Photos By Regina Casey
When you look at them from a 1,000- foot glance, local trio Dad Band might be defined by their name. One instantly sees “Dad Band” and thinks of old-time rockers playing their favorite Jimmy Buffet tunes at a backyard barbecue. Or maybe you see an image of a Hawaiian-shirt-clad man riffing along with “Brown Sugar”. Whatever it is you see, it’s likely dated and antiquated.
You will quickly come to realize that those preconceived notions are not entirely accurate. In Dad Band, there is no “Cheeseburger In Paradise” nor is there the simplistic guitar styling of Keith Richards. What Eric Bailly, Chris Heaton and Tim Ortez have managed to do is create something all their own. A sound that counterbalances their tongue-in-cheek name.
Yes, the Fargo trio are dads, but they’re not playing your father’s music. Rather than the cool, smooth tones of timeless yacht rock classics, Dad Band goes for the jugular with their wall of sound approach. What comes out on the other side is a welcome blend of indie and good old-fashioned rock and roll.
That comes through in droves on Dad Band’s first full album Sounding Fathers, which will be released later this winter. It features 12 tracks that are sure to fulfill all your sonic sensibilities. The group’s first single “Firror” was released in mid-October and showcases the trio’s modern indie guitar rock tone. The lyrics are what take the tune to the stratosphere, showcasing the progressive mindset of the three 40-somethings.
The song, a triple entendre towards President Donald Trump, offers forth the type of antiestablishment verbiage one may find on a Rage Against The Machine track.
It’s through that blend of sound and lyrics that Dad Band has created a type of music that is wholly their own. After spending most of their lives in and out of different bands, the group is happy to have these pieces of music under the Dad Band catalog.
We sat down with guitarist Eric Bailly, drummer Chris Heaton and bassist Tim Ortez to discuss their first album, being dads, musicianship and more.
What is your musical background? What led you guys together to form this group? In terms of have you guys been in bands previously together? Or have you mutually met?
Eric Bailly: Yeah, it’s interesting. This is kind of cool, actually. So Chris, and I have known each other since we were in third grade. So when we were in high school, we started a band with some friends when we were 16 or 17 and played for a few years in high school. And then we also played in college, too, in a couple of different bands. That’s when Tim kind of got interwoven into all that too because he was also playing in some of the college bands that we were in. That’s kind of how we got introduced to each other musically. Chris and I were in a band at South High, and we were in a jazz band. We were kind of music geeks, you know, all the way through high school, and even before then too.
Chris Heaton: Tim and I knew each other in high school, and Tim and I played in a band together in college. It was just kind of weird because we both had played with Eric, I had played with Tim, but all of us had never played together. After college, we kind of dispersed Tim went to Minneapolis, and Eric went to Denver, and I was in New York for a long time. Eric and I actually moved back to Fargo at almost the exact same time, like seven years ago, seven and a half years ago. Eric saw me one day and approached me and was like, “Hey, you know, we should get together and play again,do you think Tim would be interested in playing some bass?” Even though we all knew each other, and we’ve all played in various bands together, this was the first time the three of us actually have played in a band together. It was more about just wanting to play, wanting to create something. Create some new music and see what we had as a trio to see what we could do.
Tim Ortez: I’ve been playing music since seventh grade, or playing guitar since seventh grade, I should say. In all of the bands I’d been in before I was the guitar player. When they approached me about that project, I thought it was a really interesting idea. To do our own music, but to switch an instrument. I was pretty excited to do it.
How have you guys gone about defining the style of music that you play? All three of you have been in bands and have been playing music for a number of years. I’m sure you’ve dabbled in a number of different genres. How have you formulated the type of sound that you guys want to cultivate?
TO: I think it comes from the fact that the stuff we play, the sound we make, is a lot of what we just listen to anyway. I think our influences are showing through our music. So it’s not like we’re a bunch of guys from the upper Midwest trying to be a funk band, or we’re not trying to be something we’re not. We’re just being what we are, and it’s coming through in the music.
“When we’re in the groove, we’re really in the groove. We can lock in and it’ll be an otherworldly experience.” – Tim Ortez
CH: I think it started out as we were gonna play some rock and roll. Eric, from bands that he had been in before, had a number of songs that he had written. That’s where we started and we kind of wanted to make them our own. I think the sound just kind of organically developed. It turned out like three-piece guitar rock, distorted heavy rock and roll. It came very organically.
EB: I’m really influenced by Yo La Tengo and Slowdive, who’s gonna do really balls to the wall sound, but I’m also really into low and that kind of that slowcore stuff too. Mojave 3 from back in the early 2000s and Mazzy Star. I think we kind of have that psychedelia thing going on, too. Like Tim said, it’s not like we sat down and said, ‘Well, this is the genre we’re gonna play,’ we just play what we like.
What’s really cool about this band is that Chris is really adept with music theory and Tim is as well. They’re able to kind of expand on songs. Like Chris was saying, some of my songs I’ve played in previous bands, but I’ve always been an open canvas kind of person. I’ll come up with the basic foundational idea, but then I’ve always relied on my bandmates to pick it apart. It’s been so much fun to not only play with musicians who know what they’re doing but good friends too.
CH: The other thing that comes into play is the stuff that we’ve written together has come very naturally. There are nights when we sit down and we start writing and we work on something that comes together really fast. It’s really a pleasure to work with these guys. No idea is rejected.
EB: We record all of our rehearsals too because we forget everything we play. We’re not 20 anymore. If there are two or three week stretches between practices, it’s like ‘oh my god’. We got to get the tunes off the Dropbox because we can’t remember what we did.
You guys kind of touched on it a little bit about the kind of musical acts that have influenced the way that you play. For each of you specifically, what are some of those acts that really have cultivated the way that you play your specific instrument and how it kind of relates to the band itself?
EB: I would say for me, Bob Mould for sure and Neil Young. Those are the two artists that probably most influenced when I started playing guitar at age 16. To some extent, Glenn Mercer from The Feelies and just really basic stuff Dean Wareham from Luna and Galaxie 500. Dean really has impacted the way that I solo with the one-string solo. If I could be as good of a guitarist as the guitarist from Yo La Tengo, I would be in seventh heaven. I know I never will be because he’s absolutely incredible.
CH: I didn’t start drumming until I was in junior high, seventh grade. I played the piano for much of my childhood. When I first started picking up drums, I was really deeply affected by jazz music. My dad had some old Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich LPs that I used to listen to constantly. I was really jazz focused all the way through high school. Even though I did play rock and roll, my first love was jazz. I was really influenced by a lot of jazz drummers like Philly Joe Jones and The Miles Davis quintet in the 50s. Those were records I wore out. I went to college and actually studied jazz and so I just got deeper and deeper into that world. All the while though, I would always be playing in a band with guys like Eric and Tim or I would play in a cover band on weekends at the bars.
I was always playing rock and roll too. From that perspective, I was really influenced by classic rock drummers like Keith Moon and John Bonham, of course. I feel like I’m probably kind of a heavy hitter when it comes to rock and roll. I like to think that I’ve had a pretty well rounded musical education because there’s really not a lot of genres that I don’t listen to or don’t enjoy.
“There’s a lot of people our age that are the exact opposite of us, you’re not wrong about that, but there are a lot of people out there like us. I think there are those people out there and maybe we can reach some of them maybe we can speak to them a little bit or maybe we can help them to find their own voice.” – Chris Heaton
TO: My first influence when I started playing guitar was The Beatles, which is probably everybody’s first influence. I really tried to learn the songs and what they were doing. As I got older, I fell in love with U2 and R.E.M. That transitioned into groups like XTC in college and Living Colour, more cutting edge from that standpoint.
As we write, and as I hear things, I try to hear from those perspectives. I think one of the cool things about the Beatles, and the people have their own opinions about the Beatles, specifically from a bass line point of view, Paul wrote some really melodic and interesting lines. I find myself trying to be interesting on the bass and not just follow the chord progression, but to do things that are melodically interesting. That is one of the things that I think we have going in our favor because we have a lot of vocal harmonies in our music. That comes back to groups like The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Our influences are showing through because of the things that we listen to.
EB: I would agree with Tim, that’s one thing that the three of us do that’s a bit different. It cuts through all the fuzz and we get these melodic lines that cut through all of that. It’s not noise, it’s saturation, and sonic melodic lines that are going on, but to have those clear vocals poke through is really cool.
As a three-piece band, I think there’s a lot of challenges in that. Your prototypical band would probably have four or five guys where you have a rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and drums. You have to put together your whole sound with three guys. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having that arrangement?
TO: I think a big advantage is that it can really expose your flaws. There’s no place to hide when it’s just the three of us. That’d be a big advantage. On the flip side of that, when we’re in the groove, we’re really in the groove. We can lock in and it’ll be an otherworldly experience. From that standpoint, that is really fun to have happen.
CH: Some of the best bands of all time are three pieces. If you look at Hendrix or you look at The Police. These are just three-piece bands. When you have three pieces, it gives you a lot of space. It gives you a lot of room to have your own space to create. You’re not worried about what the other guitar player is doing, you’re not worried about what the keyboard is doing and how that’s all gonna fit together. We can concern ourselves with how all three of our parts fit together. It becomes more open, rawer and more natural. There’s nowhere to hide, but that’s when you get back to work and make sure you figure out what you need to do to make things sound good. I love it. I just think it’s like a power trio.
EB: That’s why we record all of our rehearsals too because it’s like what Dave Grohl said, ‘Sometimes you just got to really suck’. There are times where we listen back and we’re like, ‘oh my god, that just sounded like shit’.
You really can get incredible sounds as Chris said. I’ll mention that being in a three-piece really has an upside. We practice in a small space, can you imagine fitting five guys in a small space? With a pandemic, of course, we mask up and try to distance as much as we can. The other thing is schedules. Logistically, with three guys that have careers and are dads, we’re managing a lot of stuff. Having a three-piece, it makes scheduling so much easier than to have to negotiate four or five different people at any given time.
This whole pandemic era has really hit the music industry regardless of if it’s Fargo, Moorhead or any community. Local bands have to find creative ways to stand out in a time where they can’t be playing a show here or there may be limitations on where they can record. How have you guys been able to navigate this crazy time that we’re in?
CH: We were just starting to kind of get going gig-wise at the beginning of this year. It was in January, we played a show at Drumconrath. We were really starting to kind of hit our stride and people were starting to kind of know who we were a little bit. I’m not gonna say a lot because we were really just kind of getting out there. We had a great show and people really loved it, we thought. It was fantastic, we were going to start playing more and more gigs, and it was gonna be great.
Of course, everything went to hell. To our credit, the three of us, we looked at it like we had all this material, let’s buckle it all down. Let’s get it tight and let’s record it. Let’s take this time where we can’t be out gigging and let’s prep it and put out an album. That really just flipped our focus fully on recording our first album. That’s what we’ve been doing this year.
I listened to the first single “Firror” and I think when people look at you guys or at your Facebook page, you see just the name “Dad Band”. Then you listen to the first single and the lyrics are not what you would expect from a group called “Dad Band”. Those social themes that you guys are touching on are not necessarily ones that are popular especially in North Dakota. How did you guys kind of get to that songwriting place with themes focusing on these social issues? How have you found lyrical themes in what’s going on socially in our country knowing that a lot (not all) in your age demographic think the exact opposite of you?
EB: “Firror” is a triple entendre. It’s like, fear, the way it’s spelled, but it looks like mirror. Donald Trump has really represented looking into a mirror of the underbelly of our society that exists.
It’s not a reflection of subterfuge, but this underbelly, this unspoken bullshit that’s going on underneath the surface that is contrary to the greater good. There’s that mirror looking back at you. Every time you want to point the finger, look at yourself, what are the thoughts that are going on in your head? Of course, the other meaning of it is fear. The Donald Trump administration has represented fearmongering and rhetoric that stoked all these instances of unrest.
How can this be happening in the United States of America? This is not the United States of America that we all grew up in, and that we know. I have to say that the song itself was a bit of an albatross for us for a while. We’d always save it to the end of practice and we tried to nail this song, and would always sound like we weren’t really gelling. The lyrics resonate with us and they’re taken from different contexts. It’s definitely something that’s socially progressive, but just the song itself, I don’t think really came together until fairly recently.
TO: In fact, that was one that was not scheduled to be out of the album initially. As we were working on songs, we would use that one as a warm-up or we would do it at the end of the night. We discovered that there was something there. So we built upon that and it ended up being the first song we put out.
CH: It’s timely material. It needs to be heard now. I don’t think it really came together until probably sometime over the summer as far as what you hear now. I’m really excited about how that turned out and I think is exactly what we wanted it to be.
EB: There’s another song on the album called “Post 9-11” that was written right after the attacks in New York, when the Twin Towers came crashing down. The lyrics are very evocative of the towers coming down. That video footage that we all saw and that was written at a time of the Bush administration, where it really felt like armageddon in this country, it was not good. When those lyrics come to me, I’m really struggling with, with how to how to express myself. I’m not an angry, bitter person. I don’t lash out at people and I’m actually quite reserved and kind. This is kind of my way of releasing the pressure.
CH: If I could answer your question, we’re in our 40s. We’re all 48 now with families and we’ve always been very progressive and socially conscious guys. It’s probably very clear where we stand at this point. There’s a lot of people our age that are the exact opposite of us, you’re not wrong about that, but there are a lot of people out there like us. I think there are those people out there and maybe we can reach some of them maybe we can speak to them a little bit or maybe we can help them to find their own voice.
You reference that you all have families. What do your kids think when you’re heading off to band practice or you just got back from band practice? What are their reactions to you guys being their father but also a member of a band where you’re playing gigs, working on an album and all this?
CH: We always joke about the kids because Tim’s son is 15. So he doesn’t think his dad is cool anymore. My daughter just turned nine so I’ve got a few years. She still thinks I’m cool and she wants to come to every rehearsal and go to every gig.
EB: I’ve got a 22-year-old and a 16-year-old and the 22-year-old lives in Denver now, but she and her boyfriend really like it. She’s always been into the same kind of music as me. I have my younger daughter and she’s in the Moorhead theater program. In some ways, I feel embarrassed to play this stuff to my daughter, Amelia, because she’s so good at what she does.
My wife has gotten used to it. I’ve been in this since we were married in 1994, so it’s always been there. She recognizes it as an important outlet for me. I don’t golf. I don’t play racquetball. I play music.
“My wife has got used to it. I’ve been in this since we were married in 1994, so it’s always been there. She recognizes it as an important outlet for me. I don’t golf. I don’t play racquetball. I play music.” – Eric Bailly
CH: My wife knows that too. This is something that I love to do and it is an outlet. It’s a way to blow off steam A lot of times it makes me a happier person and I think that makes everybody that’s around me a happier person.
TO: I met my wife when I was in college, and I was already doing music forever. So she knew that this is part of the package deal.
I’m sure top of mind next steps are making sure you release the album and kind of push that out to the masses and make sure everybody’s listening to it. Otherwise, for you guys, beyond finishing and releasing this album, what are some goals that you have set for yourselves as a band?
EB: I would love to play The Aquarium. I think we’d fit in really well there. I would be really happy if we can just keep playing and doing what we’re doing having some fun. It would be awesome to play up in Winnipeg or down in the Twin Cities. We’re just having a lot of fun right now though.
CH: I don’t know that we’ve ever sat down set and specific goals.
The whole time it’s just been organic to the extent that we just want to make some music. Then we realized we had enough material for an album and we decided to do that. Right now, we’ve got enough material to do another one. Say gigs don’t come back and we can’t get out there going into 2021, you may see a Dad Band second album next year. We’re just going to keep doing what we do and roll with whatever happens, I think.
TO: To quote one of our favorite bands. One of our goals is to tour the world and beyond.
Find Out More