Photo By Stephen Lord
Steven Lord’s bands have a consistent thread to them; in his own words, they all “sucked at practicing.” That includes his former grimy pop group, Bodega Girls, and the blues-rock outfit Thunderbloods, where he played alongside longtime friend and collaborator Evan Kenney.
“Have you ever sat in on a band practice? It’s a fucking mess,” says Lord, stirring the crushed ice in his Zombie cocktail at Kowloon in Saugus. “You’re drinking, you’re smoking. You’re trying to say something about a part and someone’s playing guitar over you.”
After Thunderbloods folded, Lord had seen enough. He had carved himself out a steady gig working from home in Salem producing music for commercials, while Kenney stayed in Cambridge. And just when further collaboration seemed less likely than ever, that’s exactly what happened.
“It’s a sickness that kept on coming back, for Evan and I especially,” says Lord. Less than a year after Thunderbloods disbanded, he and Kenney are back at it as Dirty Bangs, playing their first ever show at Middle East Downstairs on Thursday. “Dirty Bangs is kind of like a rebound after a bad breakup. It’s just easy and it’s there, and then you end up marrying it and it sounds really awesome.”
Their geographic separation proved a creative boon: from Cambridge, Kenney began sending rough vocal and guitar tracks recorded on his MacBook to Lord, who completed production at his home studio. Tracks were meant to be cut quick and dirty, then released on the internet as soon as they were done — no practicing, and no live shows.
It worked. Their first EP, Day Living, released on Bandcamp in June, followed the relatively straightforward indie rock aesthetic of War On Drugs. A second EP, Standards, followed less than a week later, as did another single “Heat,” a catchy shoe gaze cut that was originally intended for use in a commercial Lord was working on. It was clear they were on to something.
“We had no intention of ever performing,” says Lord. “It was just a recording thing with Evan sending me tracks, me producing them and then releasing them. That’s kind of what we wanted to do with this, and see what rolled out from it. But then we’d be chatting and we’d be like, ‘We gotta do something.’ When you work on something for so long, you usually get sick of them, but I was really into these jams.”
And now comes the hard part: practice. When the opportunity to play presented itself, Lord and Kenney recruited Jessie Vuona (another ex-Thunderblood), Mikey Holland (Mean Creek), Ben Voskeritchan (These Wild Plains) and Anthony Valera (Magic Island) to round out the cast, and they’ve got two rehearsals to get things right before the show.
“We were looking for an excuse to get some players together,” says Lord. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen after this show. Those two practices will be our first time as a full band getting together. We have no expectations.”