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Local Listens: Deleted Scenes

Welcome to Local Listens, where we profile some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on Deleted Scenes.

Photograph by Jessica Rial

Deleted Scenes has a simple principle defining the band: Never repeat yourself.

“It’s sort of the fear of looking at other bands that start repeating themselves and then start to suck,” bassist Matt Dowling says.

It’s an approach that the band took from Radiohead—not a bad band to model yourselves after. It requires jumping from genre to genre, however, which can have some unnerving results to the unacquainted. All the sonic shifts can have a dizzying effect, but it keeps the music—and the band—fresh.

“That’s the big criticism: that we jump all over the place,” Dowling says, “but it makes it fun for us—that’s just what we do.”

The quartet follows in the spirit of eclectic-minded groups of Washington’s past, such as the Dismemberment Plan, one of Dowling’s favorite bands. Still, Deleted Scenes is a band you can’t pin down, preferring to float in various stratospheres of the indie-rock universe.

Dowling’s best reference point? Modest Mouse. You could also say Talking Heads, though after a point comparisons become useless. This is a band forging its own path.

Deleted Scenes released its first full-length album, Birdseed Shirt, in March, and it received a very positive write-up from the taste makers at Pitchfork, meaning it can’t be too long before the band bursts onto the blogosphere.

But for now, Deleted Scenes is Washington’s band. “One Long Country Song” is about the Metro, after all. “It’s one long country song to the Metro / which is five blocks by anyone else’s count,” singer Dan Scheuerman croons. It’s a poignant acoustic track—like nothing else on the record, which is just way the band likes it.

Find out for yourself at the band’s 9 PM show at Velvet Lounge tonight, where it’ll be joined by the Fordists, Weekends, and Math the Band. Tickets cost $8. For the immediate fix, check out our full Q&A with Matt Dowling below.

Name: Matt Dowling (bass, keyboards)
Age: 26.
Hometown: Olney.

How did Deleted Scenes come to be?
“I had known Dan and Brian for many years starting in late ’90s from the area and music projects popping up here and there. We started playing in various bands in different permutations. I went to school in Indiana a couple years later, and the music stuff died off, but we were all still interested. When I came back in 2004, Dan and I tried to start a band called Fell off the Face of the Earth, and we tried to get that going for a few months. Then one of the guitarists kind of left, and that took the wind out of it. There was a period of time where we weren’t playing music. Dan had been writing songs on his own, we got together, and I started honing them. Basically, the songs from the four-song EP are from that era.”

First song that made you want to play music: 
“Maybe MC Hammer’s ‘Too Legit to Quit.’ I think that was the first single or tape I bought as a little kid. I was into rap a lot when I first started listening to music.”

First instrument:

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
“I live in DC’s Mount Pleasant. There’s a number of little spots in there that I go to and hang out and chill out. There’s a few open areas where you can sit, and there’s sometimes farmers markets and little musical performances.”

Best local venue:
“I’d have to say the Black Cat is my favorite local venue. It’s just a good, established indie-rock venue that even people from out of town come to see. The staff is really great. They’re really good to the bands.”

Best bar to hear music:

“Live music: On any given night, Black Cat is a good place to be. In terms of a jukebox, Pharmacy Bar has a really awesome jukebox. I don’t know why, but I hang out a lot at Marx Cafe in Mount Pleasant. They don’t have a jukebox, but they have deejays who’ll play a good string of songs.”

Favorite local band other than your own:

“There’s a number of local bands we like. I really like what True Womanhood is doing. Le Loup—they’re getting a lot of national attention. I like what Greenland is doing a lot, too.”

Best thing about Washington’s music scene:

“Well, we’ve been touring for a while now, and Washington is nice in the sense that it’s really got an established indie-rock tradition. I don’t think ten years ago this was the case, but now everyone knows who Fugazi is.The Dischord Records heyday has diffused into so many places that people recognize Washington as a good place for indie rock. At least for right now, the best thing about it is that Washington bands are rooting for one another. People are wanting a really strong scene here again. I think that’s bubbling up. Right now, Washington doesn’t have the huge national acts it had, say, seven years ago.”

Worst thing about Washington’s music scene:

“I guess it’s sort of tough to convince people. Because of that sense of pride, the Dischord tradition, and some really great bands coming out of here over the past 30 years, Washington’s sort of generated an arms-crossed, ‘impress me’ kind of vibe from a lot of the showgoers. People are generally skeptical for a long period of time.”

Craziest tour memory:

“We were actually just talking about this. I guess one of the funnier ones was we played in Salt Lake City—well, we were scheduled to play in Salt Lake City—and we pulled up on a Monday night and no one was there. We waited for an hour and a half, called the promoters, and they said, ‘Well, the show is canceled.’ One of the other bands pulled out for whatever reason. So we decided to go to another venue and see if we could get on another show. There were two other places; one was already booked. The other, Burt’s Tiki lounge, generally has metal shows. That night they had a metal show, but one band had dropped off. We explained our situation and they said, ‘Sure, you can play last.’ There’s two really hard-core metal bands playing, and we get up there and the crowd didn’t know what to do with us. The crowd appreciated it, but I don’t think they were into it.”

Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . . ”

“ . . . finishing graduate school at the University of Maryland. I’m in the biomedical-engineering program, and I’m working on finishing my PhD, so I’m working, doing research and writing.”

The Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
“I like the Beatles better, but my dad is a huge Rolling Stones fan, so I kind of have a soft spot for them.”

Digital download or hard copy?

“I actually prefer hard copies—I get them when I can. I don’t really download a lot of stuff, but I’ll stream a bunch of stuff. I’ve been buying a lot of vinyl. I think that trend is really cool.”

Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork?
Rolling Stone has this classic appeal to it.”

Club show or festival?
“We’ve never done a festival. We’ve been trying to. We’ve done SXSW, which is sort of like a festival. Even though I haven’t played a big festival with Deleted Scenes, I’d probably prefer a festival because that’s kind of where the live-music industry is.”

When you introduce someone to your music, what’s the first song you play?
“ ‘Fake IDs.’ I think that’s a good representation of what the band has done over the past two years and a good representation of the sound.”

If you had to explain your band to someone who had never heard it before, what would you say?
“I guess that’s kind of difficult because we get so many different references. One original one that’s always stayed for the band is Modest Mouse. I think Modest Mouse is a big influence on the band. It does a lot of what you might call genre hopping, but they have their own sound. And I’d like to think were similar in that way.” 

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