Dear Blanca has been writing rock ‘n’ roll songs for the past ten years. After a devastating defeat in tennis to Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, the Columbia, SC-based group decided it was time to broaden their horizons, and released the minimalistic new EP, Nothing You Do Is Quiet.
The EP dropped today, Friday, October 6th, and contains three tracks that are much different from anything you’ve heard from Dear Blanca in the past. For this collection of songs, they’ve set aside the electric guitar in favor of piano, trumpet, and synth strings, and it’s a refreshing change of pace.
I linked up with Dear Blanca founding member and frontman Dylan Dickerson to discuss the new EP, the fabled tennis match with Pavement, and how it all fits together.
The Making of Nothing You Do Is Quiet
According to Dylan, Nothing You Do Is Quiet was recorded during a short break between their East and West Coast tours with the Sloppy Boys last September.
It was originally going to be a solo project, but it developed into a full-fledged Dear Blanca EP after they brought in Clay White to lay down some horns. That led to bassist Cam Powell and drummer Richie Harper joining the sessions, and Nothing You Do Is Quiet was born.
“We got Clay laying down these horns and I started to hear how a full band sound would work with it.” Dylan explains. “They’re [the band is] pretty bare bones in a lot of ways on the EP. It’s very minimalist and sparse, but they really did elevate the songs. I was excited about them being these little stripped-down things with acoustic guitars, pianos and horns, but then when they laid down the rhythm section, every song benefited from it.”
Recording was done in the home studio of Marshall Brown, a longtime friend of the band, and fellow member of the side project Shows alongside Dylan and Secret Guest frontman (and Band of Horses guitarist) Brett Nash.
Of working with Marshall, Dylan says: “He’s somebody who I feel so comfortable working with, and he’s super creative. He always gets what I’m going for and brings great ideas to the table. He and I have a lot of similarities and things that we both love about music. So he’s just such a natural fit for me. I love the guy, he’s a friend to be around for sure.”
Cover Art by Raymond Pettibon
In addition to the spirit of friendship at the core of the EP, Dear Blanca’s Nothing You Do Is Quiet also features a notable collaboration in storied graphic artist Raymond Pettibon.
Pettibon has designed a number of iconic alt-rock images, including the Black Flag logo, the album cover for Sonic Youth’s Goo, and several albums by the Minutemen. Now, he adds Dear Blanca to his quiver, and likewise for the band.
“It’s a bucket list album art get for us, I would say,” Dylan says.
This collaboration came about during the process of making Dear Blanca’s last album, Perched, thanks to a mutual connection between the band and Minutemen bassist Mike Watt. Watt played on Perched after appearing on the Comfort Monk podcast with Dylan and co-host Eddie Newman.
“When I reached out to Raymond, I mentioned that Mike had been on the last record, and they’re definitely good friends, so I’m pretty sure that had a lot to do with why he was extra down with giving us some paintings,” Dylan explains.
The band received a variety of paintings from Raymond’s team and picked their favorite for the album cover.
“Gotta shout out where respect is due–my wife helped me pick the painting as well. They were all so good, but we both agreed that that was our favorite.”
Playing Tennis with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich of Pavement
In addition to the new EP Dear Blanca’s Dylan Dickerson and bassist Cam Powell have also recently experienced a tennis match smackdown from two legends, Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich of Pavement. The loss has resulted in the release of the quiet, reflective EP, Nothing You Do Is Quiet.
“That was a podcast adjacent thing as well.” Dylan says. He explains how Brett Nash would co-host on Comfort Monk, and how Brett’s bucket list podcast guest was Bob Nastonovich of Pavement.
When the Hopscotch 2023 lineup was announced, Dylan noticed that both Dear Blanca and Pavement were playing.
“I’d seen online this video where Bob and Stephen played a tennis match against Tim Heidecker and his co-host on his podcast and they filmed it and made this whole thing out of it.”
See that video, titled Celebrity Tennis Match: Office Hours vs. Pavement below.
“I just coincidentally have been getting super into tennis and played it a ton over the past couple of years,” Dylan continues. “So I saw that YouTube clip of them playing and kind of teased Bob on Twitter and was like, “Hey, are there any courts in Raleigh? When we’re both in town, I think Cam and I could give you a run for your money.”
I’m excited to play @hopscotchfest! Are there any good tennis courts in Raleigh? I think @campowell90 & I could give @pavement_band a run for their money… 🎾 cc: @dronecoma @BNastanovich https://t.co/bWAX34YJKY— Dear Blanca (@dearblanca) May 24, 2023
Bob got back to Dylan saying that he was super down, and they began emailing. Bob soon appeared on the Comfort Monk podcast, with co-host Brett Nash. They chatted for an hour and a half and solidified the plans to play tennis.
Van Dies En Route to Tennis Court
With an exciting match set in motion, it’s only natural that things didn’t go according to plan. After picking up Stephen and Bob in the Dear Blanca tour van, Dylan and Cam immediately noticed that something was wrong.
“We go to scoop those guys at their hotel, and the van is acting very sketchy.” Dylan recalls. “On the way to the tennis center, the transmission completely went out.”
Stephen and Bob noticed the mechanical troubles, too.
“They’re chit-chatting with us and we can tell that the van is like about to shit the bed and they’re like, You guys think we’re going to get stranded in the road? Cam and I are like, No, no. Two minutes later, we are definitely stranded in the middle of the road.”
Before the tennis match even happens, Dear Blanca has gotten themselves into a sticky situation. Luckily, Stephen and Bob were amused.
“So next thing I know, it’s me, Cam, Bob and Stephen pushing the van. We knew it was more than likely a goner. Cam managed to get it up this hill into a Dollar General parking lot. And we were like, Screw it. There’s nothing we can do about the van right now. Let’s just Uber to the tennis center.”
The Match of a Century
Upon arriving at the tennis center, Dylan and Cam found themselves outclassed.
“Those guys are really fucking good at tennis,” Dylan says. “We got some pretty beautiful shots in, I will say. It wasn’t a complete blowout considering how good Malkmus is. Like, he’s nasty.”
Dylan explains how once he realized the strength of his opponent, he realized he couldn’t win. His goal became just trying to get a few good shots in.
“It was fun, man. And they couldn’t have been cooler about it. Even right before they played the next day, Bob was texting us and telling us how much of a good time he had and that he hoped the van was all right. Which it is not. It’s completely dead. It is scrapped at this point, but it’s all right. I mean, it served us well while it did.”
I’ll leave the speculation on whether or not this tennis match will lead to any further development to you, dear reader. For now, I leave you with the new Dear Blanca EP, Nothing You Do Is Quiet, and one final quote from Dylan.
“I’m excited to make maybe something that’s a little bit noisier on our next record, whatever that is.”
For the Charleston folks reading, Dear Blanca will return to The Royal American on November 11th alongside our pals in Daddy’s Beemer.
Stream the new EP, Nothing You Do Is Quiet by Dear Blanca below.