The bio on the Bandcamp page for Ohio fuzz-rockers Dune treats curious listeners to a brief origin story. “Four friends from Athens, Ohio,” it reads, “who threatened to start a stoner rock band together each time they met at local bars, finally came together to form Dune in 2011.”
As far as seemingly empty promises and wouldn’t-that-be-cool brainstorms go, the band’s been doing pretty well since then — it released a debut full-length, Roja
, in 2012 and garnered a respectably sized fan base around its gigging grounds in Southern Ohio.
“The truth is, we’re rock n’ rollers who have stupid jobs that get in the way,” says singer-guitarist Louis Knight when asked how Dune operates. The fact that certain members can’t afford to make the band priority number one can be tough and dealing with living in different cities (Knight and guitarist Matt Toledo moved away from Athens in 2012) certainly doesn’t make things any easier. However, the fact that Dune has managed to keep going is a testament to just how much the guys enjoy playing with one another.
“I personally have stayed with it because the other three guys are so talented,” says Knight, “it’s worth the drive once or twice a month.”
A particularly important drive was made earlier this year, when Knight took some time off work and spent three days with Toledo working out material for what would become Dune’s self-titled EP, released last month.
“We spent three days together writing a bunch of material, drinking beers and trying to figure out what to do with it,” Knight explains. “We decided to go with a short EP to give us time to work on a second full-length.”
may not boast an extensive tracklist, but each song has more than plenty of meat to it. The record’s centerpiece “Hell Betty” clocks in at over six minutes, cycling through phrase after phrase of driving, riff-heavy desert rock.
This comes courtesy of Toledo, who serves as the lead guitarist and mastermind behind Dune’s explosive sense of melody. “Matt is really the mad genius in Dune,” Knight says. “He usually brings a great idea to practice and we all add parts and structure.”
His sharp, creative playing can be heard all over the EP — despite their heaviness, the musical inner workings of the songs on Dune are usually pretty complex.
Take “Aries” for example, the record’s second and shortest track. Even though it’s a little more straightforward than the others, the intro still manages to pack a groovy punch by repeating a 4/4 riff after just three bars, catching the listener off guard and giving the song a bit of a math-y edge. The creative vocal leads in “Inside” and Toledo’s relentless shredding on closer “Elizabeth,” which even at one point challenges the vocals for the spotlight, provide even more playfulness to keep things interesting and attention-grabbing. It’s no wonder Dune takes pride in the diversity and inventiveness of its sound, especially when compared to other heavy rock bands. The aforementioned Bandcamp bio even boasts undertones of “everything from soul to thrash” in their music.
At the core, however, is the hook heavy alt-rock spirit of the 1990s. Knight cites everyone from Kyuss to Soundgarden to the more progressive desert sound of Truckfighters as influences, stressing the quartet’s original goal of being a true stoner rock band as the main thing they continue to strive for musically. The band’s love of genre runs deep within its connections to one another — according to Knight, he first met the other three members of Dune while doing acoustic Queens of the Stone Age cover sets at open stage events in Athens. Their initial reaction was to invite him to join the band they were starting, but he says that it wasn’t smooth sailing from the get go.
“Not a lot of people know that I was almost kicked out after the first practice,” Knight explains. “I played mostly acoustic and as much as I loved the ideas these guys had, I was totally out of my element.”
Thankfully, things picked up from there and the group hit a confident stride with the release of Roja
. Still, though, according to Knight there were a lot of things they could have done better.
“I really loved Roja
. But, like with most bands, there was a lot of room for Dune to grow, and I think we've done that,” he says. “The EP is more representative of where we are now as musicians and the direction I'd like to see us go.”
For the upcoming show at Mahall’s in Lakewood, Dune will play songs from the new EP, of course, along with a few old favorites. But above all, the band aims to bring the house down with what Knight lovingly calls “extreme head-banging rock ’n’ roll.” He says the band’s highest possible hope is to make a lasting impression: “People [will] hear that fuzzy guitar tone and drums that hit you over the head and say ‘that’s Dune!’”
Mobile Home, Dune, Slackluster, Fan Fiction, 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, Mahall’s 20 Lanes, 13200 Madison Ave, Lakewood, 216-521-3280. Tickets: $5, mahalls20lanes.com.