onventional wisdom would tell you that The Dopamines did everything they could to guarantee their descent into oblivion. Tour the country without a big, local following? Check. Create a band with goals that didn’t go past hanging out with friends? You bet. Recording an album simply for the hell of it? Of course.
But the Cincinnati-based trio doesn’t seem to mind. They’re too busy celebrating their fifth anniversary and closing out the Ballroom at the Southgate House’s sold-out New Year’s Eve show. It seems like their Punk Rock, laissez-faire attitude worked out pretty well after all.
The trio, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Jon Lewis, bassist Jon Weiner and drummer Michael Dickson, started out with a simple goal.
“Free beer,” according to Weiner.
“We kind of started off as a party band and I guess we kind of still are. We just took everything one step at a time. Even down to our first tour, we never planned on it being as serious as it became,” Weiner says.
The boys never had a grand vision for the band’s direction, which was perhaps their best decision, as it allowed The Dopamines to remain agile and take full advantage of many big opportunities provided to them.
During the band’s five years, the Pop Punk trio has traveled to Hawaii, played with Less Than Jake in New York City, cut several albums and crisscrossed the U.S.
“Every once and a while, we’d meet some person who would offer (an opportunity) or be a catalyst who’d push it further with really big opportunities. It took capitalizing on that lucky moment, meeting the right person who actually liked our shit and who gave it to other people who liked our shit,” Lewis says.
But that’s not to say The Dopamines were handed their success on a silver platter. In fact, after five years, the band members are still working to pay off debts from their early road warrior days.
Talking to Weiner and Lewis will make you a believer of their carefully orchestrated ability to not give a damn. The guitarist and bassist are intensely passionate about their art and their band. But they’ve honed their ability to let things take their course, jumping on opportunities when they’re the best for the band.
Lewis is the most vocal, spitting out quotes that make any journalist want to hug his voice recorder with joy. Meanwhile, Weiner sits back, interjecting laughs all along the way, which makes the moments he gets serious all the more impactful. Neither man thought The Dopamines would last five years (they answered that question instantly and in unison), but considering their continued success, they’ve begun to refine the band’s modus operandi, but not fix anything that isn’t broken.
In the beginning, the music was the only part of the band that was focused on intently.
“Music-wise, it was to just write whatever we wanted, however we wanted it. The only thing we took seriously was the material. That was the only thing that was taken seriously or had any goals,” Lewis says.
This plan hasn’t changed, only expanded. With five years of recording, playing and touring under their belts, The Dopamines feel like they’ve earned the right to experiment and pull from more varied influences. In doing so, they’ve been able to “put our own stamp on what could be considered Midwest Pop Punk,” Lewis says.
While their music has evolved, the boys still view The Dopamines mainly “as a vessel to see these things cheaper or free,” Lewis says. Once again, The Dopamines are focused on what’s next (like touring in Japan and Australia), but not killing themselves to get there. Instead, they emphasize their music and taking the touring, recording and playing one step at a time.
After five years, The Dopamines have learned that putting hard work into one area will open doors in others.
“That’s the key,” Weiner says. “If you want to be in a band for a long time, don’t give a shit.”
THE DOPAMINES (thedopamines.net) headline the final show of the current Southgate House era on New Year’s Eve.