Those who follow local rock band The Dukes are Dead may have noticed their absence in the music scene during the last few months. What fans may not have guessed is that the band took a break from playing around town to perform in a musical. The band is an integral part of Know Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a violent and hilariously crude look at the controversial life and presidency of Andrew Jackson, best known for helping form the Democratic Party and enforcing the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears.
Each Note Secure interviewed guitarist and lead singer Lucas Frazier and bassist Randy Proctor of the Dukes are Dead to talk about what it was like playing pop-punk in a musical, how Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson busted their musical chops, and what’s in store for the band after the play wraps up on May 12.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson runs at Know Theatre through May 12. Click here for more information.
ENS: How is The Dukes are Dead involved in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?
Lucas Frazier: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is unique in that it has a live rock band on stage. It is required, I would say, to pull off the show successfully. The Dukes are Dead are that band. Two of us play in nearly every single song and we are on stage the entire time. We also get to act in some aspects. There are some points where we get to interact with the other characters. It’s something different for us.
ENS: Why did Know Theatre decide to bring in an established rock band rather than assemble their own house band?
Randy: I think that ties in how we met together. Eric Vosmeier [director of Know Theatre’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson] said how the production in New York and California worked was getting hired guns, which is common for any musician in a theatrical production. Where as in this musical, the cast is supposed to be a band that is already friends with each other and goofy and they are the goons of the stage music-wise. And he wanted someone that already had that natural connection so he wanted to get an actual band from Cincinnati.
I think it’s a great idea because it supports the Cincinnati music scene. So I met him at MOTR Pub when we were both drinking at 2 in the morning. I overheard him talking about the Fringe Festival and I mentioned I was in a band. [Vosmeier] said, ‘Oh, you’re in a band? Let me get your phone number.’ And he explained he wanted a band for this production. By the end of our conversation at MOTR, it looked like we were a good fit, and honestly I think it does reflect onstage. I think the general “punky” feel of the music and the general debauchery feel of the entire musical is what we present as a group.
ENS: Can you talk more about the sound of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and how that may or may not have influenced your sound?
Our sound is very dirty and thick and, you know, it’s heavy and it’s hard hitting…Rather than getting you riled up like ‘Let’s destroy something,’, it’s getting you riled up like ‘I feel good.’ Basically both styles aim to inspire mayhem. Ours does it in a more dirty, heavier way. They do it more in a clean, precise way.
You asked how it affected us. It certainly has affected us, but not so much in style. Like, we’re not gonna start playing these pop punk songs. But what we have learned that we’ll take from this and use are things we’ve never done before like changing the dynamics and key changes, tempo changes. Things like that we’ve never really dabbled in at all. We’ve always been like [punches fist into palm] ‘bam, bam, bam, bam, bam’, that’s our song. But perhaps after this, we might look at a song and say what if we slowed it down here and got real quiet, then bam, got back into it. Expect a lot more of that because now we’re now sort of trained. It was not easy. We thought it was gonna be easy but it was not. [Randy laughs]
ENS: So you actually got formal music training out of this.
Lucas: Without a doubt, especially our drummer Dave [Reid]. The band that originally played for this were all originally session musicians. Our drummer Dave had to sit down and listen to [the music] over and over and figure the beats out. There were quite a few times where he was very stressed out and very pissed off [Randy laughs]. The very first rehearsal he was not happy at all. But now it’s a piece of cake for him and we can all tell you we’ve seen him do things that he’s never done before since this.
Randy: We’ve all added new things to our arsenal that would only cater to something you’d find in a musical, which is something we weren’t naturally gonna delve into.
ENS: Do you think you’d play in a musical again?
Lucas: [takes a deep breath] Probably not. I mean…
Randy: If it was ever going to work out and if there was ever going to be a team and a musical for it to happen, this would be the one where we’d have the best experience. I don’t think anything else could match as well as this one did.
Lucas: It was definitely a much more difficult, intense process than any of us thought it was going to be. Much more time consuming, a lot more work. But it’s been great.
ENS: How has the play affected your rehearsal schedule and how often you play shows?
Lucas: We looked at this as an opportunity, not only to try something new, but to also get away from the scene. It was a great way to get out of the scene and ask ‘Where are those guys?’ while also filling our time musically. And not only that but doing something so that when they ask ‘Where are they?’ and we’re doing this, it makes them even more interested because who in the world would expect us to do something like this?
It’s a double whammy because we get to be away and not play shows to build demand but we get to build the demand for general interest because we get to do something completely different.
ENS: Would you say that your fans have gone outside their comfort zones by attending your performances at Know Theatre and fans of Know Theater are exploring new music thanks to The Dukes are Dead?
Lucas: Actually back while we were still rehearsing [for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson] our last show was St. Patrick’s Day at MOTR and we got a bunch of these guys to come out. Two people in particular from the play – Torie Wiggins and Datus [Puryear] – had never seen a rock show in their entire lives. And they came and saw us and Tori told us ‘I just planned on having a drink and sitting in the back and supporting you’ and they both ended up in the front, getting drunk, having a great time. And on the other end of the spectrum, it seems like everyone has seen at least one play in their life, but this is a very unique production just in the way that it’s set up with us and the subject matter and the way it’s delivered. It’s very risque and a lot of our fans would not regularly attend theatre events or come here [Know Theatre] or have ever been here before, including us, and came here to do this. Hopefully they’ll come back when we’re not playing.
ENS: What do you have going on after the show wraps up on May 12?
Randy: We’re gonna take a couple weeks off to relax. It’ll be nice to have a weekend back in our lives to collect and collaborate. We’ve got a lot of rehearsing to do of our own music to keep ourselves honest and sharp again. And then, two things – one would be touring with Lemon Sky. We’re gonna be hitting various cities from Chicago to Washington, DC, Indianapolis, Columbus. We’ve got a show in town at MOTR Pub on June 15 with Left Lane Cruiser. That will be a nice reunion with all of our fans in our typical environment. And somewhere along the line before the end of the year – we had already started recording an album before we were proposed with this offer [to play Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson] and it’s probably gonna be finishing up by the end of the year. There’s gonna be new music and there’s gonna be new performances in a new region going on. We’ve got very big plans coming up.
-Interview by Caitlin Behle, follow her on Twitter @ cutelin