Artist Interview: Dollar Signs

Posted: by The Editor

Dollar Signs take DIY to heart. Whether it’s successfully kickstarting their upcoming album or filming their own music video- complete with their lead guitarist staring as Bigfoot, they know how to make it work together. I spoke to them about recording their new album Legend Tripping (out now), their favorite cryptids, and spooky movies just in time for Halloween.

First off, how did you all meet and how did you become a band?

At this point it kinda feels like we’ve always known each other, but I’ll do a quick run down. The band started as a folk punk two piece with Luke (who now plays keys and horns). We’ve known each other since high school. We met in musical theater class and have been making some kind of weird art ever since, whether it be short films, half written musicals, and finally music as a band. Arion, our drummer, I met in college and he joined Dollar Signs the same time as our bass player Dylan who I met by the fact that every time I would go to a show at a small club they would be there so at some point I just approached them and was like “We listen to the exact same music obviously, we should be friends.” Luke and I had been playing together for a few years when Dylan and Arion joined and neither had been in a band before so we really all learned how to do it together. Finally our lead guitarist Tommy, we met him at a big house show/party that happened every 4th of July called Questionable Decisions Fest and he was another person that we all just clicked with immediately. He joined our band in 2016 because he was going to do merch for us, but
our other guitarist dropped last minute and so Tommy stepped up.

How did you come up with the video for “Bless Your Heart”? Who is in the bigfoot suit?

That was all Dylan. We didn’t have much time to conceive, film, and edit the video for that song. So while we were recording, Dylan pitched the idea and they knew I’d go for it because this record has a lot of imagery of folklore and cryptids and it gave us an excuse to buy a fancy Bigfoot costume. Three-fifths of Dollar Signs work in video so we knew we could make it work. We filmed it all in one day. I was the cinematographer and Dylan directed. We had a rough outline and did some improv for a lot of it. Tommy was in the suit. He did a great job bringing a physicality to the suit and enduring filming it in southern August heat. We then gave the suit to Tommy because it will smell like that day until the sun finally swallows the earth.

What was your favorite part of making that video? It looks like it was a lot of fun, but I am sure a ton of work went into it.

It was a blast! I’ve been making short films for most of my life and I love getting to channel that into music videos. A lot of our videos are methodically planned for months where this really felt like making videos in college where we were half making it up as we went. If you ever have the opportunity go make some video art with your friends, it’s a good time!

Do you all have a favorite cryptid?

I have to go with a homegrown one right here in North Carolina. The Beast of Bladenboro is a vampiric big cat with a rat like tail that had sightings in the 1950s. Farm animals were showing up dead and it created this huge panic in this tiny town of Bladenboro. The story got out and over 800 hunters showed up to this tiny speck of town and created absolute chaos. Newspapers added to the panic by sensationalizing the story and a local movie theater owner started playing a b-horror film called “The Big Cat” on a 24 hour loop. The mayor begged the governor to call a state of emergency but the governor didn’t want North Carolina to seem like a backwater state so he wouldn’t do it. Eventually the newspaper posted a front page story of a dead mountain lion they claimed to be the beast, but the sightings, while slowing down, haven’t really stopped since. They have a festival for it every year! It’s just a fun story about paranoia and things getting out of hand.

Do you believe in ghosts? Ever had a spooky experience?

I want to believe! I think ghost stories and folklore are really cool ways people can tell stories about their history. The only story I have is when I was a janitor at a private school for elementary and middle schoolers. This was in the summer and the school was completely empty because we clear out the school to wax the 100 year old floors. It was a two story building and my friend and I were on break and we heard what was undeniably the sound of kids footsteps running in the hallway right above us. My first thought wasn’t “ghhhooosttt” it was “Oh god, we locked a child in this building,” but when we ran up stairs there was no one there. So, like, what’s that about?

What were you listening to while you all wrote/recorded your new album?

We were listening to a lot of 1960’s and 1970’s rock like Big Star, Bruce Springsteen, The Stooges, stuff like that. We wanted this record to sound big and loud and fun so those influences were easy to pull from. It felt right after being cooped up for a year and a half we didn’t want to do another immediate punk album. We wanted to write songs that felt like a group of people being together and giving each other room to shine. Also on I feel like lyrically I wouldn’t have been able to crack the tone of it without Phoebe Bridger’s record Punisher, The Mountain Goats Heretic Pride or Todd Snider.

Do you have any musical heroes?

Probably too many to count. Jeff Rosenstock I’ve been listening to since I was 16 and his DIY creative spirit has always inspired me. Tom Waits ability to reinvent himself and stay in a state of creativity for decades. I really like John Darnielle’s ability to craft stories and put passion into other people’s stories. Other than that I get constant inspiration from the open mic I host and the acts that come in and blow me away every week. Getting to see such a wide variety of styles of music, poetry and comedy gives me a steady stream of ideas and inspiration.

What would be your dream venue to play at?

Of course playing bigger rooms is great and fun but I’ll settle for any venue that has locks on the bathroom doors. Venues I’m not as interested in as having a crowd there singing along and laughing at our odd banter.

Who would you love to tour with, alive or dead?

I’d love to open for They Might Be Giants, The Mountain Goats, Jeff Rosenstock, AJJ, Open Mike Eagle, Titus Andronicus, Cheekface, Illuminati Hotties. Anyone who’s crowd might be into our particular brand of weirdo rock that our band delivers.

Do you all have favorite studio snacks?

Ha, this last recording session we ate almost exclusively at this place called Coyote Kitchen that has incredible vegan burritos. It’s in Boone NC and if you’re around you must go! Otherwise it’s a lot of gremlin meals of spaghetti, cliff bars and mac ‘n cheese with broccoli.

Do you celebrate Halloween? What are your favorite Halloween-time traditions?

I love love love Halloween. We keep about half our Halloween decorations up year round. Most years our pumpkins stay on our porch until about June of the next year. Halloween traditions are tough because we’re usually playing the Fest Halloween weekend, but I do try to watch 31 scary movies from the start of fall (the first day pumpkin spice lattes come to Starbucks).

Do you have any favorite spooky movies?

So my favorites are The Thing and The Shining, but I want to recommend two others. Check out The Borderlands and Savageland. Two found footage films you can watch free on YouTube and they are excellent! The first is a Lovecraftian story wrapped in religious horror and the other is an actually scary zombie film in the style of a true crime story. Good stuff!

Do you have any hobbies outside of music?

I mostly watch horror movies but I read a lot, and hang out with my cool wife. Is giving your dog medicine a hobby? I do that a lot too.

Jami Fowler | @audiocurio

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