T wo guys from the District punk trio Dot Dash recently convened inside a coffee shop on K Street to explain when and how they make music. It happens on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. — even though Terry Banks, the band’s singer and guitarist, has an unfortunate habit of posting 30 minutes late. Still, whenever he arrives, he always remembers to bring the chords and the words. Drummer Danny Ingram (formerly of the legendary hardcore group Youth Brigade ) and bassist Hunter Bennett bang along until it feels like a song.
It’s a method that requires lots of trust and very little discussion. “We dive in and pursue what sounds good and feels good,” Banks explained between coffee swigs. “The melody takes me somewhere, I babble some nonsense, and it gets us to a place where these guys can instinctively drop in.”
What else is there to talk about with a band that has such a clear understanding of itself? Only the really big stuff, and since melody seems to be the lifeblood gushing through every Dot Dash album — from 2011’s “Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash” to the brand-new “Proto Retro” — I tossed up an impossible question. Why does melody feel good?
Banks twirled it around in his brain for a half-second before locating an answer: “I think it’s a sort-of idealized now. Melody feels good when you’re hearing it, or when you’re playing it, because it’s like stepping into a mist of optimism. Or hope. It’s an idealized image of yourself or your experience. But it’s still super-fleeting, right? A song only lasts for, like, two-and-a-half minutes.”
Suddenly, we were all sitting in the middle of a very big idea — an idea that Bennett promptly shrunk down to human scale. “At the risk of sounding depressing, life is largely sad, painful and meaningless,” the bassist said with a soft smile. “So to fold it into something beautiful and organized, something that makes sense? It makes you feel better.”
Like a song, that explanation felt reassuring, satisfying, neatly resolved. Then, also like a song, our conversation was over.
Show: Opening for the Vibrators on Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. at DC9, 1940 Ninth Street NW. $15.