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Vancouver faves Dumb talk new music, rotating line-ups, and what it’s like to get signed and work with Mint… Plus, hear their brand new track “Soft Seam” here first!

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Red Gate’s new venue, in the curious building that once held Vancouver Arts & Leisure, seemed a fitting place to meet with the members of Dumb. The walls are decorated with drawings and scratches collected over the years. As we admire the artwork and explore the unexpected rooms, I can’t help but draw a connection between the space and the band. They’re a mainstay of Vancouver’s music scene, decorated with almost half a decade of live performances, three releases, and most recently, a signing with Mint Records. After appreciating a portrait that Pipé Morelli (drums) made on the wall upon a stranger’s request some years before, we sit down to talk about their forthcoming album, Seeing Green, and what’s happened since we last covered the group.

We open the conversation on the topic of personnel changes. “Grad school kept stealing our bassists,” says Franco Rossini (guitar, vocals). Shelby Vredik (bass) was a member of the band at its genesis, but left to work on other projects. For the Tulips EP, Brett Barmby stepped into her place. After Brett moved to Montreal for school, Franco’s brother Gavin Ray picked up the bass for Beach Church and Mustang Law, their next releases – before he too, caught a plane out East in search of higher education. “Shelby came back at the perfect time,” says Franco. Their original lineup restored, the band then recorded EP 5$ OR FREE, their third and final release of 2016.

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Dumb | Photographed by Dora Dubber for Discorder

Though the year and a half between those releases and the upcoming album didn’t produce any recorded content, Dumb has been keeping busy. After a little deliberation among the team, Nick Short (guitar) decides that those two years contained a definitive 3.25 tours, reaching both eastward and onto Vancouver Island. Even when not on the road, the group plays frequent local shows – as evidenced by the four or five they readily list for this month alone. But amidst all of this, the group also found time to focus on more than just Dumb. “I think it was a good time to be more involved in the music community, working with other bands and on personal stuff. [And] I had to get a full time job at some point. We all have to work full time,” Franco adds. In the way that pressure and time turns coal to diamond, their frequent performances, fine tuning of skills, and time invested in the music community has crystallised into one of their most notable achievements in these years of release-hiatus: catching the attention of Mint Records.

 

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“It’s like a [budding] relationship. Like, what signals are they sending me,” Shelby says about the process of getting signed. Dumb had around seven songs near completion when they started talking with Mint. But nobody simply gets signed – especially on a label that works on grants, as Mint does. “They want to see you play, talk to you, get to know who you are,” says Franco. With Mint obviously liking what they saw and heard, hands were shaken, and Dumb set to work with new enthusiasm. “There’s a lot more to do,” says Franco about working with a label, ”but otherwise it’s the same. They’re great. They haven’t tried to change anything.” For Dumb, having the support of the label means an opening of doors in terms of promotion and show bookings, as well as, most significantly, recording opportunities.

For Seeing Green, the members of Dumb took a ferry to Vancouver Island, where they met with Jordan Koop – a producer who’s worked with the likes of Wolf Parade, You Say Party, and The Courtneys at his home-recording studio on Gabriola Island. Since Koop had already mastered Beach Church, Dumb had an existing rapport with their producer. “[Jordan is] such a professional. He’s really good at suggesting things without changing them,” says Pipé. After six days in the studio, the band emerged with Seeing Green, their most refined release to date.

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The record is 14 tracks of cutting guitars, strong rhythm sections, and vocals you can shout along with. Mint’s support and Jordan’s expertise work to deliver a record with clarity and polish, without sacrificing the band’s signature capacity to draw humour from difficulty – and have fun doing it. Seeing Green gets its name from themes of greed, money, and growth. “We aren’t trying to preach. It’s not explicitly political. If we made a Venn diagram on the subject matter of all the songs, those ideas would come up in the centre. And we liked the idea of tying them to the colour green,” says Franco.

Dumb’s forthcoming album serves as a perfect testament to the truth that, even if we aren’t deliberately seeking it, with time and care growth comes along. And, like the vinyls for the record, it’s often green.

Growth-Cone_SunnyNestler_forDiscorder_June2018You heard it here first: be the first to listen to Dumb’s new single, “Soft Seams”

And if you like what you hear, get yourself to the release show happening June 16 at the new Red Gate, where you can also check out Supermoon, Fountain, Nick Normal, and Sister Blanche.

Seeing Green is out June 22 on Mint Records… but if you want to ensure you get your hands onto one of the 100 limited edition green vinyl copies, be sure to pre-order your copy through their online store today! 

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Discorder talks with Ana Rose Carrico, Co-Director of Vancouver’s Red Gate Arts Society, about change, uncertainty, and the new possibilities that come with the triumphant signing of a long-term lease

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of artists band together after a wave of closures and evictions in their rapidly gentrifying city. Against the odds, they manage to acquire a disused industrial building, under precarious rental conditions. Here they build a strong and dedicated cultural community, forging connections, providing space for emerging talent and those outside the mainstream. Meanwhile, development encroaches; prices elsewhere skyrocket. The billionaire founder of an honest-to-god yoga clothing cult decides the space would be better suited for ‘yuppie lifestyle boutiques’* and serves them an eviction. There’s nowhere left to go and everyone quits music to become a realtor, or up and moves to Montreal.

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It’s a narrative to which Vancouverites are too often resigned – but the Red Gate Arts Society has been fighting, hard, to change it since they formed in 2012. Not only have the group been vocal advocates for DIY cultural spaces, modelled a successful organisational structure, and collaborated with the City on planning and piloting new licensing initiatives – they’ve also now succeeded in re-writing their own ending not once, but two times over.

Just days after departing their second of two Hastings Street venues, the Red Gate is settling into their new home at 1965 Main Street, a site you may remember as the former home of VIVO Media Arts and Vancouver Arts and Leisure.

The move is a big change for an organization which has always strongly identified itself with the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. “[The DTES] has been the traditional area for these grassroots spaces, and some of that is from necessity, too – since that’s where the affordable old buildings were. For me, it’s a bit more personal,” reflects Ana Rose, who was raised and still lives in the neighbourhood. “But I just feel really lucky that we get to stay in the city centre at all. Because there has been half-joking conversations about trying to move the entire subculture to New West, or Burnaby or something.”

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All photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder

Fuelling that sentiment has been the radical uncertainty over Red Gate’s future since their eviction notice earlier this year. Just one month ago, they were looking into storage locker options, Ana Rose tells me. “We had no idea what we were going to do… It’s been essentially three weeks from not realising this was an option, to having the keys. It’s been pretty wild.”

For an organisation such as Red Gate, that stroke of serendipity can make a crucial difference.“We had a gap of about a year and a half between our first location closing and our second opening up, and so that’s a huge loss of momentum,” she recalls. “I’m kind of impressed that we had a collective left at the end of that.”

This time around, they’re able to offer space in the new building to all current tenants, and continue programming almost without a break. In part, this is thanks to the dearth of similar venues elsewhere in the city – because “the requests to have events didn’t really stop, even when people knew we were being evicted. There’s a lot of people who don’t wanna play in bars or clubs – or the bars and clubs won’t have them, right? So they’re kind of forced to put all of their eggs into one basket.”

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The new location provides a fairly similar layout to Red Gate’s previous venue, with a gallery in the front and a big, central room surrounded by studios. But, thanks to renovations undertaken over its decades-long engagement as an arts and culture venue, the space is better optimised and suited to their needs. “If we had moved into the other place with a longer lease and grant money, this is how we would have set it up,” says Ana Rose. “It’s essentially perfect for us.”

Even better, “it’s about as long-term as a DIY arts group can get in Vancouver. Which is really exciting, cause it actually makes us eligible for a lot of grants that we weren’t eligible for before.”

Like much of our conversation, this statement rings of both sincere gratitude for the present situation, and broader frustrations with the city’s hostile climate for artist-run spaces, whose very precarity typically excludes them from much-needed funding opportunities. “Essentially you need a long-term lease or to own your building to get these big grants, and generally the arts groups who have long-term leases or own their buildings don’t need the help as much, so it’s a chicken or the egg type thing.”

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At the helm of the Red Gate, Ana Rose has long been at the forefront of campaigning to preserve and protect Vancouver’s independent arts scene. While she acknowledges that conversations in the city are moving in the right direction, her optimism’s hesitant at best: “there’s been a few changes, but nothing drastic enough, and my concern is that it won’t happen in time to significantly affect the cultural landscape of Vancouver. It really feels like we’re sort of at a tipping point, and running out of time.”

But of Red Gate’s relocation to Main Street, which has been heading firmly in the boutiques-n-condos direction for years, she remains sanguine: “It’s sort of like we’re coming in the back end… like we’re reverse-gentrifying the neighbourhood. Which is something I’ve always wanted to do!”

Ana Rose has no doubts that the Red Gate will be changed, in turn, by its new location. “When you have so many creative people spending so much time in a location, I feel as though the building shapes your process as well as you shaping the building, so it becomes a symbiotic relationship.” But in her eyes, this is no bad thing: “There’s always changeover, especially with a volunteer run organization, and that’s another thing that’s great about having such a large space – there’s that possibility for evolution, communication, and creative collaboration.”

We can’t wait to see what directions that will take at the newest iteration of this Vancouver institution.

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If you’re keen to get your eyes upon the set-up at Red Gate’s new location, look out for their dates during Music Waste festival – and mark your calendars for Discorder’s 400th issue party, taking place on July 21!

* thanks Red Gate for the choice phrasing.