Blasted Diplomats

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Poster by Jess Lemaster

Poster by Jess LeMaster

Blasted Diplomats’ self-titled debut might be the most Midwestern, blue-collar rock and roll record out of Chicago this year. With their confident barroom swagger, Blasted Diplomats combine an early 80s punk swagger with warm “Live Rust” riffs and anthemic alt-rock. It’s a similar combination that made pacific Northwestern acts like Mudhoney and even Pearl Jam a success, so it’s no wonder it works here. The thing is, Blasted Diplomats are still on the uptick with an edginess and maturity that enable them to take simple melodies and shape them through high adrenaline guitar lines and propulsive rhythms, particularly on standouts such as, “Wait Remainder” and “See Through Walls.”

Below you will find a casual conversation (via Gchat) with Blasted Diplomat’s Dan Worland on recording their new LP, songwriting and their new upbeat freeway jam, “Our Damn City,” which was recorded exclusively for and is available for free download at the conclusion of this post.

Photo by Matt Jencik

Photo by Matt Jencik

LLP: So, I’ve been listening the hell out of your new album, and I really enjoy it.

Dan: Thank you so much. That thing took so long to get out, so many unforeseen hurdles, but we still really like all that material and are proud to share it with folks. We are halfway through recording the next one too.

LLP: That leads me my first question: This is your first full-length LP. As a local musician myself, I feel like the idea of recording a full-length LP is massive undertaking that could turn out to be quite daunting. Why a full-length?

Dan: Well, we released a cassette shortly after forming and did a little download single a while back. We have 4 guys in this band that write a sing and a huge repertoire of material, not to mention we are constantly falling in love with various cover songs. With an avalanche stuff that you want to get out, a full-length is the only way to go.

LLP: And going back to what you wrote earlier, what unforeseen hurdles?

Dan: Technical stuff, mainly. We recorded with Mike Lust at Phantom Manor whenever we had time and money, which is not often. The sessions were very spread out. Once it was done, we shopped it around a little. Then we discovered a glitch in one track that had to be removed, which we didn’t exactly move on right away. Also, our band is a 4-way equal partnership; there is no leader, so occasionally conclusions are slow to come.

LLP: Which song had the glitch and what was it exactly?

Dan: The track was, “Cocaine Eyes,” and I don’t think anyone really knew what it was or at what point it first existed. It was just a little split second digital squeak and was very minor and easily removed by Mr. Lust. But it took some time for us to figure out if it was in the mastering, the original recording or just the CDRs we had. These things are pretty common, but we only get to spend a certain amount of time on the band.

LLP: From my own music production experience, sometimes you’ll listen to it multiple times in the studio and think, “That sounds great.” Then when you break down all the gear and get home you listen and think, “Oh damn. That’s a little off.”

Dan: Absolutely. This particular glitch was so minor that you could easily miss it, and we often did. But it ultimately needed to be dealt with.

LLP: Switching gears a bit here, your new record is out on BLVD. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the band and your imprint, Chicago’s own BLVD Records?

Dan: Well, we pretty much expected to have to put this record out ourselves. However, we did lay it on a few friends who ran labels, and Melissa Geils reacted to it right away. It was pretty much “Yeah, BLVD will put this out”. After all the stumbling blocks finishing it, we were anticipating more of the same with pressing and distribution. So having some people who have put a bunch of stuff out already say, “We got this,” was such a huge load off our minds. It’s than, say, distribution; I’d call it a rescue.

LLP: Very cool. Also, I wanted to go back again to an earlier comment about the band being a four way relationship – Does that apply songwriting as well?

Dan: There are absolutely four songwriters in the band. Each with his own way of developing and presenting his stuff to the others. Even though each guy has his own style, we think it still holds together as a single band statement. Plus, it’s so fun to try and subvert what your band mates may have come to expect too. We have a lot of fun just knocking each other out in the room.

LLP: Is there a song or songs on the record that are truly a “Dan” song or someone else’s song?

Dan: Each song is very much from each guy. Though, collaboration is totally happening, and we are adding stuff to each other’s ideas. It’s very rare that anybody plays a part that is dictated. My songs on this record are “Different Way” and “Shot An Arrow.” I still love playing “Arrow” live. I’m proud of it.

Photo by Andrea Bauer

Photo by Andrea Bauer

LLP: I did want to ask since Blasted Diplomats are very much a guitar-centric band, what gear do you use? Your tones are so damn earthy and Neil Young-esque.

Dan: Well, I play a Fender Squire telecaster that I souped-up a little bit pick-up wise through a Fender Deluxe amp. I borrowed my friend John Roeser’s Gibson SG for a time, and it is on the record. As far as effects go, I only ever use an overdrive live as any more [effects] would just confuse me. And I think the same goes for this record. James Deia and Greg Hamilton swap between a revolving door of guitars, amps and effects. Hamilton is the most tech and gear proficient among us.

LLP: So Blasted Diplomats’ sound isn’t really a decided approach – just the result of you four playing together?

Dan: I guess so. I mean the Neil comparison is apt, and he’s huge to us. But I think is coming out of the amps is pretty unspoken. It’s certainly not labored over too much. The damn things seem to buzz like crazy no matter how hard we try to get it out, so I think we’ve just accepted that as part of the sound. It’s warts and all for sure.

LLP: Lastly, I wanted to touch on the track, “Our Damn City,” which you recorded for us. That song is so melodic. And I had to know – after listening to the album – What’s the story behind it?

Dan: That song is brand new. Like I mentioned, we have half of our next record in the can, working on it whenever we have time and money like the one we just put out. When you asked us to record a song, a lot of stuff had already been tracked for the next record. As I mentioned before, we have so many songs coming through the pipeline that there were two new ones that had been written since the last recording session. One was quite understated, so we figured the rocker “Our Damn City.” It’s one of Christian’s songs. To me, it’s just about forgetting what’s frustrating about the day, getting in the car and going for it. It’s about abandon, being with people, enjoying life. Nothing too complex – just a release.

LLP: Very cool. That’s all I have. Thanks again for being part of an experiment.

Dan: Thank you. We are really happy to be part of the project.

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