Dope Body is a noise rock band from Baltimore, Maryland formed in 2008 by vocalist Andrew Laumann, guitarist/bassist Zachary Utz, and drummer David Jacober. To date, they have released two full-length records in addition to a cassette tape and two split records. They have since expand ed to a quartet, adding bassist Jesse Lyell in 2011, who was replaced by John Jones, late of local contemporaries Roomrunner, the next year. The band has been described as “a speedball of dirty noise rock and radio friendly alt. rock” and compared to Rage Against The Machine and Brainiac.
One of the defining features of Dope Body’s sound is Zachary Utz’s abrasive, heavy guitar and bass work, which is drenched in effects and makes heavy use of loops and samples. Here he answered all questions on behalf the band .
What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
I’ll speak for myself here (Zach/guitar) even though I think all of us share this influence: ambient music. That style of music is as far away as it gets from our explicitly aggressive brand of rock music but its that that one of main influences lies on the other end of the spectrum. Again speaking personally, my mind is an anxiety-ridden figurative mess of twisted metal blasting through an endless underground tunnel at light speed with no visible end in sight, and as much as its a release to embrace the hyperbolic histrionics of a live Dope Body performance, my musical satisfaction is derived from laying in bed and listening to soundscapes and trying to slow the infinitely intense minutiae of thought down to a snails pace. Ambient music is the only sound that provides the necessary sonic setting for this searching for spiritual solace. Perhaps this influence has become more apparent in the sound of our more recent releases as compared to the early ones. In the beginning there was a tendency to try to include a million ideas into every song. Lately its become much more an almost meditative elaboration on a single musical thought.
How and when did you get into making music?
I started playing guitar in high school. I don’t think there was any real instigating factor beyond it being something to do that was cool in the classic sense. It a cliche tale at this point, not too long after gaining some technical prowess you start to meet other musicians and naturally your mind begins to open up to the ideas and sounds they are respectively bringing to the table.
Moving on to the second chapter of this story, there always seems to be one or two dudes who you meet along the way who especially resonate with you and they subsequently expose you to new sounds which in turns leads you to dig deeper down the rabbit hole to find new and interesting stuff. Its a fairly classic story right? Nothing very unique to report on from my musical journey. I’ll just say thank you to the people out there who opened my mind to a different way of living and thinking about living. You know who you are :)
What are your 5 favorite albums of all time?
I guess its always kind of evolving but I’ll pick five that really always hit it hard for me:
1. Pavilion of Dreams – Harold Budd
2. Sowiesoso – Cluster
3. Wenn Der Südwind Weht – Roedelius
4. Loop finding Jazz Records – Jan Jelinek
5. Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobin
What do you associate with Berlin?
I’m kind of obsessed with history and in particular WWII so not to get too lachrymose but whenever I’m in Berlin, or Germany for that matter, I think about the War and how massive of a transformation Berlin had to undergo post-war both in terms of the social and cultural make up of the city as well the actual physical reconstruction of the city itself. Its essentially a newly constructed “old world city”. So I guess that history still feels alive to me in the sense that I’m reminded of it by just looking at every new building I see there. Whenever I’m in Berlin I try to dial into some kind of mental state that allows me to see the old city as taking place on a specific spot on an endless string of time and sort of live it as an observer of that tortuously dark period in human history. It sort of brings the city alive to me in a really specific way. That sounds like some kind of a mordant new-age critique of Germany and Berlin but it is a real thing to me.
To be honest its difficult for me to articulate my feelings about Berlin as its a place I love so very much having only spent very limited time there for our concerts. I guess I just think it has a different energy than almost any other city I have ever been too and thats not implying anything negative; its just special to me. Again, thats an extremely somber thing to bring up in an interview but I can’t help but think about it.
What’s your favorite place in your town?
Druid Hill Park is really nice. I go for a lot of walks there. Its a decent sized green space with a reservoir smack dab in the middle of it. Its about as bucolic as Baltimore really gets and thats not to say Baltimore is some kind of urban wasteland ; even though we classically get presented that way by the media. Either way Druid Hill Park is a good place to go when you want to be alone. That goes a long way in a small city with a very close knit network of people that you end up seeing all the time at the same haunts. It can be nice to get some anonymity back amidst the sometimes overwhelmingly insular social network of artists and weirdos that comprises Baltimore art/music community. I guess any place in Baltimore you can go to be alone is good for the headspace, it can be a tense place to live sometimes.
If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I think I would have been a writer? I like to write.
What was the last record you bought?
The last record I actually bought was this reissue by a singer songwriter named Jim Sullivan.
The record is entitled U.F.O. It was released on this really cool reissue label called Light in the Attic Records. Total 70’s ghostly country rock; like a more laid-back and earnest workingman’s version of the Byrd’s stuff with Gram Parsons, but also ridden with potential breakbeat samples and lyrics centering around driving off on some lost highway and being abducted by aliens?
Which ironically is very prescient considering not long after recording the record, Jim Sullivan drove off into the desert and disappeared and was never seen again. Totally honest artistic embodiment.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I think about this a lot and honestly it changes all the time. I guess right now it would be Oren Ambarchi? I really love that guys tones, like super deep sine wave bass tones and shimmering guitars thats are crystal clean. I’m talking mostly about the ambient sound design stuff because Oren Ambarchi does a lot of different styles. It would be weird to ask someone you want to collaborate with that you only want to collaborate with them within a particular context of their creative output, it would be a little resumptuous I think. Guess I’m glad this collab will never happen :(
What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
I guess the best gig Dope Body ever played was at OFF Festival 2013 in Katowice, Poland . It was the most people we ever played to by far and that unto itself was a natural high I have never felt before. That was kind of our rockstar moment of kids screaming lyrics to our songs during the breaks and stuff. No idea how we had such a huge following in Poland and even more ironic its the only gig we have ever played in that country. Hopefully we can go back at some point.
How important is technology to your creative process?
For my own personal music outside of Dope Body, its very important! I pretty much rely completely on computers, samplers, effects and synthesizers etc. With Dope Body its also important but since we all play acoustic instruments and at the end of the day and we have to operate within the confines of those instruments. That ends up allowing for a more physical performance than one could do purely with a laptop or something. However, the way we do use technology is by subverting the sound of those instruments through effects and other electronics; but its essentially a physically acoustic project thats isn’t wholly dependent on technology. Theres a strong emphasis on using those to effects to try to create interesting sounds and honestly I would say a lot of what we focus on lately when writing is more just the palette of sounds we are composing with versus the song we are composing with those respective sounds. Its yielded an interesting mix of fairly static and frantic music, which I personally am way into because I kind of like it when music doesn’t go anywhere. There are already too many songs in the world anyways :)
Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career?
I think all our parents are very supportive of our paths. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a career though because we literally don’t make any money off of this project. Almost everything we make goes right back into it. I feel very fortunate personally because my parents are pretty open to my life choices because there is no precedence in my family for this thing. We were a very working class family from a small town in Maryland . Maybe its because it never felt like there was much to live up to but my musical life just feels like a big experiment in alternative living and I think this is a thing that all of us in the band feel. Its like we are trying to carve out a way of life that isn’t dependent on some super cynical Americanized version of success with the house and the car and the TV. We don’t make a lot of money but we also don’t need a lot of money to continue doing what we are doing. In that sense, the band has taught me a lot about living within my means and that trickles down to every aspect of life. At this point, my parents are very aware of this and I think initially it made them weary but they get it now and I’m grateful for that.
We are definitely leading interesting lives I would say!
“Classic Rock” by Zachary Utz