There’s a tenderness underpinning much of Son of Dribble’s most recent album, Son of Drib Against the Wind, from 2022, which singer Andy Clager traced in part to fatherhood.
“I think it’s one of those things where you want your kid to like your music too, right?” Clager said, and laughed. “But, yeah, I used to be real wild, and I’m not real wild now. I have different ideas about how the world works. … I’ve talked before about the gift of song, which is an amazing thing, because it’s the most immediate form. You can sit there and watch a movie or read a book, and it can move you. But when somebody puts on a song that hits just right, that’s where it’s at.”
These ideas have existed within the Columbus art-rock crew since Clager first started experimenting musically with guitarist Darren Latanick in 2015 (drummer Vicky Mahnke and guitarist Mike Nosan complete the band’s current lineup). But they are more readily evident on The Wind, which, while far from polished, finds the players turning out a slightly more refined take on what Clager termed their “ramshackle, punk poetry-type thing.”
“When we first started … it was really rip and dip,” said Clager, who will join his bandmates in concert at Skylab on Saturday, Feb. 4, where the musicians will celebrate the vinyl release of The Wind, out now on Minimum Table Stacks, a Jersey City-based label that previously specialized solely in archival LPs. “Now, there is a lot more time put into… I don’t want to say making it listenable, because that pop aspect has always been in play. But I definitely want to make songs that have some depth to them. I would hate to be called mature, because we want to keep the primitive aspect and keep things off the cuff, but the antics have mellowed. And, yeah, it’s conscious because we’re getting older. But we also never wanted to be just this junk-punk rock ‘n roll band.”
The Wind is a visceral, deeply textured listen, the band, working alongside recording engineer Zac Szymusiak, balancing wobbly, last-call slow burners (“Be Cruel”) with propulsive, percussion-driven rippers such as “Painting the Head,” which sounds like the setting in which it was captured – an abandoned, decaying (and now off-limits) house that the band dubbed “Heartbroke Rij.”
Similar poles exist within Clager’s words, his lyrics sometimes depicting a bleak, unforgiving world, and other times capturing the idea of making some magic within it while we’re able. “Find something you’re fond of,” he offers on “A Drop of Blood,” “before it goes away.”
“You bring your own experiences to it, and I think a lot of the more storytelling songs on Son of Drib Against the Wind were kind of processing my place in the world, and then there are stories you hear and things you’ve gone through,” Clager said. “People might be like, ‘Ehhh, it’s kind of played out,’ but it’s always been love and death and trying to find your place in the world. And I don’t think it’s morbid ever. Ryan [Eilbeck] from Natural Sway said something when he was hyping our last show we did with him, and he called us ‘the makers of evil hymns,’ or something. And I’ll take that. That makes complete sense.”
While aspects of the band’s music have continued to evolve, one thing that has remained consistent is the collectives' discomfort with the business around making music. Clager hates the idea of obligation, and even in booking this LP release show he said he gravitated toward Skylab over a more traditional venue as a means of avoiding the weight of expectation. “I like being in art spaces because once you do a bar, the bar has expectations and the fans have expectations,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine if we were successful. We’re just keeping it low-profile … and keeping it sort of ours, I guess.”
With the Rij now condemned, Son of Dribble plans to record its next album alongside engineer Joe Camerlengo, with sessions beginning sometime in the spring or summer. While Camerlengo will likely draw out some new wrinkles in the band’s sound, Clager said he has little desire to lean too heavily on studio trickery.
“Songs are always best if you don’t go in looking for perfection,” he said. “And it sounds like he is going to capture more of our live sound, so there is that energy. To me, the idea of singing into a microphone without the band [playing] is hilarious. It’s one of those things where if I could see myself, I’d be mad, you know? … You don’t want it to sound too nice or it loses its charm. It’s like putting a filter on a photograph or something. I’d rather just have the Polaroid."