Playing good art at Jimmie’s Ladder 11


Dark Backward (L-R) Patrick Berry, Eric Purtle, Jim Ingram, Jeff Brelsford,
and Jeff Vahldie.

By Mike Ritchie  |  Photo by Corn Photography

The five-piece Dayton-based Dark Backward have long-standing ties to the Los Angeles scene and almost two decades in the local scene. Named after a movie as unique and diverse as their music, singer/guitarist Eric Purtle, guitarist Jeff Brelsford, drummer Jim Ingram, bassist Patrick Berry, and noise maker Fred Vahldiek have cranked out sounds as unclassifiable as their cinematic namesake.

They christened themselves after the Adam Rifkin 1991 cult classic “The Dark Backward.” “We just changed it slightly,” Purtle says. “We love the film. It’s an absurdist, future-retro comedy about a comedian who isn’t funny, growing a third arm out of his back, becoming a commentary on stardom in L.A. An amazing movie.”

There are no confines to creativity. “We write what we wanna write and what we’re in the mood to do,” Brelsford says. “As long as it rocks that’s the only criteria.”

Purtle agrees, “That’s the only caviat.” Their sound fits somewhere in the category of rock n’ roll. “It’s a really good fall back. There’s elements of metal, punk, Goth, industrial, all sorts of shit. Straight up pop for that matter but it comes out in a big potpourri of rock n’ roll.”

Their growing catalog consists of three EP’s and three albums with new music on the way. “We had the original goal of putting out a record a year but that’s staggeringly optimistic,” Purtle says. “We’ve come close, we’re still prolific.” Vahldiek says they’ve finished demos with an EP coming.

They’re playing a show with The 1984 Draft and Scarecrow Sideshow March 9 at Jimmie’s Ladder 11.

“We’ve been trying to play with The 1984 Draft for four or five years,” Ingram says. “Someone’s always busy, when offers came from either side. So, we’re really happy and big fans.”

Purtle says the band name is literally an homage to the 1985 NFL draft. “They got noticed by the NFL. They sent out a camera crew to one of their shows. They’re all wearing jerseys and were part of a pre-draft warm-up show. Scarecrow Sideshow’s is bluesy, rock n roll.” They’ve shared the stage with them before.

The darkness started in 2000, playing with a freewheeling, anything goes ethos. The current version started in ’08, playing their first show in early ’09.

Their first Dayton show was Valentine’s Day ’09 after playing Indianapolis. There was good and bad pressure. “The Melody Inn in Indianapolis, it was a punk crowd,” Purtle says. “They immediately got into it to the point of mini-pits going. Then we did that classic thing where we went slow for a couple tunes and man, they did not like that at all. One of those times, make a mental note, write songs where you can play all
fast ones.”

They don’t get out like they used to but they’ve played the regional circuit of Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus and Wheeling. “Weekend warrior stuff,” Purtle says. “We’re a little long in the tooth for long-term touring. At the end of the day we’re more concerned with making good art.”

It’s a labor of love. “We all have families and careers,” Ingram says. “If we were in our early 20’s it would be something believable.”

Month long touring won’t happen but there’s no crime in getting older and not pursuing it with the same mindset and ferocity. “It’s a young man’s game,” Purtle admits. “We’re focused on creating good art. You should be able to check three boxes in a band – making money, making good art, and having fun. Back in the day, any box, I’d sign up for, but now, it’s gotta be two. Can you guess which one we’re not checking? I’m confident we’re creating challenging, good art. It’s also cheaper than therapy.”

“Most of us have done this since the ‘80’s and that was a long time ago,”
Brelsford jokes.

Locally, Vahldiek works in a music store, surrounding himself with musicians. Ingram works at Miami Valley Community Action Partnership. Brelsford has developed web at Lexis Nexis for 25 years. Berry’s a laser scientist, and Purtle’s an Operations Analyst
at Teradata.

They’ve played the local gauntlet from Oregon Express to Jimmie’s Ladder 11, Yellow Cab to Rockstar Arena with gigs at Canal Street Tavern back in the day. However, Yellow Springs is untouched territory. Purtle’s first Canal Street show was in ’85. “Mick would give anybody a shot if they were sincere. He booked all kinds of bands.”

March 9 will be their second stop at Jimmie’s Ladder. Their general set runs 11 or 12 songs, 30 to 45 minutes covering each release and maybe even a cool cover. They’ll also break out two unreleased tracks, “Opacity” and “Super Collider.”

They won’t go real heavy or real light, though they’ve started wearing earplugs at practice. “You won’t see us with an acoustic guitar,” Purtle says grinning. “I don’t relate well to instruments that don’t plug in.”

Dark Backward will appear on March 9 at Jimmie’s Ladders 11, 936 Brown Street. The 1984 Draft and Scarecrow Sideshow are also on the bill. Show time is 9:00 p.m., with a $5.00 cover charge. For more information, call 937.424.1784 or visit jladder11.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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