CLUBS Bulgarian Throat-Singing and Bare Trees Appreciation Society, Analog Tape-Cutter Pep Squad
SUPERLATIVE Most Likely to Run Away from Grad School and Join a Band of Gypsy Violinists
How did four fresh-faced young women with freshly minted bachelor's-degree diplomas from New York's Bard College and a yen for Left Coast adventure end up making music amid the fog banks, dim sum depots, and Russian sweet shops of San Francisco's Richmond District? Pure chance, thanks to guitarist-vocalist Adria Otte, a music and Asian studies major who gravitated toward the Bay Area after the foursome's 2004 graduation, magnetized by the experimental music and the Asian American communities, pulling her Dry Spells bandmates vocalist-guitarist Thalia Harbour, vocalist-violinist April Hayley, and drummer Caitlin Pierce into her orbit.
"After graduating, we all had our freak-out, like, 'What are we doing?' " Otte, 25, says, just leaving her job at Meridian Gallery. The four met at Bard Harbour was Otte's freshman dorm neighbor, and Pierce dwelled just down the hall and had befriended Hayley and formed the Dry Spells in 2002 and, as Otte puts it, "just played for fun because we were all supposedly serious students." But as academic distractions peeled away and they ended up in the same Richmond-area house, they began to buckle down and play seriously.
The Dry Spells' diligence has paid off, with a self-released, self-titled, and semimastered EP. Beautifully recorded on tape by the Fucking Champs' Tim Green at his Louder Studios, The Dry Spells echoes with reverb-y lyric guitar, plinging bells, a touch of droning melodica, and baklava-sweet harmonies that evoke the minimal post-punk of Electrelane and the maximal ethno-folk-punk of Camper Van Beethoven. The band may cite Fleetwood Mac and Fairport Convention as primary sources, but they're neither as pop-y nor as reverent as those groups. Imagine, instead, indie-rock babes in the woods, a short 38 Geary ride from a mist-strewn Lone Mountain, kidnapped by Romany rovers in order to study the dark, dreamy arts of folk song.
Yet who knows what forms the Dry Spells will assume or what sounds they'll adopt or adapt in the future? At a Café du Nord show in July, bassist Diego Gonzalez with whom Otte, Harbour, and Hayley performed in kindred Bard grad Ezra Feinberg's Citay joined the group on stage. He stuck out like a sore thumb, I joke, though Otte assures me that he'll likely remain a permanent member. And now Pierce has departed to work on a sociology doctorate at Johns Hopkins University the EP, it turns out, was a rush job preceding her move. "We wanted something that sounded more organic," Otte says, "because we definitely come out of a more organic place." (Kimberly Chun)