After years of playing together in various projects, drummer Darrell Long and bassist/vocalist Gregry Gilroy played shows together with longtime friend and fellow local musician Barry Mangione and several of his musical endeavors. The performances allowed the three to see the potential for a collaboration that would take their highly varied influences apart and re-assemble them in ways they would put no restrictions on. Exploring subjects of addiction, heartache, loss, faith and other personal experiences, the band added keyboardist/composer and “silent partner” Shawn Finney to craft their self-titled debut EP.
Throughout the last two years The Dalliance have offered new songs for free through their website as a musical litmus test to not only hone their already increasing self-recording abilities, but to get a feeling of what they themselves were building and how their growing number of fans would receive it. Armed now with their own recording/rehearsal studio: DisgraceLand and a sound aesthetic they’ve arrived at through many late night writing and recording experiences, live shows, fan feedback and harsh self-criticism, The Dalliance are proud to be releasing “Birth Love Death” – their first full-length recording.
Rick Jamm interviewed alternative indie rock band, The Dalliance and discovered that they have a whole lot more going on in their heads than just musical notes. The band have a clear idea of exactly where they want to go, and seem to have found the secret formula, on how to get there too.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Darrell Long: I’ve been playing drums since I was about 9 years old and been in bands since maybe 13 or 14. I started taking drum lessons when, invariably, guitar class had filled up. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made, even though the very young me had NO idea what he was getting into at the time.
Barry Mangione: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11, started singing in chorus in school in the seventh grade and playing in bands since college. I got started when I began to pick up an acoustic guitar that my brother got for Christmas one year. He lost interest in it, so I started making noise on it until my mom bugged my dad to get me some lessons.
Greg Gilroy: I’ve been playing in bands more than ½ my life in a ton of different bands and projects since the young age of 14. I basically started jamming with some junior high friends because of my love of music and just wanting to be a part of the growing hardcore and punk scene of the early 80’s. After learning everybody and their brother had a guitar, I decided I better learn either the drums or bass if I wanted to be part of a band. Started on a crappy set of drums I dug up from somewhere and after years of that, since I couldn’t afford a fancy kit I picked up a friend’s bass guitar he left at my house and haven’t put it down since.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Darrell Long: I think the first records that influenced me were the music of my parents: a mixture of old school country and western and its contemporaries, from the likes of Johnny Cash to Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins and Merle Haggard, juxtaposed with 60s pop from artists like Petula Clark, The Seekers and Sandie Shaw. You’d think I didn’t grow up in New York with parents from The Bronx, but I did.
Barry Mangione: My dad’s musical tastes were a big early influence on me. He went through phases. He had his country/western phase, his motown phase, and then there was disco, but artists like Chuck Berry & B.B. King were always huge in my house. When I started really listening for myself, I was influenced by the big 80’s metal and hard rock like Ratt, Ozzy, & Judas Priest. As I got older & stopped trying to be a guitar hero, I started paying more attention to songwriters. Counting Crows’ “August and Everything After” was a landmark album for me. The songs on that album made me want to write great songs.
Greg Gilroy: The first two albums I ever bought as a kid at the same time were Pink Floyd “The Wall” and Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who and other stories” at age 8. Guess both of those records I still incorporate in my musical style to this day (Floyd for image and coolness and the great Dr for lyrics). However, once I picked up Kiss “Dressed To Kill” and saw the bass player breathe fire and spit blood, it was all over for me.
3. Who do you consider the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
Darrell Long: I think our genre is a melding of influences from all over the map. Artists that are influential to me right now are a real mix of older and newer and, of those that are at a certain level of popularity, that would range from The Hold Steady, to Wilco, to The Pixies, An Horse, Amanda Palmer, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Arcade Fire, Surfer Blood, The Tallest Man on Earth and on and on. Music that speaks to me transcends genre and is ultimately about conveying something genuine. I’m also big on lyrics and vocal melodies. Anything too straightforward, anything trite, whose subject matter has been explored a million times, is not doing it for me. There’s so much real, amazing art being made in people’s bedrooms and home studios right now and I find that refreshing and so much more interesting than the promotion machine telling me what I should listen to. I’m influenced by DIY work ethic and genuine passion, regardless of whether someone is selling a million records or selling out shows in big venues, or not.
Barry Mangione: If we’re looking for artists that are influential, successful, and still relevant, I’d say Foo Fighters is at the top of the list. Arcade Fire is a truly amazing band putting out great music and getting critical acclaim without being commercially over-saturated.
Greg Gilroy: Right now? Honestly, although there are some great bands doing great things like Wilco, Fucked Up and maybe a few others I really don’t feel that anything out there right now I would consider “influential”. Great music yes, but I often find myself going back to the music of my youth lately to find inspiration. I can listen to classic albums from everything to Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Rush, Rainbow, Black Flag, Descendents and those albums still give me a boner 20-30 years later more than anything that has come out in the past 5-10.
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased with your own money.
Darrell Long: When I was young, I was fortunate to have parents who bought me my first snare drum and, later, my first 4 piece drum kit. But, I worked to earn money to buy a seven piece drum kit with my own money in high school and eventually bought something that was used and not in great shape, but it had all these toms and more cymbals – It was a whole new sound palate. I felt like a rockstar in my bedroom with my big drums. I think they definitely fostered creativity, though I was certainly riding a trend. Today, I’m back to a rock solid 4 piece kit with cymbals I have carefully selected over a 10 year curating process.
Barry Mangione: I got a Fender HM (Heavy Metal) series Strat back in the late eighties. It was perfect for what I was doing at the time. It had a locking tremolo for hair-band-style dive bombs, and it was neon baby blue.
Greg Gilroy: First instrument I ever bought was a Ibanez Roadstar II guitar at a local music store with the money I saved from working a part time job at a local pharmacy. I really wanted a cheap Cherry Red Memphis, but my dad being the smart man he was wanted me to get a better brand and kicked in the extra bucks. To this day the bass I play my dad bought me for X-Mas in 1990.
5. Tell us something about your current instrument set-up? What brands are you using right now?
Darrell Long: Right now, I’m playing a four piece Gretsch kit and I also own a slightly larger Mapex kit that makes it out from time to time. I have a few snare drums, including a Gretsch, a snare from a custom drum builder and a Pork Pie brass patina 13” deep shell snare that has been my go-to for recordings over the past 10 months or so. Cymbals are a mix of Sabian AAX and HHX with a Dream Bliss 22” Ride that I absolutely love.
Barry Mangione: I like to “rescue” used guitars & modify them myself. I don’t think I own an electric guitar that’s completely stock. I have a Squier Cyclone that I recently bought & switched the stock pickups for GFS pickups. It screams now. I removed the tone control & put two volume controls on it instead, because I really have no use for the tone knob on a guitar. I have another Squier Strat that I picked up a few years ago. It had one humbucker pickup in the bridge. I replaced that one with another GFS pickup, painted it white, and gave my daughters paint markers to draw whatever they wanted on it. I think it looks pretty damn cool. I keep that guitar tuned to an alternate tuning (EAEGAE from low to high). I also have an eighties model Yamaha strat-style that I chopped up into a wicked shape and put in 3 new pickups. My late brother, who was an amazing auto body painter, painted it for me. It’s more than an instrument. It’s a piece of my brother, so I recently retired it from live shows in favor of the Cyclone. I use a Carvin SX100 solid state amp for live shows. Solid state is just more reliable in my opinion. You get consistent tone and consistent volume, and that amp is loud as hell. I’ve never turned it up past 2 because I’ve never needed to! For effects, I use a Digitech RP500. For recording, I’ll often use a 5 Watt Epiphone tube combo amp. You just can’t beat the tone it’s got.
Greg Gilroy: Right now I am using the Fender Jazz bass from 1990 I mentioned earlier, but I added EMG pickups to it years later to get that clear active sound. Amp I recently scaled down and switched from SWR head and Behringer 4X10 cabinet to a small 50W Orange Combo. Got sick and tired of lugging a refrigerator to gigs and have them go direct in the PA while Barry carried a small combo amp in one hand. It gives me a great 70’s fuzz sound which I love. Strings I’ve been using DR Low Riders for decades.
6. Live gigging or studio work, which do you prefer and why?
Darrell Long: Because I engineer all of our recordings, I really have grown to love studio work. Having the ability to mold a sound around a particular song in the studio and deliver exactly as I hear it in my head is incredible. That said, playing live is essential – there is an energy that could, often, never be captured in a studio. Playing live doesn’t appeal to me when it becomes a grind, though – I prefer to make live events something special and a bit more rare.
Barry Mangione: I probably prefer the studio over live shows, because there’s a lot of bullshit associated with live shows, from booking agents to bands bickering over time slots, selling tickets, etc. Since we do our own recording, the atmosphere in the studio is relaxed and fun, and we work well enough with each other that it’s become pretty smooth.
Greg Gilroy: It used to be live because I loved the immediate interaction, feedback and response at a packed show, but I have to admit as I got older and the crowds got fickle I’m enjoying studio work a lot more because of the endless possibilities now. The fact that I can come up with an idea or concept, execute it in a studio and have it sitting in my hand or out in the world pretty effortlessly is very rewarding to me.
7. Which of your original songs do you think is the absolute “crowd pleaser” at live gigs?
Darrell Long: While I am proud of all of the songs we play live and I love the current set that we’re playing, in terms of flow, I think our usual opener, Leave It All Behind is a crowd pleaser, because it’s a song that people can relate to and it sets the general mood for what people are about to see and hear if they have never seen us before.
Barry Mangione: We’ve actually had a few people cry recently when we’ve done “A Quiet Calm” because it seems to reach into people and evoke some deep emotions. At its best, that’s what live music is supposed to do. From that song, we transition into “What Does Electricity Taste Like?” which is a balls-out rocker that people really seem to enjoy.
Greg Gilroy: I don’t know if I can pick just one, but there is a part of our live set where we do “A Quiet Calm” into “What Does Electricity Taste Like?” Quiet Calm it’s just Barry and his Uke and you can hear a pin drop during it since it’s so sparse. Then we play an intro and once “Electricity” kicks in it grabs you right in the balls and doesn’t let go. People seem to really dig the big transition as much as I do.
8. Which of The Dalliance songs do you consider your personal favorite, and on which one do you think you delivered your best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
Darrell Long: My personal favorite is probably Stay Still. It’s a song I wrote a lot of, but without crucial feedback, interpretation and collaboration from my band mates, it would have been very flat, compared to what it became. It’s a song that demonstrates to me what being in a very democratic band with strong opinions and strong musicianship can achieve. In terms of performance, I really like what I ended up playing in Pain Has Gills. There’s a very nontraditional drum beat that makes up a lot of it and even the chorus isn’t a typical ,four on the floor, rock beat, but it ends up working so well against Greg’s driving bass line and Barry’s atmospheric, but authoritative guitar work.
Barry Mangione: My personal favorite is “Pain Has Gills.” That song marked a turning point in my life both because it was the first song I wrote in what I call “Dalliance tuning”, and because it’s about the beginning of me getting sober.
Greg Gilroy: My personal favorite right now is “Ghost in The Bedroom” because besides being biased and enjoying my personal performance on it vocally and lyrically, it’s a great tune overall and it’s one where it was a 100% group effort where everyone contributed something unique to the final product. Technically, I look at “Broken Ballerina” as a great example of the endless possibilities we have achieved in a small studio with a great engineer, a Mac and a couple of great microphones. It was also the first song we recorded at our studio DisgraceLand too.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making The Dalliance music, sound the way it does?
Darrell Long: I think it’s our personalities, our unwavering brutal honesty and our ability to take praise and criticism equally in the writing process. We’re all good, but we make each other so much better when we collaborate.
Barry Mangione: I think our secret ingredient is authenticity. We each bring different influences to the band, and sometimes our music crosses genre lines, but what makes a song a “Dalliance song” is a feeling, a message, or an emotion that comes from such a real place that inevitably someone in the audience is going to listen to it and say, “Oh my God. Me too!”
Greg Gilroy: It’s the mixture of the 3 personalities and how they meld together. I’m a huge fan of bands like Cheap Trick, Kiss, etc. where each member has their own look and style but when they play together it just fits and I think that’s what we have going for us. Not saying we have 6 neck guitars and shoot rockets from them, but you get the idea.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you day after day to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion, hysteria or pride and why?
Darrell Long: For me: passion. All other emotions come in to play at times, but they’re more ephemeral Passion always sticks around.
Barry Mangione: Passion. Hands down. People who don’t have passion don’t create art. It’s what wakes you up in the middle of the night with a lyric or a riff in your head. It’s what makes it worth it when you’re tired & depressed because you had a low turnout at a gig, but one person comes up to you and tells you that something you played said exactly what they were feeling.
Greg Gilroy: It’s gotta be passion for me. There’s absolutely no way I’d still be playing music today with all of the horse shit that is going on now in the “music business” if there wasn’t that high I get where if one person gets off and enjoys something that we’ve created.
11. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most?
Darrell Long: I think it’s that we’re not constrained by time or budget. We own all our own gear, we have our own project studio – We’re not saving up money to go into someone else’s studio and then trying to bang out an entire album before the dollars run out. We can take as much or as little time as we want to produce something and we can immediately, and affordably, release it worldwide. Sure, there’s always a struggle to rise above the noise and mediocrity that this environment breeds, but I would not trade it.
Barry Mangione: I like the fact that we can make our own music on our own terms, and promote it without having to break the bank.
Greg Gilroy: Just the accessibility and the freedom you can achieve on your own now. Now you can record something, put it up on a site and the world can access it quite effortlessly if you have and know the tools of the trade. I remember the days of mailing hundreds of postcards or letters to fans on your mailing list about shows and releases and now it’s as easy as pressing a button for the most part.
12. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process discourages you most?
Darrell Long: I think with so many entertainment options for people at any given moment, it’s hard to grab people’s attention for longer than a few seconds. That can be discouraging, but I think you just have to persevere and set smaller goals when things start getting too discouraging.
Barry Mangione: The fact that there are so many people out there who call themselves music fans, but they’re really just sheep plugged into the Matrix. They won’t venture outside of the major labels or the mainstream to find artists and bands who are making music that’s just as good, and they’re way more accessible to their fans than the stadium acts.
Greg Gilroy: Exactly the same reason as above. Because it’s so easy to put yourself out there, you are a pebble in an ocean more than ever before. Every band has a Facebook page and I must get 10 invites a day to shows I could care less about seeing. People, including myself are getting bombarded with stuff more than ever and it’s a fine line from being annoying to be lost in a sea of Twitter feeds.
13. The Dalliance handles all its own recording, producing and mastering processes. In the long-term will you eventually see being ‘self-recorded and self-financed’ as a limit, or as an achievement, and why?
Darrell Long: I think we’ll always see it as an achievement. If we can’t get something to sound the way we envision it, we’re not going to ever put out something that is “good enough.” We’ll work harder at our craft to achieve the sound we want. I will say that we don’t self-master. I think it’s extremely important to get other sets of ears on your work and a great time to do that is to turn over your best mix to a mastering professional. The product you’ll get back, in our experience, is 100 times better than what you could do on your own.
Barry Mangione: I think the only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves. We’ve made good music with less than what we have now, so as technology moves forward, so will we. I’m proud of everything we’ve done so far, and I’m excited about what we’re going to do in the future. I think in terms of achievement, not limitation.
Greg Gilroy: I think an achievement in the fact that we can put out good sounding, quality music and products for a small and relativity one time investment. You don’t have that company or agent shoving your music to the masses saying “you will like this now” and getting that exposure, but at the same time you answer to nobody but yourself. I’ve been signed to labels in the past where they had spent over $15k (which is nothing back then or now) in recording and promotion where the artist had to pay that back in sales and eventually not see a dime because you were only seeing a small “point” on each sale. Now you can learn your craft, record on your own and no matter how shitty it might sound, you can put it out yourself and if say you sell for $1 you make @40 cents.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t, but now know you should have?
Darrell Long: One thing I have followed is to never blame your gear on any shortcomings. What I mean is, just because, for one reason or another, you can only afford the cheaper instrument, or that entry level amplifier, you should never blame your inability to perform at a high level on gear. Often, I see inexperienced musicians arrive with the best gear money can buy – and they can’t play it. In a live venue and often in the same night, I’ll see a guy play, for example, the house drum kit, that’s falling apart, and that person will make the best of what she/he has and just kill it in terms of performance. The gear you have does not make you better or worse. This is not an endorsement for not owning the best gear that you can afford, but you absolutely need to be the best you can possibly be on the gear you own before you trade up and you really need a valid reason to be playing a certain piece of gear over another. It sounds so basic, but it’s amazing how many people miss that. As far as advice I should have taken – have a practice ritual. When I was young, I would practice sporadically – sometimes 5 hours + in a day and sometimes not for a week. Obviously this doesn’t work. You need a practice ritual in order to succeed and have measurable improvement in anything – from being able to play your own instrument well, to extending this same ritual to important tasks like booking shows and doing band promo and managing your band as a business.
Barry Mangione: I heard Chuck D. give a piece of advice recently, which was “Be the biggest fan of your biggest fan.” In the music industry today, it’s about finding your niche audience and supporting the fans who support you. There are plenty of artists out there now without record contracts who are touring and supporting themselves because of their intimate connections with their fans.
Greg Gilroy: LEARN YOUR CRAFT. Like my answer above, I think if you want to “succeed” in your art you have to stop giving it to 3rd parties to handle just because you don’t know how. I’ve seen time and time again in the years I’ve been doing this (myself included) where bands spend all this energy and money in a fancy recording studio or pressing thousands of physical CD’s because these companies are the “experts”, losing their shirts in the process and ending up with an album that is overproduced shit because the “expert” said it’s what you should do. Don’t be afraid to learn and be truly DIY. For a singer/songwriter for $40-50 you can download GarageBand, get an IRig to plug your mic and guitar, put it out on a site like BandCamp for nothing and you answer to nobody but yourself and the outside world.
15. This time in your career, as independent artists, which is the one factor you desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure etc.)?
Darrell Long: I think at this point, our production is at a level that we’re pretty happy with. I think our big focus will be increased exposure, particularly in the licensing arena. Licensing has really made some great artists that a lot of people would have otherwise missed and I think it’s the best vehicle to rise above the static.
Barry Mangione: I’d like to get more distribution and exposure. I think we’re happy with the fans we have, but ideally as an artist, you want to reach as many people as possible with your art.
Greg Gilroy: For us, it seems like getting noticed because there’s sooo much out there right now like I said earlier you are a pebble in a pond and it’s hard to stand out. You can do all this stuff and record the best album in the world, but if nobody knows about it, it just sits in cyberspace.
16. Which is your favorite distribution platform ( Tunecore, Audiolife, CD Baby, Bandcamp, Your own Website, etc.) and why?
Darrell Long: I definitely think it’s Bandcamp – It’s easy to use, looks great and is more than fair in terms of payout and the amount of free promo material. I will also say that Ditto Music was head and shoulders above TuneCore in my experience when it came to getting our new record distributed to all of the international Digital outlets, like iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc. I got to talk to a real person and when I had questions, they were answered very quickly. I had a small issue with the barcode for the record and it was rectified in hours, not days.
Barry Mangione: Bandcamp rocks. It’s easy for artists. It’s easy for fans, and it doesn’t try to screw either one.
Greg Gilroy: Hands down Bandcamp. It looks great, easy to use, links up all of your social media likes and tweets and you name your own price. Give it away or charge $100, there are no boundaries.
17. How do you handle criticism and who has been your worst critic up until now, if any?
Darrell Long: Criticism is essential and I would much prefer brutal honesty. When my friends say, “oh you were great,” it’s nice, but it’s not the same as friends or fans coming to me and saying hey – I really like this song, but tonight it just didn’t come across for this reason or that, or, if someone has listened to our recording and picks out a few things they wished they had heard and tells me about it – that is something I really prefer. My worst critic is always me – I will obsess over recordings until I get them to where I know they need to be and if I have an off night, live, I need a good ½ hour after getting off stage before I can talk to people who came to see us that night. I know I owed them something better.
Barry Mangione: If someone has something constructive to offer, I’ll listen intently, but if it’s just some asshole saying, “You suck” then there’s no point in listening. I accept criticism from people I respect, starting with the other guys in the band. We’re pretty good at telling each other what works & what doesn’t. I think we each try to be each other’s worst critic at times, so that we put out the best music possible.
Greg Gilroy: I tend to take it with a grain of salt. The reviews I’ve seen before this, it always seemed like the negative comments were people with a hidden agenda. Such as “oh this sounds like shit, you should of come to XYZ and use them”. That’s just some ass-clown trying to drum up business in a bully type way. I can’t honestly think of a critic that has really affected me personally. I think what’s worse are certain clubs or festival promoters (I don’t want to give them exposure) where they exclude you or ban you from opportunities to play to a larger audience because of their “star bellied sneetch” attitude. I remember being denied to play a local festival every year, even knowing the band I was in was selling 10X as much and were more popular than the other acts on the bill because we weren’t the shoe gazing flannel shirt wearing type like the rest. We almost rented a flatbed and played though the festival just to be assholes.
18. Is going platinum or winning a Grammy important you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
Darrell Long: NO. I just want to make good music, continue having fun and expand our reach. Awards and Platinum sellers are one in a million at best and are no measure of whether your music actually reached someone or not.
Barry Mangione: Ultimately, art is about expression. I’m going to keep doing this whether I sell a million records or just one. If we get accolades or awards, which are great, but how do you really judge art? How do say that one artist or band expressed themselves better than another? In 5 years, we’ll be making music. Whether we’ll be playing to a large audience isn’t important. If we continue to make good music that resonates with people, the audience will be there.
Greg Gilroy: Of course it would be awesome to sell millions of records, to be famous and win awards but at this point in my life I’d be happy being a big fish in a small pond, putting out our own material and playing gigs where lots of people are there for us, enjoying what we do then going to my home and being with my family at the end of the night.
19. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals?
Darrell Long: I think the biggest barrier is how easy it is to be an indie artist. You really have to make music at a consistently high level and never settle in anything that you produce, so that we can rise above all the mediocrity that an environment like this breeds.
Barry Mangione: Time and money. We all have families & commitments. The difficulty is finding the balance between doing what you love and doing what you have to do to pay the bills and take care of the people you love, all the while pursuing your dream.
Greg Gilroy: Exposure, exposure, exposure. It’s not enough to just play good music anymore you have to practically wear a mask or light yourself on fire to get noticed by anyone. I don’t blame anyone or anything I think I’m just as jaded as the next fellah. Last band I checked out and listened to recently that I didn’t know and the only reason I clicked the link on the tweet is because the girls in the band played a show topless and had NSFW pics. It took them showing their tits for me to look them up on I-Tunes.
20. If you were not a musician, what would you be doing today?
Darrell Long: As every actor has said, I really want to direct. By that I mean, if I’m not making music, I would have to be recording and producing it for other artists and I think I’m already on my way to doing that.
Barry Mangione: I’d like to be a motivational/inspirational speaker – something like a cross between Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra. I found my way back to true happiness after overcoming alcoholism and being suicidal. I’d like to share my experience and the tools I used to make it out of that darkness with people who could really use some inspiration.
Greg Gilroy: I would love to be involved in some aspect in the creative process whether it’s recording, coming up with album/image ideas or direction for other artists. Something like what Rick Rubin does where he can walk in and help new or even established artists in their vision and direction without touching a knob is really attractive to me as a creative person. He’s pulled out some of the best work from people like Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond to people like Metallica, Slipknot, Slayer and of course The Beastie Boys and Jay-Z at a time where they have already had a massive fanbase and made them better. Either that, or something involved in entertainment which I enjoy like horror movie FX/Makeup, film or even voiceover work cartoons or animation. I do a mean Squidworth.