Illustration by Jensen Bernard
On a recent trip to Carowinds, Dylan Dickerson came to the realization that he is terrified of rollercoasters. Interestingly enough, he uses the same term to describe some of the best moments on Dear Blanca’s newest release, Perched.
“Long story short, there were a lot of big changes happening in the band while making this record, and we wanted the album to reflect the kind of emotional upheaval that the band was experiencing,” Dickerson explained. “You’ll hear triumphant moments and you’ll hear chaotic moments. It’s a rollercoaster.”
Perched is the third studio album by Dear Blanca, which consists of Dickerson on vocals and guitar, Cam Powell on bass, Alex McCollum on guitar and Marc Coty on drums. Lyrically, Dickerson said he was inspired by shifting perspectives, and wanted the songs to reflect “vignettes giving brief glimpses into the lives of various characters.”
“It’s sort of an exploration of the idea of social voyeurism,” he explained. “Hence why there are a few references to the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window sprinkled through the record.”
Musically, the band wanted the record to be representative of their live performances, while using the studio as a tool to expand their sound. While there was lots of apprehension about releasing an album during Covid, Dear Blanca decided to go ahead and release Perched, even if that meant not being able to give the album a proper tour.
“It was scary putting [the new album] out in the COVID era,” Dickerson said, after describing the long amount of time put into writing, workshopping and recording Perched. “But we felt like we’d waited so long already. And if we couldn’t play the songs for everybody, we wanted to give them the record to listen to in the meantime. It was intimidating, but it feels like the right choice to go ahead and get it out there.”
The term “rollercoaster” can also be used in regards to Columbia’s local music scene during the COVID-19 crisis; it’s been terrifying for many bands who haven’t been able to tour to promote their music, and the future of the industry is still uncertain.
“I’ve seen artists having to be particularly creative to find outlets to get their music out there, which is what inspired us to do a beer release and listening party,” Dickerson said. As one half of "Comfort Monk," a podcast focusing on local music that Dickerson formed with Eddie Newman this past February, he said that he finds it inspiring that musicians have been finding ways to stay creative within the confines of this new, COVID-based music world.
“We knew we weren’t ready to try to do a show as we felt that would be hard to do responsibly,” Dickerson explained. “So we tweaked the idea to a sort of choose your own adventure event. You can hang out, have a beer, buy a record, eat some food. Or, if you’re not feeling being around people for quarantine-related reasons, we encouraged people to get a growler of beer to go and maybe hit the merch table on the way out. It was an experiment for sure, but it worked out nicely.”
The party itself, hosted at WECO Bottle and Biergarten in West Columbia, was a huge success. I attended with a few close friends to buy the album and while we all sat together at a table, sipping the Comfort Monk-inspired beer by Hazelwood Brewing, I couldn’t help but feel inspired in terms of the uncertain future surrounding the music industry. I mean, sure; we weren’t able to watch a live show, social distancing and masks were required for everyone’s safety, and I managed to go through my entire travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in a single night. But there was a renewed sense of community that has always been present in Columbia’s music scene, which is something I’ve personally missed the most about the quarantine-hiatus from live music. Just by witnessing people come together for the sake of supporting their friends’ music, while continuing to be respectful by social distancing in wake of the pandemic at hand, felt reminiscent of when everything was normal.
While COVID-19 has been a major rollercoaster for the music scene, it was nice to have a moment to feel like eventually we’ll find a way to slow down.