Define this

Genre-less McGuff and the Dumpster Fires celebrate new release at Canal

By Rusty Pate

Photo: [l-r]  Keith Klein, Emily McGuff, Taylor McGuff and Phil Doncaster of McGuff and the Dumpster Fires will celebrate their latest release, Peel it Back, June 13 at Canal Public House; photo: Nicole Klein


I have a theory that we are living in the post-genre age of music.

This stems partly from the fact that the only real reason to classify music was so music stores could arrange titles together to increase sales. More importantly, popular music has now morphed into a conglomeration of all styles. Call it the suburbanization of culture. The fact is a generation of artists has grown up in a world where they are equally inspired by a large range of different sounds.

And perhaps no local group distills those convergent sounds into a purposeful whole like McGuff and the Dumpster Fires.

Fronted by husband and wife duo Taylor and Emily McGuff and backed by bassist Keith Klein and drummer Phil Doncaster, the band has been honing their skills to a fine point for more than three years now. The result can be found on the new EP Peel it Back, an effort Emily says was worth the wait.

“We did some shit recordings in our basement where we tried to do it ourselves,” Emily says. “It sounded like we did it ourselves. Eventually we said we should probably get a professional one if we want to do anything with it.”

The six-song collection was recorded by Justin Moore at his Piqua home studio, Darkroom, over the course of two days. Emily was seven months pregnant at the time.

I interviewed the entire band at RiverScape MetroPark, a welcome departure from my usual 10-minute phone calls that are necessitated by most situations. Sitting around a table with them, as a large group of some sort performed very loud calisthenics just a few feet away, a strong familial vibe could not be ignored.

They light-heartedly cut up with each other, but also jump to defense when anyone gets too self-deprecating.

While a band featuring a married couple instantly brings to mind a picture of John and Yoko, nothing could be further from the truth here.

“I think it’s pretty handy because it’s easy for them to write,” Doncaster says. “They’re with each other all the time and it’s not uncommon, almost weekly or bi-weekly, that they’re like, ‘we’ve got a new song’ or at least an idea.”

The band prides itself on musical diversity. They comment that no two songs on the album are alike. In reality, some songs shift and turn on a dime several times, incorporating multiple styles and time signatures.

Their songwriting process usually begins with the McGuffs providing the framework of songs while Klein and Doncaster wrap the chords and melody in a distinct Dumpster Fire groove. Klein said despite incorporating different elements, it never feels gratuitous.

“When everything comes together, it just kind of squishes into…” Emily starts, “…its own thing,” Taylor finishes.

Everyone in the group began in school bands and choirs. Taylor initially started on saxophone and would accompany his singer/songwriter father to open mics. He initially wanted to be a jazz musician. However, after a disastrous audition for Florida State’s jazz program where he says he forgot what scales were, he enlisted in the military and moved to Dayton.

He had gotten a guitar at around age 8, but it didn’t take it up seriously until this band was formed—a fact Emily both did not know and found hilarious.

Doncaster came to the drums in a similar, albeit haphazard, way. He and some friends decided they should form a band.

“I just said ‘I call drums,’ not even having drums or playing drums,” Doncaster says. “I bought a kit and just started playing.”

He says a string of bands with varying musical styles came and went along the way, preparing him for his eventual role as a Dumpster Fire.

“Since I was in all these different bands playing different genres, it really helped out with these guys,” Doncaster says. “It’s nice to take all these experiences from other band drumming and just shove them all together and play every type of music that I like in one 45-minute set.”

Emily and Klein had more deliberate musical journeys.

Emily cites her first musical performance as karaoke. She also started in grade school band, and initially pursued a vocal minor after being accepted into Wright State’s music program. That never happened, but she did begin performing around town with James Lampe of Abertooth Lincoln.

Like Taylor, Klein has a music background in his family.

“My cousin was a semi-famous blues guitarist in Gainesville, Florida,” Klein says. “He was the go-to guy when somebody famous came into town. He opened for B.B. King, for Vanilla Ice—anyone famous.”

That’s where Klein got his first guitar. Like Doncaster, he cut his teeth in a series of bands, eventually recording an album with Days Without End.

Their different lives and musical journeys inform the music they now make. While they straddle many a different musical world, it boils down to taking simple, well-written songs and performing them with passion.

“There’s almost this folksy element,” Klein says. “It’s almost like folk music in a punk form.”

McGuff and the Dumpster Fires will hold their EP release party for Peel It Back on Saturday, June 13 at 9 p.m. at Canal Public House, 308 E. First St. Also on the bill are Sidekick Complex and Box Truck Rescue. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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Rusty Pate
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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