Q&A with Dignan
Dignan, a band from McAllen, TX, a community that’s 95% Hispanic, certainly did not disappoint tonight. Sweet Lord, they brought the house down! Being a pretty devout fan of Dignan, especially their older stuff, I had big expectations upon downloading their latest album, “Cheaters & Thieves.” Needless to say, they did not disappoint. After coming off a jam-packed tour with O’Brother, Dignan set apart some time to chat with The Blue Indian.
Blue Indian: Thanks a ton for taking time to answer some questions for your fans. Which member of Dignan am I speaking with?
Dignan: Andy Pena – Lead Vocals/Guitar
BI: Where and when did Dignan form?
Dignan: I would say Dignan formed roughly 5 years ago when we met Gabriel Salinas (Drummer at the time). Devin(bass), Nate (former guitar), and I were already playing music together but nothing serious until Gabriel Joined. We met him at a local show and he really liked our music, so we sort of moved on from there.
BI: Do any of the members have full-time jobs? That must be tough.
Dignan: I am currently the only one that has a job, and it’s pretty much full time when I’m home. It’s at a local Mom & Pop Deli called NY Deli. I’m pretty much the assistant manager, and it really helps being able to leave and come back with that job waiting for me. Unfortunately I am the only one that has that luxury, but before I had it, it was pretty tough having to quite jobs every time we were to leave.
BI: You’re a touring band. For you, what’s the best part about touring?
Dignan: Playing music is always the most fun thing to do in a band, but I think I’m really starting to like meeting people on the road. We’ve met some of the most genuine, helping people out there. It’s really encouraging and it has really helped me look at how I approach people in need of something. We’ve been so fortunate in everything we’ve done, thanks to people like that.
BI: How does Heidi handle herself being around a bunch of dudes all the time on the road? Does she bring along a girlfriend?
Dignan: She’s usually pretty quiet, but then again we’re all sort of quiet and reserved. But she’s another dude, or at least that’s how we look at it. She doesn’t get grossed out by us like most girls would.
BI: You’ve toured with several bands in your time as a band. Who is your favorite band to tour/share a stage with?
Dignan: Well that’s pretty hard to narrow down one artist, because on each tour we go on there are really AWESOME nights and some really bad nights. But I would have to say our Best Friends are the guys in O’Brother, we’ve been pretty closely connected with them for the past 4 years. They were really the first band we started a close relationship with. And it’s been a great one.
BI: What 3 bands/acts are you really into right now?
Dignan: David Bazan, Bibio, Bill Callahan.
BI: How’s it been touring with O’Brother? Has Anton broke out the itty-bitty speedo?
Dignan: Haha yeah once at this house party we were at. We already felt very awkward because everyone there was underage, and all of us were obviously older, and shouldn’t have been there. But we were staying the night at the hosts house, so we had to endure it. Anyway all of the kids were outside hanging around a table, and Anton ran out there in that speedo, and as soon as he did, everyone scattered. One girl even screamed at the top of her lungs. Haha, but this tour was amazing, it should have happened a lot sooner!
BI: Before we get to chatting about “The Guest” and the new album, “Cheaters & Thieves,” I got a question for you. If you could pick any label (mainstream or indie) to release your new record on, who would that be?
Dignan: Wow, we’ve been so focused on everything DIY lately, I haven’t really thought of it. Some of my favorites are on 4AD, Warp, Merge, and Asthmatic Kitty. So I would have to say maybe one of those. But I would rather do DIY or something Smaller for now.
BI: Okay, so I’m a HUGE fan of “The Guest,” and quite frankly, I didn’t think you guys could top that. After getting “Cheaters & Thieves” and giving it a good listen, I thought, “Nope, they didn’t surpass ‘The Guest.'” After hearing you guys (and gal) perform the new album live, I went back and listened to the new album again. Long story short, my opinion has changed. “The Guest” was easy to get attached to– addictive melodies and instrumentation. I’m convinced that the new album is just at a deeper level and requires more time. It’s like an Eliot poem.
Dignan: Awesome, that’s great I wouldn’t want someone to pop in the cd and just love it without really listening to it. I’m glad you had to go back and really listen to it, I know I’ve had to do that with a lot of artists like Grizzly Bear even their first album I didn’t really like when I heard it, but I listened to it again and again, and now it’s easily one of my top favorites. I think the new record is a little different so it might take some time to get used to for some people, but when they do they’re really appreciate it. Well that’s what I hope anyway.
BI: How long was the writing process for the new record?
Dignan: Hmm well we wrote it in 2 different time frames. We wrote about 4-5 of the songs in about 2 weeks when we locked ourselves up in a small house in Kerrville, TX. Which is pretty much in the middle of no where. Dev’s dad lived there and we were able to use that to record. I think it really helped, because the pace at which we work is usually pretty slow. But we were able to really hit it hard while we were there. Then the other songs were written in our practice space @ Trey’s house and those generally took longer to write. Because we were all home and setting up practice is usually a little harder while we are there. All in all we spent about 4 weeks writing I would say.
BI: Seems like the single off the new record is “Two Steps.” It’s got a really catchy vocal part at the beginning. Who wrote the melody to this song?
Dignan: I did. I had been listening to a lot of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear so you can hear the influence in it.
BI: After hearing you all in Macon, GA, I became convinced that you rank in the top 10 of bands that sound the best live that I’ve ever heard. “They’re Outnumbered,” one of the hits off of “The Guest” literally almost made me come out of my skin. What’s been your favorite song to perform live over the years?
Dignan: Thank you. They’re Outnumbered has always been fun to play, I think I connect with Listen, and Tangled Woods the most though, because they are pretty personal to my life. Listen being about my father who passed away 4 days before I was born, and Tangled Woods being about our former guitar player Nate, when we had a fall out. Everything is fixed now, but it was written at that time.
BI: At the show in Macon, GA, you had Bryan Yeager filling in for drums. In Blue Indian’s review of your show, I mentioned that you all would be nuts if you didn’t ask him to step in as the band’s everyday drummer. Your thoughts.
Dignan: Bryan is awesome, we really got to know him, and we meshed really well. I can easily see him as a permanent member, but we’re wanting to take it slow in choosing. We’ve made the mistake of adding friends before and it just didn’t work in the long run. So for now it’s fill in until we really feel comfortable. But yeah I can see him sticking with us we just have to wait and see.
BI: David Palomo is a magician on stage. Nearly every song, he pulls out a different instrument out of his hat. Where in the heck did this guy come from? He’s a keeper.
Dignan: Haha, yes he is. He is actually my girlfriends cousin, and we just sort of met him at a show as well. He’d gone on a few tours with us selling merch, until one day Gabriel (Former Drummer) bought an Accordion. When we were home we asked davy if he’d want to play the accordion with us. He picked it up and tinkered around with it and liked it. He’s got a good ear for melodies and stuff so it’s really helped out having him on all those different instruments.
BI: Andy and Devin have to be related. Maybe it’s the beards.
Dignan: Haha no we’re just best friends, we’ve gro
wn up together for the past 10 years, I think we’re very different, but very connected if that makes sense.
BI: You all talk about God, sin, death, and love quite a lot. Are you trying to “reach” a certain type of people with your music?
Dignan: Not really, maybe people who are searching just as I am searching.
BI: Do you consider yourself a Christian band?
Dignan: I don’t think we’re a Christian band. We don’t sing about praising God in everything we do. But we all do have our beliefs in God & Jesus Christ, but don’t feel like we need to sing directly to God to praise him. Even just playing music about anything else can be praise to him as long as we’re using our talents that he gave us. That’s how I see it.
BI: What can fans of Dignan expect from you all in the near future?
Dignan: A lot more touring, hopefully some vinyl, and more heartfelt songs
BI: Thanks for hanging out.
Dignan: Thank you!