Boston-based indie/alt-rock band Dionysia (dye-oh-nee-jah) stopped by 88.9 WERS to play some songs for Wicked Local Wednesday, which kicks off at 9pm Wednesday nights on 88.9. After their set, WERS’ Lily Doolin sat down to talk with them about their recording process, some new projects on the horizon, and the true story behind their elusive band name.
Lily Doolin: First of all, how did you guys all get together?
Garrett Brown (vocalist/guitarist): Alex [Myers] and I met freshman year of high school. By the time sophomore year came around we started jamming together, then Julien [Vandal] became part of the group. Josh actually came on board a couple years back after Alex and I met him while jamming at Wentworth when we went to school there. That’s kind of been the story of us.
LD: If you could describe your band in three words to people who have never listened to your music before, what would they be?
Alex Myers (drummer/percussionist): What was the phrase we had? A heavy groove, a bit of bite, and a whole lot of rock and roll.
Josh Weirs (bassist/cellist): That’s a little more than three words, but okay (laughs).
LD: That’s alright, I still dig it! Where did you guys play your first show in Boston, and how was it?
GB: We played at Hard Rock our first time, but we were under 21 at the time. They were so brutal about that. Our promoter had booked the show and we were all good to go, we showed up and we were setting up, and then security comes up to us and asks, “are you twenty-one?” We were like… “no” (laughs).
AM: I think that was actually the second or third time we had played there, too. The first time I remember it being pretty seamless. I guess they just never knew we were under 21.
GB: Put it this way: It wasn’t a huge crowd, but people enjoyed themselves. People enjoyed themselves, which I feel like is kind of how our story goes from the jump.
LD: Alright, I want to know—because we at the station have been having a debate—how do you say your name? Where did you guys get that?
GB: We actually pronounce it wrong. I think it’s dye-oh-nee-see-ah.
AM: Or maybe dee-oh-nee-jah, something like that.
GB: We originally wanted to call the band Dionysus.
Julien Vandal (vocalist/saxophonist/keyboardist): There was some electronic artist who had 400,000 hits on a song, and he had the name.
GB: Yeah, so we were like, “we gotta change it.” We wanted to put our stuff on iTunes and we hadn’t yet at that point. We were like, “what’s something akin to this [Dionysus]?” Dionysia was an option that came up. We actually liked it a lot, because Dionysia is actually a festival that was held in Athens in honor of Dionysus. It was a gathering of the celebration of the arts. When we play shows, we kind of like to think it’s like a gathering and a celebration of music and the arts. And we all love wine (laughs).
LD: So where do you guys find inspiration for your music? Do you have any local influences?
GB: I think all of us would probably answer that a little differently.
JV: I think we find inspiration from so many different styles and different artists, which is why I feel like when we all come together and write, we change each others opinions on the style that we want to play. It kind of creates this whole new thing that we never thought really existed before.
GB: I would say—as far as artists go—we definitely draw a lot from Led Zeppelin for some of that rock backbone, then we’ve always loved Incubus, the technicality of Incubus. I will forever get crap for this from you guys, but I love Young the Giant and Glass Animals (laughs). Our sound has developed a lot over the years and we’re coming into this phase where we’re experimenting with soundscapes more. Our backbone of how we play is still there, but how we’re exploring it a little more [is different]. That’s why I’m into these bands that are maybe more ethereal and out-there. Maybe a little more indie.
AM: Then also for content, things that happen in our lives that we’re trying to express we put into songs, whether it be breakups, having a good time downtown. That’s kind of the ceiling.
LD: That leads me into my next question: What is the in-studio writing/producing process like for you guys?
JV: It’s actually very last-minute. We have all of these ideas that are unfinished and we’re kind of scrambling. We all work during the day, so I would say when it comes together, we’re always like “yes, this is exactly what we wanted to do.” But it’s definitely slow.
JW: It’s a process getting there (laughs).
AM: Yeah, we’ll be jamming in the space and someone has a general idea of some lyrics and structure, then we really solidify that together in our practice space. Lately, what we’ve had the advantage of doing is recording it, listening back to it, thinking what we want to add to it, and then really solidifying it that way.
GB: It’s a pretty unorganized process. We don’t really have a regimented one-two-three, we follow these steps and the song is done. I think we like to keep it that way because some songs tend to come very quickly because we’re feeling the inspiration of an event, it happens and then we’re all on the same page about it.
JW: There are songs that we’ve just written and re-written a hundred times (laughs).
GB: (laughs) Yeah, and the meaning will change.
JW: We’ll have a starting riff, and we made a whole song around the riff with lyrics, then we’ve just re-written the lyrics and the lyric structure.
JV: We perform it at a couple of shows, and then be like “I don’t know about that song, nobody was grooving to it.
GB: That’s a good point though. We actually gauge when we’re writing how the audience might receive it. If it’s not done yet, we try to say “how can we still stay true to what we’re writing about while maybe making this a little more engaging?”
AM: Yeah, that’s how we initially got excited over “Illusions,” because we were playing it at basement shows and the beat of the song got people going.
LD: Do you guys actually have any pre-performance rituals?
GB: We always warm up our voices when we can, because it definitely helps, but Julien and I—when we play Great Scott—will go sit in his car and just start singing. I also always drink bourbon neat before going on stage. Beer as a singer—don’t do beer. Carbonation is not your friend.
LD: You mentioned Great Scott. I know you guys are playing there soon. How excited are you guys for that? Is that one of your favorite venues to play at?
GB: Oh yeah, we’re really stoked. We had to reschedule the show due to unforeseen circumstances,
AM: Yeah, I broke my arm.
GB: I wasn’t going to mention it, but… (laughs)
LD: You’ve been exposed (laughs).
AM: Yeah, I broke my arm so that delayed it like five weeks. So, we’re definitely really excited to be playing this show.
JV: It’s a great venue. There are cheap drinks, great sound. It’s always a great time.
GB: We sold it out two and a half weeks in advance the first time, then we got some refunded tickets when we postponed it. And then, we resold it out again. I don’t know if we’ve ever sold out the same show twice.
AM: I don’t think we’ve ever had to reschedule (laughs).
JV: Even though we had to push it back, we can technically say we’ve had it sold-out for two months now (laughs).
LD: Now, you guys played a new song here tonight. Can you remind me what the title of that was?
GB: Our newest released single is “Illusions.”
LD: Alright, is that off any new project you guys are working on?
JW: No, just a single.
GB: We hadn’t done any music in a while and we were itching to put something out. A lot of people have been saying that they wanted to hear some new material. We’ve been writing, we were just trying to put it toward an album. But we kind of realized that the album effort was going to take a little more time to finesse, and we had these songs ready to go that we wanted to share. So, they are just singles, there’s not an album that they’re on, but that’s the beauty of streaming services. You don’t really have to have an album.
LD: Yeah, it’s kind of nice to be able to have these fragmented releases, and then come out with a whole album.
GB: Yeah, if you look at our Spotify—we didn’t even plan this—but it’s almost color-coordinated perfectly. It’s funny because we released our song “High Scores,” which is a really goofy album cover of me in a green graduation gown and cap. And then we released our single “Illusions,” which is a very different album cover. It’s a lot more visual, 2-D art, but the colors are almost identical and we did not mean to do it at all. It just worked out really well (laughs).
LD: Are you guys working on anything new right now?
GB: Yeah, we’re actually going to be in the studio in three weeks.
JW: We’re recording at Mad Oak Records in Brighton. It should be a good time.
JV: We’re looking to do a full LP and attempt to put on a few extra tracks.
GB: Yeah, twelve to fourteen songs is the target we’re shooting for. Twelve at the minimum.
LD: Are you guys thinking about going on tour any time soon? Or for right now are you just into doing the single shows.
GB: Once we’ve released the album, we’re definitely going to be spending the better part of August and September, most weekends playing shows.
AM: Yeah, things like Weekend Warrior.
GB: It’s not just regional. We’ve played LA before and we’ve got a significant following in Chicago, which we’ve never played before. So we’re definitely trying to hit Chicago, definitely trying to hit LA, New York. Probably down to DC maybe, Philly.
AM: We’ve done New York and Philly quite a bit, so I can see us in the future doing that. Then there’s talks of us trying to do Chicago and LA. We’ve already done LA.
GB: Oh yeah, we’re doing Chicago and LA for sure.
LD: That’s so cool, and I wanted to ask you guys about that. You have this interesting, widespread following. You have a surprising amount of people across the nation. How did that come about, and/or how excited are you to see that?
JV: I think Spotify did us a solid. They playlisted us a couple times, but we’ve also played in twenty-five different states at this time. We’ve grown our reach pretty organically, but of course the web also helped us a lot.
AM: Yeah, we even got put on a German playlist (laughs).
GB: We actually have a pretty big following in Germany, it’s weird. I also think, when we went on tour after our first album, the producer we worked with—Anthony Santo, really cool guy—he suggested that we do that. We were like, “are you crazy, man? We’re eighteen and nineteen years old.” You’re telling us to buy a van and tour the country? Two weeks later, we were like “alright, we’re going on tour I guess.”
AM: We started trying to book it, and we were like “okay, this is the route we have to take, these are the dates.” We booked Arkansas really quickly, and we were like “alright, that’s like two-thirds of the way there.”
GB: We were on the road for thirty days, and we ended up playing twenty shows over the course of a month. It was a lot of fun. We bought a van, the transmission broke. We had to drive eight hours in manual second gear going like 35 miles an hour down Daytona Beach (laughs).
LD: Alright, I think that’s it for me. Thank you guys so much for coming in, we loved hearing you perform!