Music News

Connecting Dots

Russ Rogers looks glum as he walks down an alley of metal garage doors, heading toward his band's warehouse bay rehearsal space. Holding a bag of Kinko's boxes containing dot Fash's latest newsletter in one hand and a bag of bottled Heinekens in the other, he approaches drummer Phil Tucciarone and wearily explains, "I just had to redo the entire newsletter. I went to print it, and one of the DLL files was missing. I had to retype everything from the hard copy and lay it out again."

The members of dot Fash are no strangers to technical difficulties. Inside the front door of the band's Fort Lauderdale rehearsal space are boxes containing a thousand copies of the band's new self-titled, self-released CD. Sixteen months ago, just as they were preparing to do the final mix on tracks they had spent eight months recording, the band members discovered that the computer files containing six of the songs' vocal tracks had been corrupted. The band spent the next eight months rerecording the vocals before mixing again and finally having the end product manufactured.

At about the same time the fouled vocal tracks were discovered, the band, which was then known as the Bus, received an all-too-legal cease-and-desist letter from an attorney regarding its name. Apparently a Boston-area band had claimed the moniker first and didn't want to share it -- which meant that the artwork and packaging the boys now known as dot Fash had completed was down the drain as well. "In the worst, weirdest way, it all worked out," Rogers says. "We figured out a new name that no other band could possibly have and just relaunched. We got a new name, new photos, new packaging. We wanted it to be representative of now, not a year ago."

Now, with the hassles resolved and the CD sitting in several local record stores, the band's mood is palpably lighter. The dot Fash CD, a ten-track album seething with guitar-heavy melodies, emotion-laden vocals, and Euro-pop stylistics, is the culmination of the band's adventures and hardships over the last two years. The production process took so long, in fact, that dot Fash has another album's worth of material ready for its next recording project. But that will have to wait; right now the band is basking in its accomplishment and putting its efforts into pushing the album and playing shows. That should be a welcome change for dot Fash fans, as the band has had time to play only two shows this year.

The band members -- guitarist-vocalist Rogers, guitarist James Coyle, bassist Jarrett Shapiro, and drummer Tucciarone -- have a chemistry that dates back a decade to when they attended neighboring Boca Raton high schools and jammed together in parental garages. Through the years the foursome has played with one another in a whirlwind of various combinations, from jazz-inspired projects to heavy thrash bands.

"Our cohesion is our strongest asset," Rogers says. "We've been playing together so long that we've got the ability to anticipate each other's next musical expression. If I write something at home and then bring it here, they'll expand on it, do things to it I wouldn't even have thought of."

"We're not afraid of constant criticism from each other," Tucciarone interjects. "We don't get offended."

"The song is the bottom line," Rogers says emphatically. "It's your calling card. If someone's not treating the song right, we let each other know."

Shapiro adds, "They're like our babies, we have to treat them with respect."
The band has yet another weapon in its arsenal: Coyle works full-time as an audio engineer for Florida Atlantic University's 2000-seat auditorium, and his technical skills rival those of most local studio engineers. While recording dot Fash, the members used a friend and former collaborator's studio in Deerfield Beach, where they were given the key and carte blanche to use the facilities. This was a mixed blessing, according to the band. "We got too detailed almost," Coyle says. "It's hard to be an engineer, setting up microphones, running the boards, then trying to concentrate on playing guitar."

Rogers agrees. "I think we overthink things," he says. "Then, by the time we've thought them out, the opportunity's gone. Which is why it took two years to make this CD."

The album kicks off with the glum pop song "Be Around," a swirling, hook-filled track that, along with the second song, "When All Is Said and Done," will be pushed as singles to radio stations. "When All Is Said and Done" is far from new; it's a song that came to Rogers five years ago as he rode a bike along the beach. "As soon as I got home, I grabbed my guitar," he recalls. "I put it all together pretty much that afternoon. Then it turned out I didn't even play it for like a year." The track is a piece of heart-wrenching ear candy, filled with longing and forced blind faith, that sticks in the listener's head despite the slightly cliched chorus ("You could be the one/Shining like the sun").

Emotion-drenched themes continue throughout the record, exemplified in adrenaline-laced rave-ups like the chorus of "Over," the melancholy of "More Than Face" and "Fourteener," and the subdued dynamics of "Climb." The album closes with the ten-minute opus "Drop," in which meandering guitar interplay serves as a backdrop for lyrics like, "A channel changed to avoid the pain/Where's the feeling without the blame?" The song ebbs and flows until, halfway through, the melody disintegrates into Cure-style (as in the "Fascination Street" intro) feedback and fuzz, eventually lifted by Tucciarone's incoming drumbeat to ambient proportions.

Explaining the song's conception, Shapiro begins, "I was naturally chemically altered. Well, it was a natural chemical. I was at my house with my girlfriend and we were floating around my room. She had to go pee, and when she went to go to the bathroom she was scared, so she left the door open. I grabbed the guitar in the meantime, and I heard her peeing. By the time she had come out of the bathroom, I had written all the music to 'Drop.' I couldn't really call it 'Drip.'"

So the song was inspired by the sound of urination?
"I wasn't really getting a rhythm out of it, but I was definitely getting a musical melody. It was like a rain effect while I was running in the fields with the cows. It's pretty emotional," Shapiro responds, sounding like a Leary-schooled philosopher.

The band members appear to be as content with the end result on their CD as possible. One gets the idea that, had they put any more intensity into the detailing of the record, their sanity would have been at stake. Tucciarone is the only one who responds when asked if they would change anything, given the chance. "Maybe some drum parts," he says, "but I don't know. You could analyze that forever."

"This is the highest point for us as a band," he adds convincingly. "A year ago was our lowest point, I think, after losing the vocals on the CD. Now that we've got something out, we can play shows and concentrate on the next phase."

Using the Web page as its primary promotional and marketing tool, the band has been encouraged by the potential of the medium. "It really works, it's really excellent," says Rogers. "People see you at a show, look you up on the Web, send you e-mails. It's cool to have feedback from lots of people."

This Saturday dot Fash kicks off its local blitz of shows at its CD-release party at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, followed by a string of shows throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties. The band also expects to play outside the Miami/Fort Lauder-dale/West Palm Beach circuit often and is currently planning a tour of the Southeast. Buoyed by a recent Daytona Beach show opening for Bare Jr., the members recognize that the greatest opportunities for success lie outside their home region.

"In different towns people appreciate rock shows so much more," Rogers says. "I think the dance culture is so prevalent here that rock bores people."

Dot Fash will perform at its CD-release party Saturday, April 10, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 954-564-1074. Showtime is 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.

Contact Brendan Kelley at his e-mail address: [email protected]

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Brendan Kelley