It's a pleasure to welcome Dan Jones to Local Music. A prolific songwriter and performer whose power-pop gems sport titles like "Tequila Grapefruit Soda", "Beach, Please" and "A Pickle and Two Pearl Onions", Jones's work is all kinds of entertaining and creative, alive with classic melodies, guitar punch and a childlike spirit. He and his band The Squids are gearing up for a brand-new album, We Live in a World That Is Out of This World. Fans of Guided By Voices and The Minutemen take note. Enjoy our interview with Dan Jones below.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
We played with a touring band a couple weeks ago and one of them said our set sounded like "Guided By Voices meets The Minutemen." That works for me! Fairly aggressive, punk-influenced creative pop music. Live, we are a power trio and knock the songs out fast with minimum fuss.
I was born and raised in Liberty, Missouri; spent twenty-plus years in Eugene, Oregon; and moved back to KCMO in 2013. By day I work as an operations coordinator at Dimensional Innovations, an architectural signage and experiential graphics firm. I mostly went the DIY way with five album projects in the Northwest, and played along the I-5 corridor for about 15 years, first as an acoustic troubadour and later with Dan Jones and The Squids (lots of members, an indie rock collective more or less) and The Golden Motors (solid lineup for about 5 years). It felt right to revive Dan Jones and The Squids here in KC after I hit the ground running with old friends Steve Tulipana (bass), Alex Alexander (guitar), and Matt Ronan (drums). Steve and I go back to eighth grade and basically shared a record collection all through junior high and high school as we picked up influences and instruments and played them really badly in little bands that had more fliers than gigs. Corn Dog Jamboree is the most infamous. So many fliers! And like three gigs.
How often are you creating music? Do songs come quickly or are you a heavy editor of your work?
Songs come quickly for me and I have a pretty good backlog of lost dogs and forgotten demos. I committed a long time ago to daily writing after reading The Artist's Way, so the channel seems to stay open most of the time. I just have to carve out the time to catch it. I'd say these days I polish a couple of songs a month, given the time I have. I have also picked up my trombone again. I played all the way through college at The University of Iowa, in the big band and orchestra there, while I was picking up an English degree. So I play that a few minutes most days and pick up gigs with Drop A Grand and hope to kind of incorporate that into the Squids. Not quite sure how yet.
How would you say your songwriting has evolved since your first album since your first album, For Your Radio, came out in 1999?
That album kind of looked back to a fictionalized view of my family and hometown and was squarely in the troubadour/coffee shop tradition. Kind of natural to start that way, and I still revisit those songs--inspired at the time by people like Freedy Johnston and Steve Earle and Dave Alvin. Over the years my songs became less directly narrative and maybe less earnest; goofier, moodier, faster, slower, slack-tuned, tighter, looser, and weirder. Way more slant in their narrative line, but it's still there. I have pretty well digested and integrated (for better or worse) the music I love: 70's Neil Young, 80's Lou Reed, all the SST classics (Minutemen, Meat Puppets, et al) and Minneapolis rock bands, as well as later catalyzers like Guided By Voices. Underpinning all of this is a love of The Who, The Velvet Underground, and The Stooges.
Talk about the recording of We Live in a World That Is Out of This World. Did you try anything new with this album that you've never tried before?
Nothing too radical. I've always recorded live, tried to be well rehearsed with the band, minimize the overdubs or jacking around with contrivance or "production ideas." But doing that in KCMO with old friends after two decades of being away, of growing up basically, thinking back all the way back to the days when Steve and I could barely play -- that's crazy. We wanted to be Mike Watt and D Boon--now we are ourselves, even better. I still can't believe it sometimes. It took me a while to get going. I was in my late 20's before I played out. So I'm grateful to have this chapter of my life continue in my home town. Crazy.
Also, I've never had a guest poet on a record before, let alone on the opening track! I met Joey Slab after moving back here. He was stopping over on the way to get married and relocate to Philadelphia. He improvised some poems with us live over a psycho surf song we had, and ended up shooting us a voice recording that we integrated into song, "Beach, Please." Joey's band The Slabs was a local punk rock band that Steve and I saw in the mid-80's, and they lit our fuse as much or more as the touring bands at The Foolkiller and Outhouse. Just regular weirdos making a cool punk rock racket.
What inspired the title of the new album?
The title comes directly from Joey's spoken word piece. I just like it. Out of this world can mean something spiritual or psychedelic, and it can also mean knocked out, totally cool, like whoa, OUT OF THIS WORLD. I'm psyched about this record. It's out of this world to me.
What music are you currently raving about?
Playing trombone with Drop A Grand this year, we got to play with Flipper, as well as Kid Congo Powers. The Squids also supported Tav Falco. So I am absorbing those bands differently now, feeling that primitive, weird power from really intelligent artists. Also The Gun Club, Cramps, Dead Moon, The Sonics, and the more raw, outsider side of Alex Chilton. A lot of old blues concurrent with this, and mucho digging the Fat Possum reissues of the the first four X albums. I like Jim Hall, Bill Frisell, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Sun Ra, and ECM records, when I listen to jazz. And my oldest childhood influence is Boz Scaggs. I love his singing and guitar playing and was so happy to see him at The Uptown last year.
Dan Jones' recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Some Favorite Books
2. Have You Seen...? A Personal Introduction to 1000 Films by David Thomson
3. What It Is by Lynda Barry
4. Don Quixote (Edith Grossman trans) by Cervantes:
5. Amsterdam Cops series by Janwillem Van De Wetering:
Some Favorite Films
1. The Limey
2. Repo Man
Some Favorite Albums
Guest Host by Stew
Too True by Dum Dum Girls
My Midnight by Steve Wynn
The First Four EPs by Off!