Growing In All Directions
The Dirty Hands Return with Their Sophomore Release “Grow”
By Robert Foran III
Special to Glacier City Gazette
From a small humble seed planted in Girdwood, The Dirty Hands have discovered how to grow as a band and expand their branches as experimental recording artists with the new album they aptly named, “Grow.”
And what a perfect timing—it’s springtime and with the sounds coming out of this effort, The Dirty Hands are proving they want to bloom amongst the flowers, revealing their true colors.
On May 18th, The Dirty Hands will launch their 2018 Alaskan “Growing Onions” tour to sup-port the new album at the 49th State Brewing Co., and finish at the same venue on June 2nd as a part of the Spenard Jazz Fest Lineup. They will be supported on tour by Kat Moore under her musical alias, The Forest That Never Sleeps, with select shows also featuring The Jephries.
In 2016, The Dirty Hands released their first album, “Girdwood.” The sessions were recorded with the band playing live all at once, adding minimal overdubs. They wished to capture a live-show experience as opposed to a well-polished studio recording.
However with “Grow,” The Dirty Hands flipped the coin.
They grabbed well-established engineer and producer, James Glaves, and focused on just that—creating nine highly produced, experimental songs with sounds rooted in blues, rock, jazz and even some James Bond-esque trippy riffs that stand out. Add in the energy this album holds (let’s call that ‘mustard’) and you got yourself one psychedelic sandwich with all those different layers and tastes.
“Everything we do seems to have a hint of psychedelia in it—not sure why that is.” shared vocalist/instrumentalist Chris Lesesne. “Maybe it’s because this crazy-ass world is psychedelic as hell!”
At this point, Glaves’ production work and credibility in Anchorage appears to be endless.
“I absolutely loved working with James in every way. I can’t speak highly enough of his attitude, knowledge, and creativity.” said Lesesne. “We decided that we would work with him from be-ginning to end this time around.”
The Dirty Hands had a vision from the get-go and knew Glaves could bring “Grow” to its full potential.
“He hit it out of the park.” Lesesne exclaimed. “James can see the end result in his mind, he can see the bigger picture—that’s one of the things that really sets him apart.”
Drummer Andrew Saden pointed out other traits about why they choose him. “He is a great friend of ours. He is a monster musician in several local bands, and he has a killer ear for sound be it live or studio.” Saden added, “We also wanted some familiarity in the process I think because of the new things we intended to do on the record.”
No traditional studio was used in the making of “Grow.” James and the gang wanted to find a room with a big sound. Searching around for what they wanted ended them up at the old Anchorage U.S. Post Office on Fourth Avenue under the Experience Theatre. When they walked in, they saw a huge, empty concrete space measuring around 10,000 square feet.
Vocalists/instrumentalist, Sean Patrick recalled, “It was a giant space available to us which provided a lot of natural reverb—actually too much.”
Luckily for them, another renter installed sound panels everywhere which made the space much more ideal for recording. When it was time to press record and capture some magic, everyone liked what they were hearing.
That natural reverb can be easily heard in the opening saxophone melody of the last track, “Wine,” the marimba in “Talking Too Much,” in the horns and in the boom of the drum tracks.
“We were convinced if we found a unique space to record in, losing the live element wasn’t go-ing to be a huge sacrifice since we wanted to do something different anyway.” Saden said.
“We are going for sort of a vintage gone modern vibe,” said band instrumentalist, David LeHew. “Recording this way gave us some leeway to experiment with adding or subtracting instruments, effects and spaces.”
The former post office space was only available to the band for a limited time to record. The room is actually no longer available to rent for such reasons, but they managed to get the bulk of “Grow” completed there, and found other spaces to complete the remaining crucial parts.
Patrick said, “All the auxiliary percussion, a little guitar, some piano and all the vocals were recorded in different houses.” Glaves had access to other home studios to utilize and complete the record.
Overall, the band conveyed that they were happy with the way “Grow” turned out, giving much credit to Glaves’ expertise.
“James shaped the sound that will fill your ears when you push play,” Lesesne said. “He’s a pro; probably the best in the state.”
Now the quintet is anxious to get these songs heard by getting the new album available online or getting physical copies of the CD into peoples hands.
“That’s all we really care about,” said Patrick, “creating and sharing.”
Whether they realize it yet or not, The Dirty Hands have just created the album fans have been waiting for.
The Dirty Hands attempt to break the mold with this album by combining elements from the past and present as well as the dark and light side of life. There is an alluring texture and an overall ambiance that brings something fresh to The Dirty Hands’ table no one has heard yet.
They spoke about some of their personal highlights.
““Dingo” is an epic,” said Lesesne. “It establishes ideas, rehashes them in new lights, but then returns you to the beginning again, but in a different key.”
There is a unique section in the middle of the song “Purple” led by a reverse-reverbed upright piano—an interesting addition provided by Glaves. What follows that piano are a series of sounds that Glaves described as, “…basically like if you took a taxi to hell on acid.” He declared, “It’s definitely one of my favorite moments on the album.”
“True, Like You” has some great sounds showcasing a big horn section and a hammond organ. “That one turned out really strong, and the sing-songy bridge is a nice moment of relief in the otherwise dark feel of the album.” Lesesne said.
“I think there is something good to pull from every genre,” LeHew said, “and you can hear those influences in these songs.”
Recently, rumors got out that the band were calling it quits. It most likely derived from some misunderstood posts on social media, but the truth was that they were all just taking a short break.
“We were just taking our annual winter break to hibernate, ski and write.” Saden said. “We all have phases to our lives and the best thing anyone can do for their friends and family is allow them to partake in the natural phases of their lives.”
The Dirty Hands are no longer a full-time Alaskan band. Most of the members have moved out of state to be close to family or to pursue other adventures.
Patrick returned to his home state of Georgia, while Lesesne remains living and collaborating with other artists in Alaska. Saden moved to North Carolina, and LeHew will be traveling to work in New Zealand to coach snowboarding later this summer. Saxophone and flute player, Eli “Wolftone” Whitney, has gracefully stepped away from the band altogether due to health concerns, and a desire to find his beach.
Even so, after the spring 2018 tour, The Dirty Hands plan to continue making music via uploading music files back and forth with intentions to annually reunite to play the state they all feel at home at—Alaska.
Looking toward the next hiatus the band will inevitably endure, Lehew expressed, “It would be nice to get another albums worth of material together and go on another tour outside of Alaska.”
As for the near and certain future, the tour that is about to kick off will be a fast 13 shows in 15 days—a pace they had never experienced.
“I look forward to all the gigs. They will take me to all my favorite places.” Patrick said.
Everyone is bummed about their dear friend and bandmate, Eli Whitney, who has amicably parted ways and decided to break away from playing music for personal reasons.
“There is nothing and no one that could replace him on the stage with The Dirty Hands,” said Lesesne.
On tour, Whitney’s parts will be played by Ryan “Green Bean” Bouma and other local artists. Whitney instruments are on the album, which tremendously pleases the band, but playing on tour without him will not be the same. The band expressed their gratitude to Whitney.
“It is with great humbleness and thanks that we say good bye to our magical wizard of brass as he goes in search of sunshine and good vibes. The Dirty Hands have been truly lucky and touched by the music gods to have had the pleasure of playing with Eli. We wish you the best in your travels Wolftone—howl on you dirty dog!”
On a final thought Lesesne said, “This Dirty Hands experience has indelibly affected each one of us, and we have each one of you—our fans, friends, and family to thank for that.” He concluded, “As for the future, tomorrow only knows.”
The Dirty Hands official “Grow” album release party is on May 18 at 49th State Brewing Co. at 7 p.m. For information about The Dirty Hands’ music, tours and more, visit thedirtyhandsmusic.com
Robert’s work can be followed through Foran Brand Journalism on Facebook & foranbrandjournalism.com.