Since introducing their brand of bluesy Memphis rock-and-roll over four years ago, the Dirty Streets have become a household name in local music. Starting with the same bursting-at-the-seams songwriting approach that bands like MC5 and the Stooges perfected in the late '60s, the Dirty Streets refined their sound on their latest album, Blades of Grass, when they hooked up with Ardent Studios and Alive Records last year. We sat down with founding member Justin Toland to find out what the Dirty Streets have in store for 2014, including three split singles and — you guessed it — more touring.
Flyer: What have you guys been up to since your third album, Blades of Grass, came out last summer?
Justin Toland: The first thing we did after it came out is we went on a Southeast tour to pump the album in places we've already played a lot. We played New Orleans, Texas, and Georgia. Then we did a lot of spot dates, followed by a West Coast tour in October. We also played the Scion Label Showcase over the summer and got offered to do a split single on the Scion Label with the band Indian Handcrafts. Since the October tour, we've been trying to work out some logistics as far as booking agents and things like that, so we've been stuck at home for a while.
Are you planning on recording your follow-up album in Memphis? Do you guys have any singles coming out before you start working on your fourth album?
I'm not really sure about another album yet. We are definitely going to be putting out some new singles this year. We've got three that are waiting to come out right now. The first one will be on me and Eric from Heavy Eyes' label called Soul Patch Records. That release will be a split single with the local band Tanks, who are also helping fund the record through their imprint Higbee Records. Then we have that Scion single coming out I mentioned earlier with Indian Handcrafts, which should be out in the spring. The last thing we have coming out is another split single, and it's with a band from Little Rock called Iron Tongue. That single will be on this label called Mutants and Monsters. Hopefully, all of those records will be out by the spring of this year. They were all supposed to come out months apart, but I think now they are all going to be released at the same time.
Were all the songs for these upcoming singles recorded locally?
Yep. The Scion split we did at Ardent again, with Matt Qualls and Adam Hill, who engineered Blades of Grass. The songs that will be on the split with Iron Tongue were recorded in Little Rock at Wolfman studio by good friends of ours. The split with Tanks actually has an old song that we just never released. It was recorded in Memphis by Andrew McCalla about four years ago.
How would you describe the difference in your sound from the band's inception to the latest record?
I think there are two main differences between our sound in the beginning and on Blades of Grass. The first would be that we used to write songs completely from an energy standpoint. We wanted to blast everything out and channel pure energy. Now, we have learned more to groove and not wear people out. I think it's important to bring people into it instead of leaving them behind.
Would you say these new singles represent a change in the band's sound the way Blades of Grass did?
Well, the song we recorded three years ago with Andrew is obviously a really old song, so it's super intense and really loud and noisy. That session was completely live, so it sounds a little bit different than how we sound today. For the split, we are doing with Iron Tongue we actually did the James Gang song "The Bomber: Closet Queen."
You guys have been touring a ton since you got started four years ago. How has the amount of time you've spent on the road contributed to the progression of the band?
I think it's really important to tour if you want to grow as a band. I'm the type of person who wants to be on the road all of the time. When it comes to recording, every record gets tighter because you tour more and more. When you're on tour you get to play your songs a ton, you really get to analyze them and see how they feel to play every single night. Touring lets you really feel a song out, and that's something you can't do in a studio. The feel of a song is so much more important than the structure, which is why I think recording an album live is really important.
So, are you guys going to wait to tour again until some of these singles come out, or will there be more touring in support of Blades of Grass?
We haven't really gotten to tour a lot on Blades of Grass just because of a lot of logistical shit that happened. Our booking agent got in a really bad car accident. So a lot of things happened that were completely out of everyone's control. The plan is to do a second wave of touring all through the spring and summer in support of Blades of Grass and then come back and record another album late in 2014. Ideally, we would be recording that in October 2014.
Are there any other plans for 2014?
We're really hoping to go to Europe next year, but our entire focus for 2014 is just to stay on the road as much as possible.