Locals Only: : Dorsie

Diverse backgrounds -- and a David Lynch affinity -- converge in the form of a new Cincinnati band

Jun 20, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Tim Taylor. Miami University. CCM. The Beach Waterpark. Pentecostal snakes. Mulholland Drive. 97X. Two babies born in 1973, on the same day, at the same Middletown hospital. Somewhere between these people, places, quirks and events, lies the story of Dorsie.

It's the archetypal Cincinnati tale, beginning with the idea that somewhere in the Tristate mix of intertwining fates and former high school friends, four very different men who never really tried to come together and form a band somehow would.

Dorsie, a relatively new Cincinnati band, is like other area groups in most respects: Pop/Rock, with a grunge edge and evident influences from The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, early L.A. Punk and R.E.M. But it's the journey that brought Dorsie to this point, and to the Cincinnati music scene, that's different.

About a year ago, guitarist Dan Cromer called singer Dorsie Fyffe and asked if he'd like to get together to just play music. The two met while working as DJs for 97X and Fyffe was singing and writing songs with the Dayton-based band Johnny Smoke. Around 1996, Cromer departed for San Francisco. From 1995 to 2001, Fyffe and Cromer barely kept in touch. Then last year, Fyffe got a phone call. Cromer had journeyed West, and returned to Cincinnati.

"It was just weird because when Dan called me, I was sitting around bummed out because I had left Johnny Smoke, left my girlfriend, had a shitty job," Fyffe says. "Then I quit my shitty job, was unemployed for a while, and that's when the songs started floating around in my head. Dan's call was a weird sign that things might get better, that there's a reason for everything that's happened."

So Cromer, Fyffe and Cromer's friend, Jason Poe, started getting together to play whatever they felt like playing, once or twice a month. In addition to a love for Neil Young tunes, Cromer and Fyffe had something more in common: For both, a move to Cincinnati kick-started a new phase of their lives. Fyffe had been living in Dayton, and his roommate at the time was Tim Taylor, singer and songwriter for Indie Rock legends Brainiac.

"My roommate, Tim Taylor, was killed; he was killed right down the street from where I lived," Fyffe says. "I felt like I needed to get away. That's the reason I came down here."

Meanwhile, future Dorsie drummer Poe, who met Cromer one high school summer at the Beach Waterpark, was on his own journey. He worked in San Diego for a while, then returned to Cincinnati. Cromer called him one night, to ask if he'd like to play music. Fyffe was recruited to the jam sessions, held in Cromer's apartment and played out on electric and acoustic guitars, a Baldwin upright piano, and whatever else made interesting noises. Then bassist Matt Human joined in. Human attended Miami University with Cromer and Poe, and had recently bumped into Cromer on U.C.'s campus.

Oh, and Human and Poe were born in 1973, at the same hospital, in Middletown, Ohio.

From these events, and the ensuing jam sessions, came the band Dorsie. Songwriting, like their history, is a collaborative project full of twists and turns. Fyffe, Cromer, Poe and Human all bring songwriting ideas and skills to the table.

"I don't play an instrument, I only hear music in my head," says Fyffe. "My name may be on the product, but these guys are just as much a part of it as I am."

Amongst the band's current work is a song inspired by the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. Each band members' influences, much like a David Lynch movie, are random and far reaching. Fyffe's father is a Pentecostal minister, and his influence can be seen in Fyffe's yearn to entrance the masses.

"I'm inspired by seeing my father preach, because when I was a kid it was so bizarre. He's totally putting on a show up there, that's what so many religions do," Fyffe says. "It's pretty whack, but it's kind of Pentecostal. The snakes — they're not that far gone. They're into beehives and that sort of thing."

Fyffe's first live gig fronting the band Dorsie was at York Street Café in Newport, opening for Snake Punching Contest. While the band rarely plays out, it's not due to a lack of interest, but more a result of the band members' busy schedules, and the nature of Cincinnati's music scene, which is both inclusive and exclusive.

"We would be willing to play with just about anybody in town," Fyffe says. "Just because we're not hanging out in a clique, or going to after-hours parties after shows, doesn't mean we aren't doing exactly what other bands are doing. I have no problem playing with anybody, but I'm not going to walk around kissing everybody's ass just to get a show."

The members of Dorsie are hopeful that Cincinnati will continue to evolve and become even more supportive of original music.

"A lot of times you go see bands and there's this pretension there," Poe says. "But when I play drums I don't care what I look like, don't care what I'm wearing, I just want to play. And that's what it's about for us."

"Don't you think it would be kinda nice if everyone just quit taking themselves so damn seriously?" Fyffe asks. "It's just music."

DORSIE plays at The Comet on June 21 with Snake Punching Contest.