The One And Only Dingus

Their debut album received a flurry of positive reviews last year. Just make sure it’s the alt-country Dingus that you opt for though.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd. Well, not if you go by the name of Dingus and happen to play alt-country music in the industrial hills of Drammen, southeast of Norway that is.

Far from being seen as a problem, this five-piece alt-country setup remains nonchalant when presented with the facts that there exists another band with the same name from North Dakota, and living in Minneapolis right now. In fact, the Norwegians present Famous Last Words (FLW) with some knowledge of their own, with information that there exists another band who are equally smitten with the name Dingus, leaving FLW to ponder just how popular one name can be when trying to come up with the all-important moniker for any aspiring newcomer to the world of rock and roll or, in this instance, alt-country.

“It’s good to know that we’re not alone,” begins chosen spokesperson Emil Kraugerud (vocals, guitar and piano) regarding the popularity of the band’s name. “There’s also a Dingus. with a period (A full stop for our UK readers, FLW) from Chicago. We haven’t heard anything from any of them [two other bands of the same name], but we haven’t tried to contact them either. Maybe we should?”

With the North Dakota version of Dingus in love with everything punk, and the other incarnation of this popular band name – “Have car, will travel” when it comes to Honda Hybrids, in addition to possessing a willing attitude to take you to a prom if your needs desire such a thing right now, then making contact with either of these two bands may result in a few awkward silences when considering the musical background of the alt-country version of Dingus from Norway.

Leaving the subject of band names to one side, the reason for our interest in the Norwegian version of Dingus is due to the band attracting considerable interest after the release of their eponymously titled debut album towards the end of last year.

‘Dingus’, the album, proved to be an alt-country delight full of memorable tunes, sensitive lyrics and often from a female perspective. Such examples can be heard from the laidback strum of ‘Ahead of Her Game’ with its far from stereotypical portrayal of the female species, which is definitely good to hear, to the reflective beat and delicate subject matter of depression surfacing during the rather excellent ‘Up The Road’ supported by a tender rhythm and vocals, before repeating similar feats via ‘Hold On’ with its subtle hints of piano that adds to the despair expressed for the lost generation of people falling through the gaps in society during ‘Further From Home’.

If all this lonesome wandering and reflective thought running throughout ‘Dingus’, complete with a soundtrack that takes inspiration from America’s South and treads a similar path to the ones composed by the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Jason Molina and Wilco et al, sounds like an odd fit with a band where the climate is often colder and the days often darker, then think again because Dingus, and their album of the same name, extinguishes any such doubts regarding their credibility to construct a true alt-country sound.

With the rest of Dingus consisting of Aleksander Austad (guitar/vocals), Simen Kjeksrud (bass), Stian Kjeksrud (drums) and Jens Christian Wiik (lap steel/vocals), all band members are in agreement when describing their sound as, “Laidback and slightly twangy alt-country”. Therefore, it would be interesting to establish whether Dingus view their immediate surroundings of Drammen as having an influence on their alt-country sound considering they’re a long way from the alt-country sounds of America?

“Actually, there has been a good environment for country and related genres in Drammen lately,” answers Emil. “In addition to Jonas Fjeld – godfather of Drammenicana (A term developed by those artists performing Americana music in Drammen, FLW) – bands and artists like Southern Alps, Jack Stillwater, Jørgen & Jørgensen, Tim Calleja and Höglin Baker are related to Drammen or its vicinity in some way. However, our music is probably more influenced by Drammen’s history as a rock city, which contributes to pull us in a rougher direction. Also, the environments around Union Scene, Viktoria Kulturhus and Lier Musikkverksted have been crucial for us in ending up doing this.”

The history surrounding Dingus is one that has involved a few prior engagements before the band fully formed to get to the stage where they find themselves now, with their debut album firmly in place. In fact, it’s this previous experience which has no doubt aided the creative processes to allow Dingus to write such an established long player.

“Most of us have played in several bands together before Dingus, such as Manjolia Mountains, and the more relevant Aleksander and the Lumberjacks,” Emil explains regarding life before Dingus. “After some time of not playing together, we decided it was time to give vent to our love for country music. Our first gig was at the first “Drammenicana” show at Union Scene in December 2013, where The Southern Alps and Seven Doors Hotel also played. That’s also where we met Alexander Lindbäck (See previous interview with Seven Doors Hotel at FLW), who released our album and all the preceding singles on his label Safe & Sound Recordings.”

Having secured the record deal for their debut album, Dingus was quick to initiate the processes required to establish this full-length record.

“Most of the album was recorded in June 2015 at Parachute Studio in Oslo, and overdubs were recorded at the Department of Musicology, UiO later that summer,” says Emil in relation to the recording of the band’s album. “We produced, engineered and mixed it ourselves. Justin Perkins at Mystery Room in Milwaukee did the mastering.”

How long did it take to record the album?

“We spent five days (and nights) in Parachute recording all the basic tracks and some overdubs,” continues Emil. “I believe we recorded the last overdub in August, so it took about two months in total.”

Did the band encounter any problems during this time in the recording studio?

“Both writing and recording went rather smoothly, with the exception of a few arguments in the studio, which is bound to happen when working 15+ hours a day. In the end though, we’re very pleased with the overall outcome of the album.”

As more details are extracted regarding the album and, in particular, its artwork (see From The Tapes, FLW), with the exception of a failed attempt to draw much in the way of information regarding a few of the songs’ lyrics, with Emil seemingly reluctant to discuss such things and leaving FLW hanging with the briefest of explanations: “Without going too much into detail, [what] the songs have in common is that they address the frustrations of love, doing that from two different perspectives,” which, in all honesty, is probably the best explanation as too much detail can sometimes prove disastrous if you have any ideas beforehand regarding the songs making up ‘Dingus’ and said explanation fails to live up to your own interpretations.

Considering how Dingus has built up their reputation around the Drammen scene and near neighbour Oslo, FLW would like to seek the band’s opinion in terms of how Norway fares in general when it comes to live music and the popularity of bands, or is it a case of the general public losing interest in such things now?

“Generally, I don’t think people are losing interest in such things,” considers Emil. “However, in cities like Oslo, where a significant amount of the concert-goers are musicians themselves, I think their interest is less focused on specific bands than what’s the case in smaller places. Also, the fact that there are concerts every day in Oslo might make people a bit less ecstatic about live music [these days].”

Despite the melancholic nature of the contents of ‘Dingus’, there is a lighter side to this band, evident from the album’s cover image giving way to any number of interpretations and the overall suggestion that everything is somehow bigger and (perhaps) better in America. “We play together because it’s great fun, and I don’t really see any reason that shouldn’t be reflected in how we appear as a band,” Emil says in relation to FLWs’ observation of a humorous side to Dingus. “I think there are too many, both people in general, as well as bands and artists, who take themselves too seriously.”

Further evidence of playful side to this five-piece band from Drammen extends to last year’s cover version of One Direction, yes (ahem) you heard right, One Direction and their song ‘Fireproof’. Therefore, how does an alt-country band from Norway arrive at the decision to cover a song from one of the biggest pop attractions in recent times?

“I think it started with our discovering of Dollar Store’s cover version of ‘Believe’ (the Cher song with pioneering use of Auto-Tune) through Alexander Lindbäck who ended up playing mandolin on our version of ‘Fireproof’. Aleksander Austad (vocals / acoustic guitar) had listened a lot to the One Direction album Four (2014) at work in Platekompaniet, and discovered ‘Fireproof’. It’s actually a quite nice song, but the production doesn’t correspond very well with our tastes. As with Dollar Store’s ‘Believe’, it’s interesting to see how much you can get out of a song you wouldn’t listen to at all in other circumstances. It [‘Fireproof’] didn’t get as much attention as we hoped for, but there were some blogs that wrote about it. I think that was helped by the video we made, which was also listed on NRK P3’s Friday video list. It’s still a song people like to hear at our concerts.”

With the New Year underway and Dingus proud owners of a very fine debut album indeed, what’s next for the band in 2017?

“We’ll start recording our next album, and there will probably be some singles during the year,” replies Emil. “We’ll also be playing three concerts during the coming month: February 11 in Drammen at Rekord Bar; February 27 at Buckley’s with Borgar Storebråten, and March 3 in a back alley (Sounds interesting! FLW) in Torggata during by:Larm.”

Just before Emil departs up the nearest dirt track home to the southeast hills of Drammen, and with the customary “Thank you” coming from both sides, he leaves FLW with his final words of the day, “Carry on my wayward son!” which is definitely something to consider.

Grateful as we are at the discovery of Dingus and their debut album, after nearly allowing these alt-country sons of Norway to slip under the FLW radar, it’s time to get a bit of Dingus in your life, but just make sure it’s the alt-country flavoured one that you opt for.

‘Dingus’ is out now on Safe & Sound Recordings

(Photography courtesy of Steffen Pøhner Henriksen)

FLW - From the Tapes

When it comes to Dingus’ choice of artwork for their debut album, is it a case of tongue planted firmly in cheek or one for the serious art critics? You decide. In the meantime, Dingus provide us with a few details regarding their choice of album cover design.
“The artwork was quite easily decided upon,” starts Emil Kraugerud regarding the choice of cover design for ‘Dingus’. “Since we first put out ‘Further from Home’ on Soundcloud in 2013 with a picture of a cactus from Joshua Tree, cactuses has been a recurring thing in Dingus. We went to IKEA, bought a bunch of cactuses on sale and arranged a little photo shoot. I can also reveal that the artwork is somewhat inspired by Wilco’s ‘A.M.’ Martin Torvik Langerød helped us with the finishing touches on the cover design.”

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