In just a few short years, the Memphis hard-rock/proto-punk trio the Dirty Streets has risen from virtual unknown-status to that of one of the city's more popular local bands.
But according to the group's singer/guitarist Justin Toland, it wasn't exactly an easy climb to the top.
"In the beginning, we had a hard time booking shows because we couldn't figure out who to play with," he says. "Our choices were either punk bands or more riff-oriented bands."
These days, however, the group has no such trouble finding work.
"Now there is a lot more support for the thing we're doing," Toland says.
The Dirty Streets formed in 2006, around the core of Toland and bassist Thomas Storz, who had bonded musically while playing together as a local band called Foodstamps. After struggling for over a year to find a permanent drummer, Storz and Toland finally made the acquaintance of drummer (and, as luck would have it, Storz's new neighbor) Andrew Denham, thus solidifying the group's line-up.
"If it weren't for the Las Vegas license plate in the driveway and the sound of muddled drums [coming from the house], we would have never met," Storz says.
The newly formed trio forged a unique sound, equally reverent to punk predecessors like the MC5, hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad, and classic soul/R&B artists like James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone.
"I don't know if I could describe our sound, really," Toland says. "We didn't have any definite direction when we started except that we all appreciated older styles of music and recording."
After gigging around town for a while, the Dirty Streets began to pick up steam in 2009 with the release of the group's impressive debut full-length album, Portrait of a Man. Later that same year, the band also got tapped to support local roots-punk heroes Lucero on a sizable portion of U.S. tour dates.
"The Lucero tour was great — those guys were really good to us," Toland says.
Almost immediately after finishing Portrait of a Man, the group began working on new material and experimenting even further with musical styles.
"We have become more diverse in how we play," Toland says. "We used to be loud all the time. In the beginning, we just wanted to focus on the live show and how we could perform the songs. We wanted to come out and get people's attention. Now the focus is more on the songs."
The Dirty Streets' increased dedication to songwriting is on full display on the band's latest album, Movements, which comes out locally this weekend. Recorded by the well-respected local producer/engineer/musician Doug Easley, the album finds the band venturing into some familiar territory — heavy riffs, pounding, John Bonham-esque drums, and screeching vocals — while also exploring some new territory with more complex arrangements, increased production values, and even acoustic guitars.
"This is our second record. So we felt it was sort of a movement into a new era for us," Toland says. "The record itself has a lot of movement as far as dynamics and concepts. The song 'Movements' is about moving from one set of ideals into new ones. An awakening to a new light and understanding."
Movements will be available in digital formats (CD, download) starting this Friday, when the band will stage a release show at the Hi-Tone. But the group also plans to do a vinyl pressing of the record that will be available later this year.
"I'm very happy with [the album]. I feel like it's the best we can do at this point. In that way, I feel very satisfied," Toland says.
The Dirty Streets
With Heavy Eyes and William Stull
Friday, October 21st, 9 p.m.; $7