Fresh off the release of their Debut self-titled EP on Dine Alone Records, Northern Transmissions’ Anna Dimoff got a chance to catch up with Jamie Biden, one half of the country-folk duo Dicey Hollow. With his counterpart, Petter Ericson Stakee of Alberta Cross taking some time off in his home country of Sweden, Biden talked to us about their new project, and how the beginnings of their developed sound came about more organically than as a conscious choice.
NT: You were in Vancouver a little while ago, tell me a bit about that show.
JB: Yeah, Dine Alone Records had their 10 year anniversary, they flew us out and I guess they partnered with Red Bull. Red Bull has that tour bus that went across Canada so we did the first show they had in Vancouver, it was great. I’d never been, I’ve spent some time in Montreal but had never been to Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city. It was super fun, they had a great crowd and really sweet people up there.
NT: Yea we’re a bit different from the east coast!
JB: Well my mom’s family is all from East Bay, San Francisco, so I definitely get that vibe but its shocking how friendly Canadians are. Anytime you need them it’s unbelievable how friendly everybody is up there. So it was a lot of fun, definitely. You guys are a friendly bunch of people and have a very cool city.
NT: So Petter played with Alberta Cross as well as with you for that show, right?
JB: Right. We played right before Alberta Cross then they played a set as well. Petter’s never stopped with that band, he’s had Alberta Cross for, gosh, I don’t know how many years now but we were able to do both so it was a lot of fun.
NT: You guys are really embracing the Folky Americana sound, is that a new channel for you personally?
JB: Yeah, you know it’s funny, I don’t know how much of a new channel it is for me but… I have a friend who had written a film called Invisible that never ended up getting finished, but I brought Petter in. I’ve known Petter for quite some time, I was working on this film, I was set to score it, and I was like, “It would be amazing to have Petter be a part of this thing.” He’s got such an unbelievable voice, and is obviously such a great writer and musician, as well, and we started working on this thing. The vibe of this film, it took place in the South and it was a little slower tempo with the feel and the vibe of the film. That starting point… I don’t want to say it informed the whole record, because it didn’t, but it started us on a really nice slower vibe-ier pace, I want to say. It definitely wasn’t a conscious thought to say this is a folk or Americana thing. We really focused on the songs and the song writing, it wasn’t like we were specifically choosing certain sounds, like folk sounds or country sounds, it was just some of those colours and textures just started making sense for these songs.
NT: Yea that’s great, that was actually one of my questions. I was curious if the film had influenced your direction or if you had been commissioned for your sound.
JB: I think it might have pointed us in a general starting point, but it certainly evolved from the stuff we were working on. It started us off in a slower tempo, if that makes sense. More than anything it was the first time me and Petter had been in the studio together and sometimes with certain people you gel with and the chemistry is there, other times it isn’t and it was pretty immediate that we really enjoyed writing together and it felt really easy and fun from the get go. I think that was really the impetus to really press forward with writing together. It wasn’t like we immediately said, “Let’s make a record together,” it was just like, “This is fun let’s keep writing.” And as it kept going, as we kept having a lot more fun and we liked the stuff that we were doing, it started to take shape. But it took a little time to take shape because Petter was busy with Alberta Cross, and I was and am actively trying to compose stuff and promote more production standpoint and film, which I’m really interested in. So it started off slowly but really positively and then it just picked up speed over the course of months and the past year or two. Kind of writing when we could, getting away when we could. We spent a lot of time upstate working on material, in upstate New York.
JB: Yeah, my wife and I have a little place in Mount Tremper. It’s the perfect place to get away and write, focus on music and relax. We were lucky to be able to go up there and work on stuff when we could both get away.
NT: Had you and Petter been up there together before?
JB: I think he’d been up there once but no, we haven’t had the place for very long… We got the place after me and Petter started writing. So no, they kind of both happened at the same time.
NT: Is that a go-to space for you guys now? A good spot to jam?
JB: Definitely. It’s set back away from everything. Being in New York, obviously there’s a lot going on and you can get a lot done sometimes in the studio, but it’s not always easy to get away with [balancing] work and life, but definitely when you can it’s in that peace and quiet. Being in the mountains and being in the woods, there’s a lot of inspiration to be found there. Absolutely. Peace and quiet. It’s nice to get away from New York, as much as we both love it.
NT: As I understand it, you guys were friends before you started collaborating musically?
JB: We’ve known each other socially for some time. I can’t remember exactly how and when we met, but yeah we’ve known each other for years before we started collaborating on that film. He’s been a good friend for a long time and I’ve had a massive amount of respect for his music, his songwriting ability, and Alberta Cross so it was definitely fun to get in and make some music together.
NT: How do you find it working with a friend as opposed to bandmates?
JB: I suppose you can kind of skip the having to get to know you part of the process, right? When you already have that relationship with somebody. And we both have the same kind of sentimentality about things. Our personalities cross in enough ways where it makes some of the parts of being in a band a lot easier. If you don’t have that chemistry, the personalities can really clash. What you want out of life and what’s important can clash, and I think a lot of that stuff falls in line in the same way for the two of us. Obviously we’re different people but being friends from the get-go makes things way easier for sure.
NT: So you found it easier to get moving creatively?
JB: Well you can hang and there’s not that pressure. You’re just enjoying hanging with a friend so you’re not just getting together to, you know, like, “we need to get this done then I’m going to go my separate way.” That takes the pressure off quite a bit. When you can enjoy spending time with somebody separate and apart from making music, that’s a huge plus.
NT: You both have your own respective audiences individually, are you hoping to expand your reach with Dicey Hollow and open yourself up to a new crowd?
JB: Well, Petter certainly has a big audience. I’m not sure how big an audience I have personally, that’s very nice of you to say. But certainly trying to, if you ask me personally if I’m trying to expand my reach, I’m just having a lot of fun making, hopefully, great music with a good friend. Obviously you want to share it with as many people as you can and hopefully people like it. I think anytime with art, sometimes it’s just for you. This is definitely something that’s exciting to share with people and hopefully they dig it.
NT: Is there anything you’re hoping to achieve with the band or is it just for fun at this point?
JB: I don’t know, kind of like I said before, certainly the goal wasn’t like ‘we’re starting a band.’ That took time to come into focus for us to say, “wow this is something that we should keep doing,” and then, “maybe this could be a record,” and then, “maybe this could be a band.” What’s nice about it is taking it as it comes and people so far, the limited amount of people who have been exposed to it, I think had a positive response to it. It’s exciting to see where it can go but we have no specific goals other than seeing what happens with it. That’s part of the fun of it, I think.
NT: Yea, to have it be a bit of an experiment I guess.
JB: Yea. Sometimes, or often times, when you really set out to say, “this is what this is going to do,” or “this is what it needs to be,” you can put yourself in a box. Not thinking so hard about what the instrumentation is or what kind of colours, or is this Folk, or is this Country, or is this Rock, and just letting it evolve naturally is something I think you always try to do but it doesn’t always happen. More often than not it doesn’t happen. So far it’s been nice to let this thing grow in that organic way.
NT: I feel like your sound has a heavier more thoughtful theme to it, like you’re at the point where you’ve settled down a bit.
JB: I wouldn’t think to speak for Petter. In terms of myself, yea that kind of slower pace for this record wasn’t something that was a conscious choice. I think it’ll be exciting to share the live show with people because it brings out different elements of the record. I’m looking forward to playing it live and letting it come to life that way. I think that’s going to be really interesting. And obviously you’re in a certain state of mind certain times in life, or during your day, or week, and certain songs come out at different times. These are the songs that came out for us on this EP. We’ll see what happens with the next single; obviously you’re always trying to work on the next thing. So we’ve got some songs that push some of these sounds in further directions, which is exciting.
NT: Do you think they’ll play out differently live than the slower tempo on the album?
JB: Yeah, what’s interesting is they haven’t been played. That Vancouver show was it, they hadn’t been played out live very much at all yet. We jammed them in New York. We’ve got some amazing friends and musician friends who played on the record and so we played them in small, very casual settings. What’s exciting is I don’t even know how they’ll play out live. We’re just getting ready to go, hopefully, play a bunch of shows soon, this fall.
NT: You mentioned amazing musician friends; tell me a bit about whom you worked with.
JB: We worked with Claudius Mittendorfer, he mixed a number of the songs on the record and he has worked with Interpol. He’s tremendous. Nico Aglietti from Edward Sharpe worked with us on a couple of the other songs, mixing, and our friend Kyle Pass worked with us on the song “Rose of Maine.” We were really lucky to work with a bunch of amazing guys that helped us make these tunes the best that they could be, as well as the musicians that contributed and played on the record.
NT: Alright, one more before you go. Who are you listening to right now?
JB: I love the Temples record, which Claudius actually mixed also. That War on Drugs record, obviously, is unbelievable. Tame Impala. Jack White is one of my favorites; he’s always in my playlist somewhere. I mean there’s so much great music right now, it’s an exciting time.
NT: Sounds like you’re in summer mode, thanks Jamie!