Locals Only: : The Dandybeards

Duo turns a friend's tragic death into a reason for hope

At times I've been told that I appear unapproachable, intense or aloof. I'd rather study a piano in a restaurant first, then eat. I have another term for it: introverted.

I might "stare off" during conversations, appearing to be thinking deeply, when in reality I'm just taking a break. Upon meeting Mandy Stout (vocals, keys, omnichord, percussion) and Dan Ashbridge (vocals, guitar, bass, keys, drums, banjo) of The Dandybeards, I felt they understood. Mutual shyness brought them together.

Meeting at Ohio University, they genuinely admired each other from afar but had a rough start.

"We're both incredibly shy, but we were intimidated by each other," Ashbridge explains.

They never talked until one day when Stout, Ashbridge and some friends were meeting for a movie. The two arrived first.

Ashbridge laughs.

"We stood there awkwardly until everyone else showed up," she remembers.

Then their first "date" involved hanging out in Ashbridge's studio side-by-side for 10 hours, when the two produced and recorded one of his songs for her class assignment. After that, sparks. In 2004, Stout set up home base in Northside. Soon after, Ashbridge (and his instruments/equipment) moved in with her.

Both agree that The Dandybeards dig '60s girl groups such as the Shirelles and the Shangri-Las. But from there their interests wander, crawling around for more juice. From '70s acoustic writers to '80s New Wave to '90s Indie Rock, they suck it all in, admiring Arcade Fire, Pavement and The Kinks, to name a few.

Stout adds, "Being in Athens (Ohio), we were influenced by Folk and Bluegrass, too."

According to Ashbridge, Athens open mics were frequented by "old grizzled mountain men." He says, "It's relatively easy to impress hipsters but not so easy to impress mountain men."

Lean and scruffy, Ashbridge sports a red T-shirt reading, "Coke Is It." Beginning with guitar at 16, Ashbridge played in many bands, eventually scoring an 8-track recorder, moving on from there. He learned and played all instruments himself "out of shyness," releasing a solo CD in 2003.

Grinning, he says, "I'm an avid collector of really strange keyboards and synthesizers."

An audio production major, Stout wears a simple, shiny silver disc around her neck. Around her wrist, a thick, lime green bracelet. She appears wholesome, naturally pretty and positive, with glowy skin and pixie-short brown hair. A college DJ and an avid vinyl collector, Stout just started playing last year.

When friend Conrad Dillon put together a benefit CD for a Dayton homeless shelter, The Dandybeards wrote "Murder Most Merry," a catchy tune with concrete, well-written lyrics that attack opposites through dark words mixed with a lighter sound.

When their third roommate, artist Kari Rosenberg, tragically died in a car accident in August 2005, the painful event gave The Dandybeards the drive to finish their first full-length CD. Next, they organized a 2006 benefit show on Rosenberg's birthday, raising money to create a scholarship in her name.

The Dandybeards Meet Ghost Bear was released on the Brooklyn-based Agriculture Records label in September 2006.

"The record dealt with death a lot, but some of it still felt like Pop," Stout says. "The irony was that we were starting a new life together and at the same time we'd lost someone close to us."

Ashbridge adds, "At the same time horrible stuff was going on, I was getting my shit together. I'd rather write a song about something negative, but one that makes me feel happy."

Recently, the two came across the curious omnichord (an electric auto harp made in the '80s), and Stout will play it on the new record they plan to finish this summer.

"Once the June shows are done," Ashbridge says, "I'm looking forward to recording."

Then all three of us quietly leave, sharing an understanding of the mistaken intimidation that comes with being an introvert. And sharing an appreciation for the secret, gorgeous inner world.

THE DANDYBEARDS (myspace.com/thedandybeards) play the Southgate House's Lounge every Wednesday in June.