Dactylion hail from the brilliant Derby scene and released their debut EP, ‘Come Inside’, towards the end of last year – a heady mix of shoegaze, U.S alt-rock and indie.
Lead single ‘So Easy’ is an atmospheric assault on the senses, combining delayed guitars and sweet vocals. It’s an intoxicating sound.
With the band on the rise, HIDDEN HERD caught up with Dactylion members Hannah, Liam and Josh for a chat before their hometown gig at The Hairy Dog to find out their origins, influences and what’s coming up for them in 2018.
How did Dactylion get together?
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “So, me and Josh already knew each other, from uni, and then Josh already knew Liam from school, so it was Josh that brought everyone together… then we found Jack (drummer) on the internet.”
Where did the name Dactylion come from? Obviously, it means the tip of the index finger, but was this a thinly veiled “f*ck you” to anyone in particular?
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “I think it was to Jack. Our drummer.”
Josh (bass): “I just like explaining it to people.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “Whenever anyone asks, you can just flip them off.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “I think I like it because we’re all such happy people… none of us hate anyone, so it just feels kind of ironic.”
You only played your first gig a year ago, do you feel there’s been an evolution of your live set
up and sound?
Josh (bass): “Definitely.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “The first few gigs felt very kind of… rough and sketchy, in the way we were playing and the sound we were going for. We’ve kind of refined that a little bit – we’re a bit more polished.”
Josh (bass): “I think as we’ve gotten used to working with each other, we’ve gotten better at writing songs and have written more interesting songs. We’ve also acquired like a hundred more pedals.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “We started out with like six pedals between us and now we have like 25.”
Josh (bass): “And they’re all Liam’s.”
Your EP isn’t a purely shoegaze sound, but you’ve been tagged in the “nu-gaze” pigeonhole. Do you see yourselves as shoegaze or a more eclectic mix of influences?
Liam (guitar/vocals): “I definitely don’t see us as a shoegaze band… I think we started out and went, let’s do some shoegazey stuff – but we weren’t being genre specific. But yeah, we’ve been coined as shoegaze but really we’re more of a mix. We don’t really know. We don’t focus on genre. Art rock, maybe? The EP isn’t… but our new stuff is.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “From my perspective – when I joined the band I had no idea what shoegaze was. I still don’t like the term “nu-gaze”. When I joined, I was influenced by Garbage and Paramore and Amanda Palmer and The Smiths – all these weird, wacky musicians from different places.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “I think I have a shoegaze influence because of my guitar sound – a bit of Slowdive, a bit of My Bloody Valentine – but we don’t set out to have a distinct shoegaze sound. We just make music that we like.”
Slowdive and Jesus and the Mary Chain have been used a few times. Are they actually big influences on your sound?
Liam (guitar/vocals): “Slowdive definitely is, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Josh (bass): “Slothrust too, and a bunch of other bands.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “There’s a bunch of small American bands that we all listen to – like that kinda East Coast alt-rock scene that’s happening in the US – and we’re all big Radiohead fans. Even though we’re
“shoegaze” we don’t’ listen to that much of that.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “We listen to bands that were inspired by bands that were inspired by bands that play shoegaze.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “I mean, we’re all pretty big Vulfpeck fans. That’s like, nothing to do with what we do – we just listen to music we like.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “70% of the music I listen to is just lo-fi hip hop I find on Youtube.”
Everything has happened really fast. Did you have the songs ready before you formed Dactylion? Did one of you have the genesis of them already and brought it to the group?
Josh (bass): “Well, I think Liam had a couple of songs to bring, but mostly we’ve written all of our stuff together.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “I had some of the ‘So Easy’ guitar parts, but that was about it. I seem to remember Josh having the bass part of ‘Fears’ as well.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “Yeah, honestly we write together almost all the time. Sometimes I’ll bring a fragment of something older, but by the time Liam’s given it his influence it’s something entirely new.”
What’s it like being part of this growing scene in Derby, with the great label Reckless Yes, the studio come venue Dubrek and bands like Unqualified Nurse Band? It seems like a really exciting place to be right now?
Liam (guitar/vocals): “I really like the Derby scene.”
Josh (bass): “As much as we want to get out and play gigs elsewhere, Derby still has that special place in our
Liam (guitar/vocals): “It’s such a small city, and it’s so close-knit. Everyone helps everyone else out. Bands play together, people show up because it’s a Reckless Yes night or because it’s at Dubrek.”
Hannah: “I’ve had people show up to our shows because I showed up to their spoken word night years ago… and it’s just really nice. You don’t get that elsewhere.”
Whenever we interview a band with a member of the fairer sex among their ranks, we have been asking if they have experienced any of the unfortunate misogynistic side of being in the industry. Have you had to deal with anything like that?
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “Most of the stuff I have to deal with, because of my persona, is passive-aggressive. People aren’t directly misogynistic because they’ll get punched – but I do get weird comments. This weird,
smelly guy stopped me after a gig once and said: “WOAH you look like Germaine Greer!”. It’s things like that – backhanded compliments. Things like “Oh, you’re just like… that person!””
Josh (bass): “There was that time we were in Leeds and that guy said you smelt comforting. So creepy.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “On a happier note, there is a lot of open-minded, nice people in Derby. You get the odd shitty person, but in this scene most people are really cool.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “Venues are always supportive too. We’ve never had an issue with venues.”
Liam (guitar/vocals): “It’s nice to see there are more bands cropping up with more female members. Historically, music is male dominated… so it’s nice for it to become the norm now, for bands to have all girls, or
an even split. A few years ago – still, to a degree – you see a band with a female member and people are like, “wow, a girl!”. Now, it’s just like, a band of people. It’s a nice change.”
What does the future hold for Dactylion? Are you planning an album?
Liam (guitar/vocals): “We are planning a single for definite later this year – we’ve started recording that, and an album, but no definitive release date yet.”
Hannah (vocals/guitar): “We’ve been working towards it… we’re writing, gathering info. The single will be on the album.”