[Interview] Dendrites [GR]

Dendrites band photo
Just a few days before their live appearance alongside Nightstalker in Lefkada (25 February 2017) we had the chance to talk with "Dendrites"
So we present you this interview....
1. Hello and welcome to Downtuned. First of all, give us some info about the band's background just to let people know you better.
Thank you very much for hosting our interview guys, and a huge personal “thank you” goes out to Sotos for his immense support and impeccable communication from day one. To introduce ourselves: Hey everyone! We are Dendrites, a 4-piece from Volos Greece, and we 'd be happy if you placed our September 2016 debut album on the shelf or in the folder where your keep your southern stoner groovy tunes. In a nutshell, Dendrites started in 2013 when our guitarist and singer Thanasis (ex-Rafferty Rules) decided to start a new band after the demise of his previous one. Soon, Alekos (ex-Die Without) joined in as the band's bass player and Dimitris (ex-Project, Volos Jazz Orchestra) stepped in as our drummer. After a few short-lived line-up changes, Giorgos came along on guitars in 2015. While rehearsing as a 4-piece during the summer, we finalized the vocal recordings for the album and we released it through our official Bandcamp page in September 2016. Right after that, we played a full-house show in a local legendary rock venue in October, and we produced and released our first videoclip for the song “Whiskey Preachin' Motherfucker” through our official Youtube channel. In December 2016, we co-organized our first big concert in our hometown, where we invited and opened for Tardive Dyskinesia and Potergeist. This same month, we did a couple more shows in Thessaloniki (Eightball Club) and Larissa (Larissa Sports Center), with Potergeist, Sober on Tuxedos, In a Testube, and Minorfase. In January 2017, we were chosen to open for an amazing sold-out show with 1000 Mods and Hidden in the Basement. A few days ago, in February 2017, we played a show at our local motorcycle club Argoriders Hellas together with Minorfase, and this Friday the 25th we will be opening for the mighty Nightstalker in Milos Beach Club, in Lefkada. Excited as we are about this upcoming challenge, the above pretty much covers what Dendrites have been up to during the past 3-4 years.

2. How would you describe your music to someone who doesn't know you yet? Is that the style that defines "Dendrites" or there's room for experimentation in the future?
Well, labeling a band's musical style, even if it's your own band that you 're talking about, is always tricky, isn't it? We mean, there's always this need to identify yourself and fit in to a specific genre, so that the people know where to look for you, record stores know in which department does your album go to, and the media knows if you belong to the themes that they cover or not. To be honest with you, what we play sounds quite 'southernish' to us, there are definitely some stoner rock elements in it, along with some groovy metal influences. But there's also a lot of '90s influences in it, coming from bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, and we definitely feel that our music radiates our love for bands like Black Sabbath, Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch, Down, to name but a few. So, to answer both of your questions in one go, our music is always open to experimentation and we have never been afraid to incorporate elements from musical styles that we like, for fear that they won't fit with the genre and all. We mean, why paint with a single color, when you can actually use a whole canvas? That said, someone who doesn't know us yet is more than welcome to listen to our music and we 're happy with any description that he/she comes up with. All we care about is people listening to our music and having a good time to it.

3. Did the members of the band participate in other projects or bands in the past and what kind of music did they play?

Dendrites live photoOur guitarist and singer, Thanasis, was a founding member and the bassist of the band Rafferty Rules for like 15 years until their final break-up 4-5 years ago. They played a crossover style, influenced by the likes of Pantera, Machine Head, The Haunted, early Meshuggah. They had quite a good run in the Greek underground scene, their "Name Your God" album was released worldwide through RoutburstR Productions and they shared the stage with bands like Exodus, The Haunted, Stampin' Ground, Tankard, Less Than Human, Septic Flesh, Born from Pain, Psycho Choke, Homo Iratus, Hidden in the Basement, Karma Violens and many many more amazing bands over the years. They were also booked for a show with Sepultura but this one never happened due to the show's producer canceling the venue. Alekos, our bassist, he was – again – a bassist and founding member of the band Die Without. Back in the day, their second release "The Final War has Already Begun" got them a distribution deal with the Bulgarian Troskot Records and it actually did quite well in the underground hardcore scene. They shared the stage with bands like Hatebreed, Pro-Pain, Terror, Madball, Comeback Kid, Death Before Dishonor, Your Demise, H2O, Romeo Must Die, as well as Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh. Dimitris, our drummer, was a founding member of Project, perhaps one of the first progressive fusion bands in the local scene of Volos. He has ever since been a member of numerous music projects and he is currently the drummer of Volos Jazz Orchestra as well, playing together with a number of excellent local musicians. Our guitarist Giorgos, on the other hand, has never really had any likewise experience before joining Dendrites. He was always around, everybody knew him as a good all-around metal and rock guitarist but it just simply didn't happen for him before. But we are happy that he is on board and we got a few shows coming up, so we guess you can say that Giorgos has always been a Dendrite.

4. I know that "Dendrites" is a Greek word that describes the branched projections of the neurons. How did you come up with the name "Dendrites"?
Well, we usually respond to this question with an elaborate explanation of how dendrites as part of the neurons transfer electrochemical reactions to the cell body and they then create pathways that control one's bodily functions, emotions and movement. But the honest and boring truth is that none of us had a clue about stuff like that until Thanasis' wife, Sofia, read an article on it and she brought it up to him. As a band we have some sort of a "tradition" to go out after each rehearsal for a couple of beers and talk about band stuff, our families, normal things. So I guess it was during one of those beer sessions that Thanasis dropped the name on the table among several empty beer cans, we liked the sound of it, and we kept it.

5. How easy or difficult was for you to make your first steps as a band? Was it easy to find an audience for your music?
Regardless of our backgrounds -whatever those may be- with bands that we were previously involved in, it's never easy to start a new band from scratch. During his time with Rafferty Rules, say something like 7-8 years ago, Thanasis had already been working on some tunes at home for his personal pleasure, and he had actually crafted some really good songs that were collecting 'digital' dust in a folder in his PC (one of which – 'Peace of Mind' – actually managed to find its way into our debut album). People do say that "where there's a will, there's a way", but it wasn't easy for him to transform an idea in his head into a real act that will be sharing the stage with Nightstalker in a few days. Sometimes it's very hard to find like-minded individuals whose taste of music matches yours, people that you can communicate with, not only during rehearsals but also outside the studio. And especially when your search and options are limited within the boundaries of a very small town like Volos, putting together Dendrites as the band that it is today, was the most difficult thing of them all. On top of that, a great number of people that we used to know from all over Greece through our times with our previous bands -people that we could rely upon to book us a concert, play together, that sort of stuff- are no longer there any more, some left, some quit, some grown older, started families, some don't even know yet who Dendrites are. Rehearsal spaces have dwindled a lot due to financial difficulties and even the audience itself has changed a lot ever since, to the point where we don't know how relevant would the music of our previous bands be for today's listeners and show-goers, regardless of how good we played or not. Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, we all felt that Dendrites was precisely what we wanted to do ever since we shared our first beers together. The songs were good, we thought it would be fun to play together and we never really thought if there's an audience for us out there. The fact that we actually do have an album out today, and that we are playing shows all over Greece to promote it, is a very pleasant outcome for us and we are grateful for every moment of it.

6. What were the biggest difficulties that you encountered in producing and releasing your debut album? Are those difficulties going to affect the way you'll handle things in a future release?
Dendrites cover artUnless there's a dramatic change of things and we get signed for our next album to a big record label that gives us both the time and the money to do this in a much more professional way as it should be done, then we guess that we 'll just have to copy paste this answer to a future question in a future interview for our second album (hahaha)! We don't think that we've faced any unique difficulties other than making up time and finding the money to do this. Perhaps one unforeseen turn of events that delayed the release of the album was the fact that Chris (ex-Rafferty Rules, and our previous singer) had to step down from the band due to working obligations. Thus while mid-way through the recordings of the vocals, we had to re-work lyrics and vocal melodies from scratch to match the tone and singing style of Thanasis. All this meant additional work and costly rehearsals, and although all recording sessions were being done in the home studio of Thanasis (except for the drums), we had to invent time by "stealing" it from our day jobs and families. In all, we 're very proud of this album as it took lots of hard work to complete but we can't help thinking sometimes what would it sound like, had we been able to afford the professional services of a fully equipped recording studio and a qualified sound engineer. Yet at the same time, it was a tremendous experience for us to produce our first full-length record on our own and we are confident that our next release will be even better, one way or another.

7. Almost six months have passed since your debut album release. What feedback have you received so far?

Well, the vast majority of reviews that we've received so far are very positive, and it seems people are actually enjoying themselves listening to our album before they write about it, which is good stuff. We got a very good review from a webzine in the United States, another guy from Poland recently made a video review for our album in his Youtube show, and we 're waiting for several reviews to arrive from Germany and France. Within Greece, the feedback we've received so far from interested and like-minded media has been most welcoming and surprisingly good at times. For this, we cannot possibly thank you all enough, but we can say that it does give us a lot of courage as a band to know that there are people out there like the team of Downtuners who are whole-heartedly into the business of exposing you good people to the unholy charms of bands like ourselves (hahaha)! Seriously though, the most important thing of it all is when people who come to our concerts, they come to talk to us afterwards and they just want to grab a beer and chat about music, about the show, the band. Surely, this is part of the feedback that we cannot possibly 'post' for you guys to either 'comment, share, or like', but we strongly feel that this is what we actually signed up for when we decided to start Dendrites.

8. What were the main reasons and influences that made you adopt this music style?
It wasn't really a conscious choice or something, we didn't actually try to intentionally adopt a specific music style. It just so happened that Thanasis already had several songs recorded as demos which he played to us, and all of us thought that they sounded really good. So, we thought it would be worth to book some rehearsal time, get together and start working on them. We ended up keeping the songs or parts that we liked and we dropped or changed those that weren't working for us as a band. Even though the main musical direction for the band's sound was practically already in place by Thanasis, everyone of us chipped in ideas, and the end result that you hear in the album would have been entirely different, had there been different people involved in the band. The funny thing is that all of us come from entirely different musical backgrounds, but it was probably the fact that we did hear something special in those tunes that made us all think: "Hey wait, those songs sound really good! This could actually be our sound as it is, this sounds like Dendrites."

9. How does the whole songwriting process work for you? What are the emotions you want people to receive when they hear your music?

It would be naive on our behalf, unfair to our music and disrespectful to those people who honor us by listening to our songs, if we believed for a single moment that we have such a power of dictating emotions to them. In fact, we don't think any band has such a power, regardless how influential and diachronic they may actually be, or think they are. A songwriter crafts melodies and pens down lyrics to create songs that express his/her state of mind at the moment, or reflect some of his past experiences and future aspirations. Ideally, in our point of view, writing songs should never be about trying to make people who listen to your songs to feel like you, but instead to feel you, to get to know what's in your heart. Putting your heart into your songs is always the most difficult part of the process, in fact, even more difficult than any of the technicalities you might face while recording it, like what type of amp goes with what song and how to produce this one or the other. Not that such things are not important, they are. Take for example the song "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails. Reznor's composition is brilliant and his arrangement serves the song to convey a sea of emotions to his audience. Then look at Johnny Cash's bare-naked rendition of it, done with one guitar and a bone-crushing vocal interpretation. The same song comes out as if re-written, taken to a whole new level, speaking to different audiences in different ways, conveying all kinds of emotions because the song is good. And this is probably the biggest aspiration and fear of musicians and bands, to know that their songs are actually good so that they can develop a connection with their audience. So when we write songs as Dendrites, we never intend to create any emotions for the people that will listen to them. All we hope to achieve one day is that people will just listen and feel us.

10. During a gig, is the communication with the crowd important for you? Does the positive feedback from the crowd motivate you to perform with more passion?

Well, if you think of all gigs as essentially parties (as in, celebrations of music) where people show up to have a good time, then you, who's up there on the stage and you're actually hosting it, you reallyDendrites live photowant to see people dancing, grooving, enjoying themselves. We don't think there's a single band on the planet that would answer this question any different. Regardless if you go to a Napalm Death show, or a Muse show, people are dancing. It's just different types of dance. So, just like every other band, regardless how big or small, we as well love it when we see the crowd responding to our music. It's just like fuel in our engines that makes us want to go the extra mile, put on an even better show, and break through this invisible band-audience wall that stands between us. From our side of the wall, we always make sure to pound and kick as hard as we can to tear it down so that we make a direct connection with our audience, but we guess it's always so much easier when the damn thing starts to take some blows from the other side. That's when you know that you've got yourself a party started!

11. Are there any "special" bands that you dream to share the stage with?

That's a tough one (Hahaha)! If you were to ask each one of us as individuals, you 'd get answers like Jethro Tull and Toto by Dimitris, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains by Thanasis, In Flames and Machine Head by Giorgos, and... wait, Alekos has already shared the stage with some of his "special bands' like Hatebreed, Terror and Madball! Yet, to answer this as a band, we guess the safest common ground to place your bets on would be any band in the spectrum between Clutch and Tool. But then again, even this answer would be a lie, as we truly believe that every band that we share the stage with is unique and we make sure to treat all of our concerts as once-in-a-lifetime experiences. So, the most "special" band for us is probably just a band that we still haven't shared the stage with.

12. How do you imagine "Dendrites" in 2027?
We always plan ahead but never that far ahead. Especially the way things are in Greece nowadays, it's really difficult to know what the future brings. Our philosophy is to take small solid steps forward, one at a time. Of course, we will be super happy if the band is still around for the next 10 years, as we've got a lot more music in our heads that we want to record, there's a lot of venues to play to, a lot of new people to meet and have a good time with. It'll be great for us to be around by 2027, but really, who knows?

13. What are your plans for this year? Is it a priority for you to try and participate in gigs outside your country?

Dendrites live photoPlaying shows abroad is always appealing as an idea, and we'll definitely chase any opportunity that comes our way to materialize it. However, we cannot really say that this a priority for us for the time being, as we feel the local scenes in Greece are very vibrant, they grow stronger by the day, and there are a lot of places within our country that we still need to bring our music to. We've got the show with Nightstalker in Lefkada coming right up in a few days, and we've booked a couple more concerts that we sadly cannot announce as of yet. There are several music festivals during the summer and we are in discussions about securing a slot in some of those. So, we guess the answer to your question on any Dendrites gigs outside the country is definitely not a 'no", but being realistic, we really have to say "not now".

14. We wish you good luck to whatever you do in the future, the epilogue is yours...

From our part, we wish to thank you guys in Downtuned Magazine for this interview opportunity, as well as for the professional and friendly communication and support to this day. Our debut album is out there and we feel it's really worth giving it a spin, if you feel like it. You can listen/download it for free through our official Bandcamp page, and drop us a line on Facebook to let us know what you think. Thank you all very much for reading this interview, and see you guys all on the road!!

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