Described as ‘ridiculous – in the best way possible’ by Pitchfork and having been carried on a whirlwind of hype off the back of their single Living In America through an intense series of SXSW shows, the band rocking out for the likes of Pitchfork, SPIN, Fader Fort, Urban Outfitters, Vice and Mess With Texas, you’d expect Dominic, frontman and songwriter behind the band DOM (who refuses to reveal his last name out of fear of being tracked down by debtors to whom he apparently owes a large sum of money), to be somewhat gull of himself. Well I did at least, and what I got instead when I spoke to him last week on the day of his show as part of Vivid Festival was a rather open and honest young man, seemingly undecided yet unconcerned about his future path in the music industry.
With a lot bands that get the same level of hype treatment as DOM ending up desperately clamouring for the attention of the fickle indie market a few years and mediocre albums down the track, Dominic himself, while aware of the danger of getting chewed up by the hype machine, would rather just focus on the small satisfaction of songwriting, as well as not having to work mind numbing and soul crushing day jobs to survive. Free from the vicissitudes of day to day life as a cog in the social machine, Dominc speaks to me about the band’s origins as well as his love of film and early attempts at screenwriting.
Music Feeds: So, to quote the press release, you’ve come out of nowhere; what’s it been like breaking through so quickly?
DOM: It’s been great actually. I don’t really have to have that day to day stress of going to temp agencies and trying to find a job or failing at selling drugs or electronic equipment to get by, so that’s great. It’s also great to have some more respect, but things haven’t really changed that much, but they have changed for the better.
MF: Great, your meteoric rise to one side though, I’m assuming that this was hardly your first foray into music; how did you start out?
D: I pretty much just goofed around in Audacity, and Acid Pro or Fruity Loops and I’d make like commercial jingles to just amuse myself.
MF: Cool, I also read that part of the reason why you’ve called the band DOM is that you refuse to reveal your last name due to owing a lot of money to various people. Was it a struggle before the success of the band?
D: I mean, like, I did accumulate a bit of debt, I really didn’t want to you know, I don’t like owing people money, but it’s just something that happens. I tried to pay back what I could to the people that I cared about, but there are a lot of boarding houses that I lived in and collection agencies from various different cell phone companies, just stupid shit like that, you know, like college. I tried to go and it didn’t work out, but I really don’t think I should have to pay for that.
MF: So how are things going now are you making enough of the music to survive?
D: Making enough to survive yes.
MF: Where is most of the money coming from, playing live or record and merch sales?
D: I think we make the most money doing it live.
MF: Are you happy doing it that way or are you working on any other way to take it forward?
D: I think that this is sort of like the foot in the door, the band thing, but I would like to get into film making, maybe do a bit of writing.
MF: Have you done much of that before?
D: No… wait, I guess I actually have done some now I think about it. I was dating this girl and she was doing this screenwriting class and didn’t want to fulfill this assignment and I was curious so she just filled me in on how to do it. I mean, there was a template, it was pretty easy and I think I could have done it on my own, but she did help me figure it out. So I wrote a bit for her, and they read it out to the class and they voted my screenplay into some final thing where they read out two pieces to the class and critiqued them, so she was pretty amazed by that, so was I actually. So yeah, I wrote like another 20 mins for her and the class ended up voting on that again and were pretty entertained by it, but that’s pretty much all the experience I have. I do watch a lot of films though. I like John Waters and I like Fellini, I like Fellini a lot
MF: So was she getting all the credit for your work?
D: Oh yeah, there was something in it a bit more than the actual grade though. I think I’m in a similar situation now where I get a lot more satisfaction from the making of the art than the monetary rewards or whatever. It does get frustrating not being recognised for your work though, and I think I got frustrated in that instance, I felt like I would’ve liked a little more recognition and I didn’t get that from her or her class, sort of the same situation here as well.
MF: Does success and the speed with which you have found it worry you at all?
D: No, certainly not no.
MF: So you’re not worried about what’s expected of you now?
D: I’m talking more in the monetary realm of things.
MF: Oh? No, I meant more are you worried that it’s going to be hard to live up to the hype of the first EP?
D: I am a bit worried about it, but I don’t think a second EP is a make or break effort sort of thing. I think regardless of whether or not I miss the mark, there is a lot of room to grow in the future. People will either like it or not, or just take it for what it is. If they like it great, but yeah, I’ll always be trying to make it better and growing as a songwriter.
MF: Tell me how have things been growing then with the full band on board now? Are the songs changing in the live show compared to the recordings?
D: I think the longer you play songs the more they turn into something else. It’s been interesting working with the band and figuring out the best mix in terms of tonality and sound for the live show. The energy has always been there and the band are so talented and they constantly challenge me to improve. Cosmo is like my guitar guru; he’s teaching me a lot about tone and just all the ins and outs of playing the guitar, and Eric is sort of in the same boat; he studied music and so he really knows what he’s doing. Bobby is just tight no matter what.
MF: How did the band come together then; did you have the songs written and just go out looking?
D: What happened was that Bobby and I were jamming and I wrote the song Jesus, which was more of a real band sort of thing, and that really helped the band come to life, recording it and working on it. Then I started playing around with writing more songs like that, trying out the electric guitar and stuff, and then we met Cosmo and it just went from there.
MF: It sounds like you guys approach the songwriting with more of a gut-based approach then, rather than being overly considered, which is great you know, people love honest music.
D: Yeah, but if anything I think that we need a little bit more consideration in the future, because right now we’re just brutally honest.