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10 Questions with | Dominy

Dominy is a five piece indie band based in Philadelphia. Formed in 2016 by frontman and guitarist John Dominy along with his brother and key player Alex Dominy, the band’s current line up included Zak Ianitelli on drums, Brandon Porter on bass, and Turquoise Cobb on vocals and percussion. Dominy’s debut 2017 album ‘Wet Leather’ received praise for its authentic throwback 70’s rock sound, combining the swagger and attitude of bands like the Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones with a healthy dose of classic country and Americana stylings. The band continued to tour and developed a reputation for its rowdy and irreverent stage shows, and landed open spots with nationally touring acts including Orville Peck and Los Bandoleros. The band released a follow up EP ‘Dry Pleather’ in July of 2017, along with another full length ‘Drugstore Cowboy’ in May of 2018.  Forced to take a break from tour, Dominy turned inward and began work on their upcoming record, ‘Titans of True Love’. Their new single, ‘Here or L.A’ is the second single to be released off this upcoming record, and is a bridge between Dominy’s earlier, grittier sound and the newer, refined sonic palette of ‘Titans of True Love’. Indie Boulevard managed to connect with the band's frontman John Dominy, and learn more about the band's creative path, the new album and much more.

IB: Hello John. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and tell us more about your music. Let us go back in time a little bit. Do you remember the day you decided to start your own rock band?

JOHN: It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment… The first music that I released was back in 2016 as a studio project under my own full name, John Dominy, and I didn’t initially have any plans to perform the songs live or tour. But I soon changed my thoughts on this and got together a full band. I wanted to move away from being known as a singer-songwriter and more towards a collaborative full band, so the compromise we arrived at was to change the name from ‘John Dominy’ to just ‘Dominy’. This shift came from a realization that playing live was not only fun, but an integral part of promotion and networking with other artists.

IB: The debut album "Wet Leather" was released in 2017. How do you feel about that album now? Would you like to change something about it after a while?

JOHN: I still love our debut record, probably more now than when we put it out. Even as the kind of music we make has evolved, I still feel proud of how fully we captured the sound we had set out to. I was on a huge Rolling Stones and Neil Young kick back then, and the roughness of ‘Wet Leather’ was intentionally trying to capture that 70’s rock swagger and looseness. I wouldn’t change a thing about it, and although I wouldn’t want to make a record like that again today, I think it was a wonderful snapshot of where we were as a band during its production.

IB: At the moment you are working on a new album "Titans of True Love". The debut was highly praised, your second album "Drugstore Cowboy" also received positive reviews. Are you currently under pressure to record the next album? After all, the fans have high hopes for it.

JOHN: We actually just wrapped up production on ‘Titans of True Love’! We received the final masters and are working hard to arrange all of the other details involved with the release. During the writing and recording of our new record, the only pressure we felt was the pressure we placed on ourselves. Most of the work was done during the middle of the pandemic. We didn’t want to release it until touring was back up, so there wasn’t any external pressure or deadline. We allowed ourselves to spend as much time getting everything sounding exactly how we wanted. We decided to be as ambitious and indulgent with the production as possible, and the only pressure we faced was the pressure of making sure every detail of the record was spot on. Sometimes when facing a deadline, it is easier to accept ‘good enough’ and be able to live with it. But given how much time we had to craft ‘Titans of True Love’, we pushed ourselves to create as perfect of a record as we felt that we could. 

IB: Your music has fragments from a variety of things. The new single "Here or L.A." sounds like a mixture of the 70s, Americana, in general it is a very light sound. Tell us about this song.

JOHN: Funny enough, “Here or L.A.” is the sole survivor from a batch of songs we recorded back in 2019. We were initially going to move more towards an Americana sound with the next record, but shifted gears creatively during the pandemic and ended up mostly starting over. “Here or L.A.” is the last vestige of that period, and sounds much more like our first two albums than the rest of the upcoming record. At the time, I was enamored with the Rolling Stones record ‘Exile on Main Street’, and we drew inspiration from their classic hit “Sweet Virginia”. I was trying to find a sound that was based around the acoustic guitar, but still felt big and energetic. We also stuck to mostly organic sounds in the song, with saxophone, percussion, and raw gang vocals, as opposed to the rest of our new record which has more synths and a layered atmospheric production. 

IB: Why Los Angeles, what are your special memories that you associate with this city?

JOHN: Funny enough, “Here or L.A.”  wasn’t originally about Los Angeles. The song was inspired by an ex-girlfriend of mine who ended our relationship after she took a trip to California. One of the reasons she gave was that she thought she might want to move to San Diego and felt constrained in our relationship. When I sat down to write the song, I found it difficult to work in “San Diego”, and “L.A.” just seemed to flow so much better so I went with that. So no special relationship with Los Angeles, just an example of artistic discretion. 

IB: What is the most rewarding part of your work right now? When you compare different aspects: writing songs, promoting, participating in concerts, what brings you the most benefit? JOHN: I’d say that I most enjoy being holed up in our studio focusing on production. As much as I love writing songs, the studio is where I get to see my vision take shape. I find that incredibly gratifying. I love experimenting with arrangements, layer parts and vocals, and just learning about the ins and outs of how to capture different sounds. It’s the one part of the process that never feels like work. As much as I love playing shows, there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes and so many moving pieces to consider. In contrast, working in the studio has never felt stressful or laborious to me. It really just feels like I’m a kid again, monkeying around and playing with sonic legos.

IB: It has always been a mystery to me how the tour is organized. Do you look for concerts yourself or do you have a tour manager? How does that work, the organization of the tour?

JOHN: For a regional act like us, generally the norm is to set up our own tours. We have a big network of contacts and work hard to piece together solid shows for tour. Tour managers usually come into the picture on the next rung up the industry ladder, once an act is more nationally established. The goal for a band our size is to get brought on tour as an opener for a larger band, and then after that start headlining our own larger tours. Until then, we’ll keep hustling together shorter and more sustainable regional tours. 

IB: New singles, a new album, when can we expect a tour and where can your fans see you? JOHN: We are currently hard at work on a few short runs for this spring and summer! We probably won’t make it our west unfortunately, but if you’re on the east coast there’s a good chance you can catch us live. We’re excited to announce dates once everything is set!

IB: As a songwriter, what is your most productive state?

JOHN: Songwriting is a mystery honestly, and I’ve never been able to suss out why and when I feel inspired. The best I can do is recognize when I feel that little bolt of creativity and simply ride it. It’s like surfing. I can’t control the waves, but I can learn to anticipate and ride them. Sometimes I find myself being productive at inopportune moments, like when I really ought to be working on something else. Every other part of the process, from editing and recording and production, is something I can force myself to do. Those tasks are more methodical, more like something I can put my head down on and muscle through. But that initial spark of creation? That part simply cannot be forced. All I can do is answer that creativity phone when it rings in my head and go from there.

IB: And the last question. Can you name the most valuable moments when you wrote a song or played a show, the moment when you feel "yeah, damn it, this is as good as ever".

JOHN: I remember we played a show on tour in Richmond, Virginia, back in 2019, and it was one of the first times we noticed the crowd singing along to one of our songs. I believe it was our track “Leather Jacket Song”. To hear people that I didn’t know personally sing along to our song for the first time gave me goosebumps… It was magical to think that an idea that came from my head would ever make it to and find a home in someone else’s head… Since then I’ve gotten somewhat used to it, but that first time definitely sticks with me!

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