About Dirty Dancing
"The Dirty Dancing sound is at times all of the above: lo-fi, noisy, angular and anthemic, with touches of dark wave, a post-punk edge, a reverbed atmosphere, and handclaps galore." - Covert Curiosity
A few years ago Eric Schoen had a bunch of songs and no band. His previous band had just broken up, and he was anxious to play shows again. He recorded most of those songs as he wrote them, so he figured if he already had all the parts of the songs recorded, why wait for a band to form? He didn't want to go through the tedious process of finding the right musicians and having to work around everyone else's schedules and egos. All that stuff can really get in the way anyhow. He just wanted to write, record, and perform music without waiting for anyone else to catch up. So he just started playing shows as Dirty Dancing, without a band. He played guitar and sang while the rest of the parts of the songs were played through the P.A. from his computer. The sound was an unexpected and diametrically opposed mix of early New Wave and garage punk. Everyone loved it, and not surprisingly no one seemed to mind that it was just one person up there with some prerecorded material. Eric does after all know how to put on a performance. The negative stigma attached to prerecorded music can be easily forgotten when you're actually being entertained. Of course it helps if the music itself is actually really good and played well.
It didn't take very long for other people to notice that there was something unique going on here. Within weeks after moving to Austin, TX Dirty Dancing had Lauren Mikus singing it's gospel and added her to the fold as another guitarist. The pair made a big, refreshing splash in the hot and hazy Austin music scene with some legendary shows and a debut full-length album, Mediocrity Is The Strongest Inevitability. Local and national press alike (CMJ, Covert Curiosity, Switchblade Comb, and Jungle Rot just to name a few) took notice calling the album "magical", "clever", "hypnotic", "impressive", and "inspired." Eventually Eric Schoen/Dirty Dancing relocated to Milwaukee. Since Lauren couldn't make the move Dirty Dancing is back where it began, in Milwaukee, WI with new guitarist Neil Larson. As Eric & Neil push onward, and the music grows even bolder and more assured, the sweaty, passionate, and mystifying performances continue to be a mainstay of Dirty Dancing. With new material always in the oven there's sure to be some fresh and unique sonic landscapes to scale. And, of course, the live shows are still quite the spectacle and continue to cause people to move in ways they never thought possible. After all, this is Dirty Dancing, and it's called that for a reason.
Dirty Dancing Press
CMJ.com - 6/11/10
The words "Dirty Dancing" don't necessarily conjure up the sounds of jagged guitars and post-punk rhythms, but Dirty Dancing, the Austin-based dance-rock duo, is trying to change that one shaking hip at a time. With singer Eric Schoen's Ian Curtis-on-uppers vocal delivery and Velvet Underground-inspired guitar freak-outs, the band can switch from sulky to sexy in a matter of seconds, often building on a skeletal guitar riff or a repeated phrase to create a feeling of anxiety and, eventually, euphoric release. Though the band can be dark and gloomy—perfect acid-rainy-day music—it is not afraid to pepper its songs with jittery handclaps or shout-along choruses. The ability to waver between apocalyptic despair and dance-party ebullience makes the group both versatile and unpredictable. Don't put this band in a corner.
The band self-released one LP, Mediocrity Is The Strongest Inevitability, named for the time Schoen and his bandmate Lauren Mikus felt the pull of mediocrity at the miserable job they used to share at a telemarketing company. Both Schoen and Mikus were in other bands before moving to Austin; Schoen fronted the Milwaukee-based outfit Electric Pants and Lauren sang lead vocals in New York's the Midnight Hours, a band whose other members eventually went on to form Vampire Weekend. In the band's propulsive dance track, "Right Place And Right Time," Schoen yelps, "It doesn't matter what you do/Lightning strikes where it wants to." True words, but it feels like Dirty Dancing is doing all the right things at the right time and storm clouds are starting to gather. Fame could strike soon.
Switchblade Comb - 4/30/2010
This track comes from a promo CD I got in the mail this week from Austin, Texas duo Dirty Dancing. The band channels their inner TV on the Radio and Wolf Parade to produce a great, subtle, stripped down, diamond in the ruff indie rock gem. MP3: Dirty Dancing – “Here and There”
Covert Curiosity - 4/13/2010
Dirty Dancing is a duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist Eric Schoen, who previously fronted Electric Pants in Milwaukee, and Lauren Mikus, who previously sang for the NY band The Midnight Hours, whose other members went on to form Vampire Weekend. The two are now based in Austin, and recently released the debut album from Dirty Dancing: "Mediocrity Is The Strongest Inevitability." Clocking in at nearly an hour long, the album is self-produced, self-released, and self-packaged, featuring a versatile collection of songs that each has its own personality.
The Dirty Dancing sound is at times all of the above: lo-fi, noisy, angular and anthemic, with touches of dark wave, a post-punk edge, a reverbed atmosphere, and handclaps galore. Depending on the track, (and there are plenty of good ones), you can hear influences as varied as The Kills, Joy Division, Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Gun Club, Talking Heads, and even a little T. Rex.
All Everyone United - April 2010
Jungle Rot - April 4th 2010
Dirty Dancing is a band from Austin, Texas making scuzzy, grimy lo-fi punk dirges. I think that's accurate. They bring to mind The Kills a little, but deeper and darker. Their new album, "MEDIOCRITY IS THE STRONGEST INEVITABILITY" is seething with near evil vibes and is worth having. Total Grime Punk, Killwave, good shit.
Blurt Magazine - March 3rd 2010
Texas duo with a post-punk edge that'll have you dancing, yeah, but it's a brainy stew they concoct.
BY FRED MILLS
The BLURT staff put our heads - and ears - together and we have the latest pick for our Blurt/Sonicbids "Best Kept Secret": it's Dirty Dancing, from Austin, Texas.
Coming across the duo's EPK in our folio of Sonicbids submissions was like the proverbial lightning bolt strike. Their music - an angular cross between the Kills and the Velvet Underground, with touches of dark wave and classic Joy Division residing uneasily beside vintage ground zero punk, all rammed through a contemporary post-punk sieve that's simultaneously shouty, sinewy and sexy - immediately stood out. To be perfectly candid, it was totally different from any other we'd ever received (to dates, several thousand). And even though we faithfully dug through the 200+ submissions in our latest folio, we kept returning to Dirty Dancing's EPK; by the time we had to make our selection, there was simply no contest.
Multi-instrumentalist Eric Schoen previously fronted Electric Pants in Milwaukee, WI, before moving to Austin a few years ago. Meanwhile, over in New York, Lauren Mikus sang for The Midnight Hours, but that group split up and the rest of the members went on to form Vampire Weekend while Mikus set into motion her own Austin relocation. As the duo advises us, they met, by chance, at "a crappy, soul-sucking tele-marketing job," and since Schoen had already begun work on what would become Dirty Dancing's debut, Mediocrity Is The Strongest Inevitability, he soon drafted Mikus to push the project away from the realm of a home recording affair into a full-blown performance outfit.
The music on Mediocrity is certainly eye- and ear-opening, demonstrating an impressive versatility while maintaining the requisite shake-those-hips factor. Among the standout tracks, there's the brittle, hypnotic "The Merger," powered by serrated riffs and finger-snap percussion; with its chanted/shouted vocals, it suggests a glam-slam meeting of Love & Rockets and Gary Glitter. The drum machine kick and low, dark melody of "Atlantis" brings the above-mentioned Joy Division vibe to the fore (Interpol fans won't be disappointed either). And "Here and There" is like a minimalist, space-age take on vintage chain-gang blues, right down to the handclaps and shuffling rhythm.
We caught up with Schoen and Mikus recently to get the details. Read on, and meanwhile check the band out at their MySpace page or Facebook page, where you can hear the album and get details on how to order it. They're one of the good ‘uns, trust us.
Okay, easy questions first. Tell us some of the records that were favorites of yours early on.
The first album that I knew inside out from linear notes to copyright information was Guns N Roses' Appetite for Destruction. I think all of my on dance moves have a little AXL in them. Other than that I was heavy into the Beatles, Motown, T.Rex, '70s New York stuff like Television, and the '70s cosmic cowboy music like the Byrds country stuff and Gram Parsons.
These are literally the first five albums I owned, in order, though the first three were actually my mom's, but I listened to them so much they might as well have been my own:
1. Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi
2. At Budokan - Cheap Trick
3. The Cars - The Cars
4. The Chronic - Dr. Dre
5. Use Your Illusion 1 - GNR
First life-changing concert?
The first concert that made me want to seriously be on stage was probably Iggy and The Stooges.
Probably the most life-changing show was seeing Guitar Wolf at Concert Cafe in Green Bay, WI. I was like 16 and had never seen or heard anything like it. They wore all black leather, were as loud and raw as fuck, and the only English they seemed to speak was swear words, which they would yell between songs as they posed real tough and cool as if they were at some photo shoot. It was punk theater appropriated by a Japanese fetish of coolness, and I was in awe. Kinda like the first time I saw Iggy, except there was no appropriation, and of course Iggy was a lot louder and a lot more raw.
How about any random heroes and/or villains who've shaped your life to date?
For heroes, Laura Ingalls Wilder taught me to be tough. I don't have any villainous enemies that I know of...maybe traffic cops.
Heroes: Joseph VanEss (my Grandfather), Iggy Pop, Marcel Duchamp, Bob Dylan, Indiana Jones, Magnum P.I., Ferris Bueller, Andy Kaufman, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Lou Reed, James Brown, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and Marshall McLuhan
You were both in two previous bands, Electric Pants (Eric, in Milwaukee) and The Midnight Hours (Lauren, in New York). What were those all about, and how did you wind up moving to Austin?
Electric Pants was a band I started after I had really gotten into old punk, blues, and garage music. I really wanted to make music, in the beginning at least, that anyone of all ages could enjoy and dance to. I was making a conscious effort to not be too avant-garde or artsy. I don't think I was completely successful at that goal since I was really, really, really into Iggy and The Stooges at that time, which is why every vocal part is screamed or yelled, not sung. But when my grandmother told me that she liked our first album and that it reminded her of Elvis, I knew we had done something right, even though I really can't listen to any of it now without wincing, mainly because of my vocals. The end of that band was part of why I moved to Austin, or at least out of Milwaukee. I really just needed a place where I could have a clean slate and start fresh. I was also tired of the incestuousness of Milwaukee, and I was a fish who wanted a bigger pond to swim in. I was thinking about Seattle and Austin both for a little while, but once I found out that Austin supports its musicians enough to offer them their own healthcare just for being musicians, that definitely helped to seal the deal.
My first band was an alt-country garage kind of thing I started with one of my best friends from High School, Michael, and friends from Columbia. We had a good run, but the Midnight Hours parted ways right around the time I finished college in New York, so I decided to look for other creative avenues in Austin and to be closer to my family living in Texas. Then I met Eric. He had songs that needed a partner and I needed some songs to play. I wasn't the best live guitarist in the world at that point - I co-wrote and sang in the Midnight Hours only - so he helped me become stage ready and it just went on from there.
Lauren, I have to ask, what was your reaction when your old bandmates from the Midnight Hours started blowing up in Vampire Weekend?
I don't think that when anyone starts a band that they expect to blow-up like that, even if you secretly hope to blow-up like that, so I think we were all equally surprised! It was strange at first to witness people you know achieve one of your own dream/aspirations, but it was harder to lose Chris and Chris as band members because they are great people and great musicians to be in a band with. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to the Midnight Hours if we had stayed together, but I am happy with what I am doing now so it seems to have all worked out.
Your band bio indicates the two of you met doing telemarketing: what unique areas of intersection do the talents of a telemarketer and a rock musician share?
Dexterity of the fingertips: quickly dialing phone number after phone number made me a better guitar player.
The funny thing is that most of the people I've met at the many telemarketing jobs that I've done are musicians or artists of some type. I guess it works well - and I use the word "well" cautiously - for artistic types because you don't have to look or dress any particular way and you usually work from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. But it's still an awful, internally painful, and demoralizing gig. I guess I would say that the most significant similarity is the ability and strength to submit yourself to constant rejection over and over and over again. I always thought of telemarketing as an act, a really fake act. I think that music, especially performing it, is a type of act too, but it's the exact opposite of fake. It's not just true; it's more than truth. It's divine truth. Super truth. True truth. It's yourself and an extension of yourself that you don't even know exists yet. That is, if it's good, if it's real. I don't know if that makes any sense. It's hard to verbalize. There's also a lot of repetition as well as improvisation involved in both. But I hope I never have to do that kind of work again.
For Dirty Dancing, did you have a specific sound in mind initially, and how has it evolved to date? How would you describe the chemistry between the two of you?
Well, the music that became Dirty Dancing was just me fucking around on Garage Band after I finally got a computer, and I could actually hear what these different parts for songs and sounds that I had in my head would sound like when I could actually put them all together. I had a drum machine, two hands that could clap, a guitar, my voice, and no one to get in my way. After being in a band that became dysfunctional, I was reveling in the ability to make what I wanted by myself with no one to hold me back, no one's schedule to have to work around, no one else's ego, and I could try out any idea the second it came to me. Of course I realize there is a lot to be gained in any art by group participation and outside input, but at the time I was really focused on making and playing music, and I was tired of waiting around for other people catch up and be as dedicated as I was. My plan was always to just start playing these songs by myself, and if anybody wanted to come aboard and they fit right, then there would be band members. I really didn't and don't want to go through the hassle of searching for people to play the different instruments needed for the songs. I would and will just let them come to me/us. I want to make sure they have an appreciation of the music before they get on board.
When Lauren joined the band she definitely added another dimension, especially live. And she has some really great songs of her own that we've been working on, and I've had a lot of fun figuring them out together. I mean, most of the stuff on Mediocrity I had already written and already recorded. I would just show her which parts to play, so she didn't really have the chance to add much or collaborate on those songs. Except for "Atlantis." Most of what that song became just happened spontaneously during a practice. I was playing this bass line, and she played a short piece of a riff - from a Carter Family song, I think - that worked really well over it. So I recorded one run-through of us just playing around with it, and that was basically the song, besides all the extras like the clapping and whistling and the lyrics. Now that we've started working stuff out together there's more of a sense of discovery and excitement.
For Mediocrity, how long did it take to come together - you're self-recorded and self-produced?
All self-recorded. All self-produced. All self-released. All self-packaged and designed. All self. Some of the songs on it go back to 2006, specifically "Black Blood," "Delicate Chains" and "Never Take Me Alive." Probably the newest song on the album is "Here And There," which was written and recorded about 9 months ago. So, I guess it took about four years to come together, but there are a lot of other songs ready for release that weren't included and many more still in progress. The songs are or were generally written and recorded at the same time. I just play around with different ideas and sounds on Garage Band until I'm happy with a song or idea. But now I hope that Lauren and I can do more collaborations in the writing process and am looking forward to more of that.
We have to know why you chose the name Dirty Dancing, too. Most people reading this will make the obvious assumption...
My choice for the name has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. I was going through a few different possible names and they all either involved some sort of dirtiness or body movement. I was also thinking about how when I first started going to punk and straight-up-rock-and-roll shows, like The Mistreaters and Bleed, in Milwaukee, everyone would dance, and we wouldn't just dance. We would dance from our hips. We'd really let loose and put on a show. We danced completely uninhibited and with complete abandon. It was dirty dancing. So I thought maybe that should be the name. At first I hesitated because of the movie, but then I thought, "Fuck it." The term "dirty dancing" existed long before the movie, and it's a cultural expression of physical freedom. It's the movement of youth in revolt.
How has your music been received locally to date? Is Austin a tough town for a non-roots band to get noticed and get gigs?
It has been a little hard to be the kind of band we are, but I think Austin can handle it. They just don't know it yet!
I haven't heard any negative responses yet, but of course people usually never say that shit to your face. At every show we've done we've had really positive and exuberant feedback. We've gotten some attention from some local blogs like PartyEnds.com and some out-of-town ones like Future Sounds. We've also been getting some airplay on European radio stations. WOXY [Austin commercial modern-rock station] invited us to do a show for them, and we've gotten some airtime through them, which is great, because they've got a big audience and they support really good music.
I wouldn't say that Austin is a tough town for a non-roots band; there a lot of really good non-roots bands here that are doing pretty well and have a good following, bands like Custodian, Puff Puff & The Receivers, Many Birthdays, Coma In Algiers, TV Torso, The Young, Missions, Milky Way Arms, Neon Indian, Ringo Deathstarr, Woven Bones, Ume... I would say that Austin, just like any town, is a tough town to start from scratch, with no contacts or connections, but that's just something that every musician has to build on and work for. The only really frustrating thing that I've noticed is bands and particular venues not responding to e-mails or messages about doing shows. Not every band or venue is guilty of this, but there are quite a few, or at least enough for me to get annoyed by it. I'm just used to at least a reply from venues and bands in other towns, and I find it really disrespectful, lazy, and unprofessional when an entity doesn't give you the common courtesy to respond to a message. But if you're hungry and good enough there are a lot of opportunities for musicians in this town.
Greatest successes to or screw-ups to date?
We once played a show we didn't really play. Haha. A bar in Austin booked us without ever telling us, so we missed the show entirely, despite it being advertized in The Onion.
Yeah, that was kinda funny and weird. We've had a few really great shows and of course some disastrous ones too, but probably my favorite was the last one Dirty Dancing did for WOXY and Future Sounds. It was the kick-off of the first Rumble in Austin, and we were honored to play. Unfortunately Lauren couldn't make it because she has been abducted by a cult known as "The Film Industry". They took her away to Hollywood and are still holding her captive even as I write this, but I have a plan to rescue her.
Anyways, I did the show solo and was actually pretty sick, but of course that goes away when you get on stage. I had a great time, and everyone there really dug the set. Got a lot of good feedback, and I had fun hanging out with Paige and Shiv from WOXY, even though I basically had no voice left and didn't get it back until like three days later.
Just keeping my eyes five feet in front of me. It's an old long-distance running trick. Keeps you going without realizing the distance. So right now Im just trying to set some stuff up for SXSW. After that, we'll see.
Latest pick of cool emerging artist in our ongoing collaboration with Sonicbids.
By Blurt Staff
Don't change that channel, folks: the BLURT staff put our heads (and ears) together and we have the latest (December 2009) pick for our Blurt/Sonicbids "Best Kept Secret": it's Austin's Dirty Dancing.
Multi-instrumentalist Eric Schoen fronted and wrote all the material for his band Electric Pants in Milwaukee, WI, while Lauren Mikus took the lead vocals for her New York project, The Midnight Hours, before they split up and the rest of the members went on to form Vampire Weekend.
Eventually the two wound up moving to Austin - separately - and within weeks they found each other at, in their words, "a crappy, soul-sucking tele-marketing job." In other words, Hell brought them together and allowed this music to be.
The musical chemistry and tastes were undeniable, so Dirty Dancing formed, and some twenty shows and one album later Dirty Dancing are packing venues and generating 50 to 100 plays a day on MySpace with their passionate and mystifying performances. The self-released Mediocrity Is The Strongest Inevitability continues to do well at all finest digital retailers, so you should check it out - it's a fascinating cross between the Kills and the Velvet Underground, with touches of dark wave and classic Joy Division residing uneasily beside vintage ground zero punk. Someone in the BLURT office heard the group's tunes and described the band as "slinkysexycool... and just a little bit filthy, too," which sounds just about right for a band with the name Dirty Dancing.
We'll have an interview with the band posted to the site shortly. Check out the band's MySpace page for song samples, tour dates and more. And congratulations to Dirty Dancing. They're one of the good ‘uns, trust us.
Future Sounds Blog:
This is some dark music, think Tom Waits meets The Bad Seeds. Austin's DIRTY DANCING will be playing our first ever RUMBLE: AUSTIN party @ Beerland in February. Blood is the new black....Unsigned
Party Ends Blog - 9/7/2009
Dirty Dancing brings that lo-fi sound to the table that seems to be getting more and more popular in the indie music landscape as of late. Two people, two guitars, and simple iTunes drums create a minimal yet throbbing Interpol like sound. The duo tends to decorate the stage with creepy kid mannequin bodies and have been known to cover a mean Gun Club track.
Party Ends Blog - 8/24/2009
Dirty Dancing started the evening off with their remarkably lo-fi double guitar riffs and harmonies that evoked Interpol and most all of K Records. The iTunes run drum and click loops were the bare minimum of what they needed to be, and managed to be changed up enough to make each song refreshingly different from the last, which can be tricky with such a minimal setup. The guitar playing boy/girl duo played amidst an assortment of creepy children’s mannequins and consistently created a sea of noisy sound. Their set closed with a Gun Club cover, which lent itself to aggressive screaming and was perhaps the most engaging the group was.
Party Ends Blog - 8/18/2009
Dirty Dancing is one of many up and coming young lions of the Austin music scene. I have been enjoying their myspace page for a while now and am very much looking forward to seeing this duo live!