“We played in really crappy bands in high school and then after high school,” says Bowersmith one recent evening at Funhouse, the Cleveland bar that houses an upstairs practice space that the band uses. The other three members — guitarist Dave Gibian, singer-bassist Gheramy Demery and drummer Mike Burrows — have crammed into a booth with Bowersmith to talk about their new album, Total Dissatisfaction,
which comes out on vinyl through Wax Mage Records and on cassette through Tape Haus. Locals John G and Jake Kelly provided the artwork.
After playing together when they were teens, Bowersmith and Gibian went their separate ways.
“After high school, I joined [the now defunct local punk band] the Vacancies, and [Gibian] joined [the now defunct local rock band] Boatzz,” says Bowersmith.
When those bands fizzled out, they started playing together once again in 2009, christening their band All Dinosaurs while jamming in Bowersmith’s basement.
“We played crappy acoustic songs, but we were determined,” says Bowersmith.
“It was admittedly some pretty rough stuff,” says Gibian, adding that their first show was at Bela Dubby, the now-shuttered Lakewood bar that used to host punk and indie rock concerts. Local artist John G. did the flyer for that show; he's become the band’s go-to guy for artwork.
“Having a guy like him our corner has been great,” says Gibian, who adds that John G. has even helped them get shows out of town.
Seven years on, that determination has finally started to pay off. The band’s new album, Total Dissatisfaction
, features abrasive guitar riffs and parched vocals as the songs straddle the line between hardcore and metal, placing the band in a category that defies categorization even if members admit that punk bands like the Bronx and Refused are big influences.
“We were always into punk music and the mid-2000s era when it was a little heavier,” says Bowersmith. “It was like we’d want to play our songs faster and then once we played them faster, we’d want to play them even faster and we became this weird metal band.”
And yet, the band doesn’t quite fit the “metal” mold.
“It’s the whole Metallica thing,” says Gibian. “We’ll be the weird punk band on metal show and the weird metal band on a punk show. We feel more like a punk band. But we want to play faster and be heavier. We wanted to see what we could accomplish without actually being good at our instruments, with the exception of Mike.”
The band released its first single in 2010 and then followed it with two full-lengths.
“You can say we were 'totally dissatisfied,'” says Gibian. “The first one was kids learning to play songs together. I don’t think it’s something we identify with too much anymore. Without it, we wouldn’t be doing this. We had one song that we still play. It’s a great song but juxtaposed to what we play now it’s so different.”
The new album suggests a real maturation as the band addresses personal tragedies in many of the songs.
“We lost a few really good friends recently,” says Gibian. “I joke about it, but the themes do stem from those crushing losses and feelings of absolute hopelessness and helplessness.”
“We were in our early twenties when we wrote the first two records,” says Bowersmith. “Now, we’re in our thirties and reality starts sinking in. You add that to the deaths and you get the songs on the album. There are a lot of shitty feelings on the album. That stuff will knock you out.”
The band recorded the album at Brainchild Recording Studios with Noah Buchanan, the singer in the metal band Solipsist.
“He lets us be a little loose,” says Bowersmith. “He knows we’re not the typical metal band. It doesn’t have to be regimented. He let us breathe and let some flubs in, so it was more authentic sound.”
The album is the first release with Burrows, and Gibian says the approach was different this time around since Burrows plays with such finesse.
“Drumming-wise, I just want to get the point across and not get too fancy," says Burrows. "I just want to keep things moving. I don’t want to show off or anything. These guys write riffs that are really driving. Bo tends to be straight-ahead punk rock and Dave jumps every once in a while to insert weird pauses or make it so it doesn’t sound so easy. We don’t’ want to get cute or anything. We’re not Rush.”
“We get into a verse-chorus-verse routine and then we want to tear it down,” adds Bowersmith.
The song titles suggest the band’s unique approach too. One track dubbed “Mexican Grizzly” is about “passionate self-hatred.”
“It was an idea that I thought was interesting," says Gibian. "In my head, I made some connections. They’re just song titles, and they don’t have to mean too much. I thought I could relate it enough even though the title isn’t in the song’s lyrics.”
The track "The Importance of Being Earnest" references local evangelist Ernest Angley rather than the Oscar Wilde play.
“One of us will come to the table with most of a song, and someone else might just have riffs,” says Bowersmith. “Everything gets thrown in the pot and stirred up. We might think we have a totally completed song but then other songs won’t have a home, and we’ll deconstruct what we thought was finished and turn it into something else.”
As a result, each song went through several versions before the final version.
“I don’t think there was a second wasn’t left to scrutiny,” says Demery. “I’m glad. I think when we look back on it, we don’t have to wonder if we spent enough time on it.”
Gibian says the band hopes to play out of town as much as possible. But since band members all have day jobs, they don’t intend to do any heavy touring.
“We’ve evolved from where we were when the band started,” he says. “I hope I can continue to write and record songs with my friends that we all still think are good and we enjoy playing and we’re getting better still at both songwriting and playing. It’s our third full-length album and still no one can tell us what we sound like. That’s something I really like. It may have been a detriment, but in other ways, we can lay our head down on that at night. We work hard to create something that most people haven’t quite heard.”
All Dinosaurs Record Release Show with Heart Attack Man and Bullfighter, 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474. Tickets: $5, happydogcleveland.com.
All Dinosaurs singer-guitarist Bo Bowersmith and singer-guitarist Dave Gibian first became friends in high school and started playing music together. Looking back on it, they admit they didn’t really know what they were doing.