dirty Socialites to the “next level?” What does the future hold for your band?
Everything without action is only talk…as for the future—you’ll see. [DG]

Dirty Socialites perform Thursday, June 16, at South Park Tavern. Stuyvesant from New Jersey is also on the bill. Doors open at 9 p.m. The show is all ages and admission is $5 at the door. For more information, call (937) 586-9526 or visit www.southparktavern.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer
at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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