Dirty Sweet

by Joshua Miller
June 2009

San Diego's Dirty Sweet

San Diego's Dirty Sweet

A spaghetti rock and roll western shoot ‘em up is in store for anyone who wanders to the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage opening night of Milwaukee’s Summerfest. Just as they created high energy and tension in the western shootout themed music video for their tune “Marionette,” California rockers DIRTY SWEET come guitars blazing with their take on rock and roll.

“Expect to be blown away with our show,” says Ryan Koontz, who handles lead vocals.

And just like old western shoot out there’s the intense parts and the calm, collective parts. In music, that’s translates to hard rock and bittersweet acoustic songs. Hence the band’s name.

“We wanted the name to be kind of a concept,” says Koontz. “We did the heavy rock stuff and then the soft acoustic stuff and we wanted a name that described both.”

Koontz is joined by guitarists Nathan Beale and Mark Murino, bass player Christian Schinelli, and drummer Chris Mendez-Vanacore. Only a month or two after forming in 2004, Koontz and Dirty Sweet exploded onto the California music scene thanks to a golden opportunity. Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World caught wind of their sound and sought out the band to support them on their tour.

“A month or two after we got together we got an e-mail from Jim from Jimmy Eat World and we did a short tour with them,” Koontz says. “We were lucky and fortunate to do have that happen. Although it’s pretty much between apples and oranges between the music we were making then and now.”

Things snowballed from there, with the band releasing an EP and two years ago releasing their debut album “…Of Monarchs and Beggars.” With the release of the album, they got the attention of many music critics, who compared them to the likes of the Black Crowes and 70s rockers.

“With the first album Of Monarchs and Beggars we recorded it once and it didn’t turn how we wanted it to,” Koontz says. “We went back in the studio by ourselves at Blue Roof Studios and our bass player [at the time] pretty much engineered it and we all produced it collectively.”

Koontz says that the band’s use of vintage instruments and equipment and their appreciation of music plays in part with their debut sounding like classic rock, suggesting that the band members have that “great classic tone.” Since that album’s release, the band has found their way around the country, with a recent performance at Bonnaroo being one of the highlights.

“It feels good to be doing festivals like Bonnaroo and Summerfest because we’ve worked really hard and deserve to be doing festivals like that,” Koontz says. “I think we should have been doing festivals like that two years ago but we hadn’t had the fortunate of being on a major label where we can get backing and the publicity to be put on festivals like that.”

Aiding to their cause to grow and be the greatest band in the world, the band hopes to release their second album “American Spiritual” soon. But they’re so exited about the project that concertgoers will get a sneak peak at their latest. The new album, engineered by a notable producer from the California area, sets the record straight that the band desires to be much more than classic rock revivalists.

“We have some many different influences that it’s really hard to put it in a category,” says Koontz. “Sometimes we get pigeonholed as a classic rock or blues rock sounding band but I just think that’s the result of the last album. We kind have found our writing style or sound with this new one, which I would say is a lot more contemporary.”

Koontz says that the band desires to create a vibe and feel to each song on the album, and suggests this new album plays like a person’s favorite playlist on shuffle. No two songs sound the same, providing the listener with a journey of some expected and unexpected twists and showcases the band’s organic chemistry.

The same goes with lyrics. Instead of making an atypical rock and roll album this time around, the band decided to put some more thought into the lyrics.

“We wanted to talk about cultural issues and things that we think should be thought about a little bit more instead of just making the traditional rock song for the average bonehead,” says Koontz. “We like good party music but on this new album we thought we should have something more substantial and in the minds of people who care.”

The band knows that even though they might not all agree on what songs to include, at the end it comes down to doing what’s best for the song.

“There’s always going to be differences of opinions but you just do what’s best for the song whatever it might be,” says Koontz. “If it’s mixing the song because it’s better for the album than that always has to be an option and even if you love the song you can always record it and put it on something else.”

Besides working on getting the new album out, the band plans to take many of the acoustic songs they have lying around and put them on an exclusive acoustic album. Koontz said these songs have a special quality different from their regular material.

“It’s a lot more bare bones and raw, almost demo styled and used some experimental recording methods for that,” says Koontz.

The band’s goal each show is to send off each person off astonished with what they witnessed and heard at their shows. The crowd, Koontz says, fuels the band’s passion to play.

“We leave it all on the stage every time we play,” says Koontz. “Even if it’s only for ten people in the middle of nowhere we’ll play as hard as we did the night before in front of two thousand people. People come up to me and tell me “You guys are the best live band I’ve seen in ten years in rock and roll” or ever sometimes. These are people seeing us for the first time.”


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