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The Dt's Do It Their Way

Dt's guitarist Dave Crider and lead vocalist Diane Young-Blanchard have been battling musical wits with combustible results since high school. "The first conversation we actually had was a discussion between the validity of Led Zeppelin versus Ted Nugent and Kiss," Crider said, recalling their first meeting — fittingly enough, in music appreciation class.

"And then shortly thereafter he lit my hair on fire in my car while I was driving," Young-Blanchard added, laughing.

At about the same time, the two friends also ignited a shared desire to get a rock 'n' roll band together. But life got in the way. Crider left the suburbs of Seattle for Bellingham, Wash., and went on to form a series of bands: Mono Men, Watts, Wizards of Oz. Meanwhile Young-Blanchard was busy with college. But eventually the planets aligned. "We have been talking for several years about getting together," Crider said over the phone from his home in Bellingham, "about doing a certain kind of a band that combined the kind of soul music we like with the kind of hard-rock music that we like, but somehow fusing it and making it our own thing."

With their excellent debut album, Hard Fixed, The Dt's — Crider, Young-Blanchard, drummer Phil Carter and keyboardist Patti Bell — have done just that. "It's a great fucking record — and if you quote that you have to put the 'fucking' in there," Crider said.

Led by Young-Blanchard's smoldering to-die-for soul singing, the Bellingham foursome's first full-length pairs the gritty, swaggering energy of rock with the impassioned intensity of soul. "We've been doing this long enough that, you know, fuck the rules, we just want to make music the way we want to do it," Crider said.

"There hasn't been any strategy meeting," continued Crider, whose demeanor was so kickback throughout the phone interview that I could practically see his chair leaning back and his feet propped up on the table.

"There's an infinite amount of freedom in this band for what you want to do," he said. "The only thing that limits you in this band is your ability, that's it. There's nobody that's gonna turn around and go, 'What the fuck did you do that for?'"

Diggin' the Stones

Crider and Young-Blanchard first connected in high school because of the things that kept them, for the most part, disconnected. "We both liked the Rolling Stones, which, contrary to popular belief, was not very cool for a very long time," Crider said.

"We were into things that other people weren't into," he continued. "When you're experiencing high school, that is your experience — you don't realize it's any different than anyone else's. So overall my experience with high school was minimal. I didn't spend a lot of time in high school — not that I'm encouraging that, mind you."

"I spend more time in high school now than I did when I was in high school," laughed Young-Blanchard, a high-school English teacher.

"My memories are all music," Crider continued.

"Yeah, mine too," Young-Blanchard said. "There weren't that many girls into rock music. I was listening to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and that kind of stuff.

"I gravitated toward the friends that I had that were guys, and they were guitar players, and that was our common bond," she continued. "I met Dave and he was just outgoing enough and crazy enough and, wow, lo and behold, he was totally into music and playing guitar."

While Crider kept busy participating in various rock bands and starting and running the garage-rock label Estrus Records, Young-Blanchard had her hands full with school. Still, they kept in touch hoping to someday realize their dream of starting a band together. "We had a list of songs years before we started this band," Crider said. "Songs we could cover that have the feel we wanted to do [so] we started from that."

Reunion in Bellingham

Inspired by everyone from Al Green to Aerosmith, The Dt's didn't become a reality until Young-Blanchard relocated to Bellingham to attend Western University. "When Diane and I started playing, we weren't even 100 percent sure we were gonna do anything outside of the practice space," Crider said.

But with chemistry like theirs‚ exiting the garage was inevitable. "We've known each other for so long musically that when we play, we click," Crider said. "It's one of those things that you can't really describe but it just feels good."

Crider said playing in The Dt's is a unique experience. "Every band is different," he said. "The difference now is that I feel a lot freer about what I'm doing. I care a lot about it, but I don't really give a shit."

For Crider, creating the rock/soul sound he wants with just three instruments is a challenge. "We're writing the songs and I'm going, "Gee, this could be a great place for horns, and I hear this really cool bass line here, but I'm the only string instrument, so how am I going to fill all of this out?'"

The group worked hard recording Hard Fixed. "It was a little more work than any of us thought it would be, but overall we are we happy with the results," Young-Blanchard said.

Added Crider: "And it took a lot of work for us to be able to make the time to do this — we're not in high school."

"I'm in high school," Young-Blanchard quipped.

Turning serious, she continued, "It was the first time that'd we done it together as a band, so obviously that's going to be a bit of challenge."

Taking Chances in the Studio

Hard Fixed was produced by Tim Kerr at Egg Studios. "We wanted to play a little bit in the studio," Young-Blanchard said. "We wanted to experiment with some overdubs and things that, personally, I've never done before. Things that we've always heard in our heads, like Dave's slide on the first track ("Loaded Gun"). We don't do that live ­ that's the fun part of recording."

Songwriting for Hard Fixed also found the group taking chances as they experimented with slower Marvin Gaye-inspired grooves on tracks such as the heart-wrenching and earth-shaking "Star 69" and "The Slide." "I'm very proud and happy how they came out," Young-Blanchard continued. "Now I feel even stronger that we can do different styles and different grooves and — more than pull it off — do it well."

Whether songwriting or recording, the highest priority for The Dt's is to learn, grow and inspire one another. "It's about challenging ourselves and playing with people that inspire us, and that we feel like we can co-inspire," Crider said. "Our primary concern is to be true to ourselves and to inspire each other.

"This band, from day one, has been 'take it as it comes,' and we're having a great time. And we'll do this as long as we can," he added.

Well, at least until the real big break comes. "I'm waiting for a slot on 'American Idol' actually," said Young-Blanchard, trying to sound serious.

"Uh, yeah, me too," Crider said. — Jenny Tatone [Tuesday, July 6, 2004]

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