At the end of the day, it’s your ability to craft a song that allows you to make an indelible impact. Hailing from McAllen, Texas Dignan craft songs that are so delicate and beautiful, that you barely realize that they’ve entered your consciousness and will never leave you. Andy Pena: Lead Vocals/Guitar, Devin Garcia: Bass Guitar, Heidi Plueger: Keyboard/Vocals, David Palomo: Aux Instruments/Vocals are creating music that is equal parts perfect songwriting and passionate performance. Andy took some time in the midst of their current tour to share the life of an emerging band that should earn your attention.
TDOA: I’ve only lived in Texas for a few years and yet am still mystified by the “scene”. Care to give us your take on the challenges of making it in Texas? The scene in Austin is so vibrant, but it seems difficult for bands in other cities to break through.
AP: Well, each city has it’s own unique “scene”. Fortunately we have a very supportive “scene” in McAllen. But as far as making it in Texas…I’m still trying to figure that out. We’ve been able to finally break through to Austin and have somewhat of a good following there. It did take a while to grow in Austin though. I think that’s how it is for most bands, you have to start from scratch when you go to cities that you’d never played before, it just takes times and a lot of perspiration.
TDOA: Your music is a beautiful amalgamation of the sounds of our favorite bands. Rather than lead the witness, can you tell us what bands have inspired your music?
AP: Well everyone in the band has their own musical inspiration. It does change everyday for me though. I can get inspired by anything really, but lately I’ve really been inspired by Phillip Glass, The Arcade Fire, The Morning Benders, and Colour Revolt.
TDOA: There seems to be a great deal of care put into your album artwork. Who does it and how much input does the band have?
AP: We’ve been really fortunate to have our friend David Salinas do most of our artwork. He runs a clothing/design brand name Enthos, and does a lot of amazing work. We usually have a ton of input with our artwork. Before he gets started, we’ll usually sit down with him and show/tell him what style/feel we’re going for. He’ll come up with something and if it needs to be revised we’ll let him know. He’s a great artist and he’s such a breeze to work with.
TDOA: Tell us about your experiences of playing with bands like Ra Ra Riot and what you learned from watching them play and deal with the business of music.
AP: Oh man, we’ve been so fortunate to play with some really great bands that we look up to. Ra Ra Riot, Colour Revolt, Cursive, Miniature Tigers, etc. and each time they’ve been great experiences. If we pick up anything from watching them it’s just to not forget to have fun. They all have so much fun. We do too, and it’s just so encouraging to see bands that have been doing it for such a long time (Cursive, Colour Revolt) to still have passion and heart behind their live performance. It’s something I hope we never lose because I love playing live.
TDOA: Because your music seems dense and filled with melodies, I envision the writing process to be interesting. Do your songs generally start with a piece written by a single band member or do they generally result from the band being together and hashing out songs?
AP: Our songs usually start out as a guitar riff or melody that I have, and I’ll present it to the band and we just start layering on top of it right away. We’ll usually write each individual piece of the song like the verse, chorus, and bridge and then figure out in what order we’d like them to go. Vocals usually don’t come in until the end, but from the very beginning of the song, I usually have a melody idea in the back of my head.
TDOA: We always like to ask bands about their experiences playing at SXSW. While some view it as an honor and highly beneficial, others find it overwhelming and get lost in the shuffle. How do you view SXSW and what advice would you give to bands who intend to play there?
AP: We’ve been able to play SXSW 2 times now, and they were both amazing experiences. Our first year we were a little overwhelmed but still had a great experience. There’s so much to do. You lose track of what to go to, and where everything is, but once you get used to it, you can have a really great time. Our second year was probably the best, because we already had a great feel for what we wanted to get out of the festival. They have some really great music business seminars, and such great artist hospitality. I think all of us would say take advantage of the artist hospitality!
TDOA: You’re embarking on a pretty extensive tour this week. Do you enjoy playing live and touring or would you prefer to record in the comfort of your hometown?
AP: I love to record, and I love to tour. The only thing I don’t like about touring is missing out on things with my girlfriend and family. There’s so much I love about touring though, meeting new friends, seeing great cities, playing in venues that so many of the bands we’ve looked up to have played, and just traveling. Driving in the van is really peaceful, and it’s always a great place to think.
TDOA: In what ways has growing up and living in McAllen, Texas shaped your music?
AP: People always seem to ask this question. I never really know what to say. I think it’s just helped push us to really try to do something unique. There’s a lot of music here that is just your standard radio rock. Listening to that growing up was a big turn off and made us try a little harder to do our own thing.
TDOA: What next for the band after finishing up this tour? When will we hear some new music?
AP: We’ll be doing a few spot dates later on in November with our friends The Rocketboys. After that we’ll finish up writing for our new album and hopefully we’ll start recording in March sometime. We should have some new music by August next year. I know it’s a long ways away, but we’re gonna be working hard on it. We might release some little 7″ or something before then with some b-sides. We’ll just have to wait and see.
TDOA: You can throw one band “off the island”. Who would it be?
AP: Right now it would be Justin Beiber.
See them live:
Sep 29 2010 The Handlebar Pensecola, Fl
Sep 30 2010 Alabama Music Box Mobile, Al
Oct 1 2010 Star Bar Baton Rouge, La
Oct 2 2010 Finnegans Wake Alexandria, La
Oct 3 2010 The Nightmare Dallas, Tx
Oct 21 2010 Rock The Republic Festival Bryan, Tx
Oct 22 2010 Common Grounds w/ Ethan Durelle and Quiet Company Waco, Tx
Oct 23 2010 Galeria 409 Brownsville, Tx
Oct 29 2010 The Ghost Room w/ The Rocketboys Austin, Tx
Oct 30 2010 Monks w/The Rocketboys Abilene, Tx
Nov 4 2010 Dan’s Silverleaf w/ Western Giants Denton, Tx
Nov 5 2010 Brewtones w/The Rocketboys Tyler, Tx
Nov 6 2010 The Collective w/ The Rocketboys Shreveport, La
Nov 7 2010 Maxine’s w/ The Rocketboys Hot Springs, Ar
Nov 8 2010 Jaunitas w/ The Rocketboys Little Rock, Ar
Nov 9 2010 Hi Tone w/ The Rocketboys Memphis, Tn
Nov 18 2010 Walter’s on Washington w/ The Rocketboys Houston, Tx
Nov 19 2010 TBA w/ The Rocketboys Corpus Christi, Tx
Nov 20 2010 The Incubator w/ The Rocketboys Mcallen, Tx
Nov 21 2010 Sam’s Burger Joint w/ The Rocketboys San Antonio, Tx