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10 July 2017

INTERVIEW: Evan Raab of Dulls.

Cover art by Brianna Didyoung

Philadelphia quartet Dulls consists of Evan Raab and Erica Carter on voices and guitars with Kirk Bray on bass and Jack Pfeifer on drums. The project has so far released two EPs digitally and on cassette. The four-track self-titled debut came out in January of 2016; the three-track Moon Violet EP saw release in February of this year.

The first three tracks of the self-titled debut EP are an excursion in what might best be described as dark, eclectic heavy psych. Shades of punk, metal, and doom are all brought into play and rendered with delightfully liberal layerings of fuzz. The outstanding five minute closer, "Whole", brings the band closer to shoegaze and dream pop territory, a positioning retained throughout Moon Violet. While John Cep of The Stargazer Lilies served as recordist on this second outing, which, as mentioned, shifts onto ground somewhat different from most of the first effort, there’s still an unmistakable consistency across all the material the band has so far released. Erica’s vocal delivery and Evan’s singing lead guitar tones, both distinctive, contribute to the strong identity the band has right out of the gate. The performances and recording have a slightly rough-around-the-edges feel that perfectly suits the sense of freshness and present-tense vitality pervading both releases.

Dulls has been one of our most exciting discoveries of 2017 thus far, so we were delighted when Evan agreed to take time out for the interview that follows. We’re very grateful to Yana Komeshko of the outstanding Russian shoegaze project Aerofall for bringing Dulls to our attention by posting a track on the Aerofall and Friends Facebook group this past March.

Dulls will next be appearing on July 19th at The Silent Barn in Brooklyn, New York.

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How and when was the band formed?
Jack and I played together in a band in college. After graduating we pursued separate projects but started playing together again casually in 2013. After going through some lineup changes, Kirk came on board to play bass. Erica joined in early 2015 and the band played our first show as Dulls that March.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
We are working on a new setlist which we hope to release material from as a 7-inch. We’ve been playing outside of Philadelphia more lately and are currently working on getting a proper tour together.

How do you feel about genres? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene?
Our music definitely has elements of that, and all of us really like that stuff. But as far as executing our own music, we tend to rely on our personal leanings. Jack is very much into R&B and more beat-oriented drums, and Erica has an adoration for classic Sixties-style pop, which I think gives us a unique identity in the scene. I feel that most shoegaze bands tend to lack poppy hooks and leads, which I try to throw in where I can.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
It’s a pretty vibrant scene these days. I feel like almost any band with a cranked-up reverb pedal that throws on some occasional feedback gets the word “gaze” thrown into their description, which I think is a little bit silly. It’s amazing how this style of music has had the revival it has, but what I think is really great is that artists are taking elements from that style and incorporating it into their own musical blend.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
I guess I'm proving my previous point here—we’re big on fuzz and reverb. The main pedals I use are the Electro-Harmonix (EHX) Cathedral Stereo Reverb and the EHX Big Muff Pi Fuzz. I like the just-chaotic-enough sound the Big Muff Pi can get for our more noisy parts, while also being tame enough to fit our more pop-oriented parts. Erica isn’t as big of a pedal nerd, but she uses the EHX Metal Muff Distortion, which lets us have tones that are diverse yet close enough that it doesn't sound too jarring. Kirk relies on the EHX Deluxe Bass Big Muff and the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, so he fits right in, but keeps a warm, full bottom end.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
We’ve been letting other people do it for us. Our first release was recorded (aside from the vocals) in a single day at Brad Wallace Recording, and Kirk mixed it. Moon Violet was recorded during a weekend escape at John Cep and Kim Field’s house (they’re in a band called The Stargazer Lilies), which is located in a pretty secluded wooded area. That tape was also mixed by John. It was really helpful for us to have that perspective from someone outside of the band, and Pro Tools has been a great asset for us.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway. How do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
I think my outlook aligns with many other artists. Of course the ability to download and stream music has curbed industry profitability, but at the same time you have an unprecedented avenue for exposure. I’ll never run out of new music to discover. And having your music available to anyone with a phone or internet connection just makes us all the more humbled when someone wants to purchase a tape or download.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
We’ve only self-released our music. If any labels want to help out with the next one, drop me an email at

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or MP3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
I guess the cool answer here is “vinyl” and “cassette”. Most of us collect vinyl—Erica has the most impressive collection. While I’m not someone to argue the quality of sound between formats (FLAC or bust), I will say that I hate the concept of “phone djing” at a party which only leads to long pauses of dead air, arguing over who gets to put on a song next, etc. With vinyl you pick a record and just flip it when it’s over. You also get to enjoy the whole album that way, rather than going through singles.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
While the four of us all enjoy the same types of music, our main influences are very much in their own worlds. I personally love the classic shoegaze outfits, Slowdive, MBV, etc. But for guitar playing I’m very into the harsh biting tones of The Telescopes. We all adore Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth, which have been unifying sounds for the band.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Will people judge me if I like Jonathan Franzen? I also personally love Noah Baumbach movies. As a band we have almost a second language when it comes to quoting The Simpsons and Peep Show.

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?
“New Dream” encapsulates our sound pretty well. A bit slower than the rest of our music, but it has our lighter touch, our love of noise, and need for hooks.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
Usually I’ll come up with a riff or chord progression and bring it to practice. We throw ideas at it and see what sticks. Kirk and Jack are pretty great at coming up with what the song needs right on the spot. Erica and I will usually meet up on our own and try to come up with lyrics together.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Don’t trust anyone over thirty. Except us.

Photo by Emilia Randler