Party band Dash Rip Rock marking release of 17th album
Novelty anthem “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot,” by New Orleans’ purveyors of rock mischief and mirth, Dash Rip Rock, caught the attention of MTV News in 1995. A comic, punk-rock update of Danny & the Juniors’ 1957 doo-wop hit, “At the Hop,” the song became a national hit at college radio. Its notoriety endures to this day.
Those who know Dash Rip Rock strictly through “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot” may be surprised that the group released its 17th album last month.
“Black Liquor” is another Dash album issued through the San Francisco-based Alternative Tentacles Records. The band has a string of album release shows scheduled for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Shreveport, Houston and beyond.
“We’ve been sort of a trademark Louisiana party band,” Dash Rip Rock founder and principal Bill Davis said last week. “Of course, we get lumped in with Better Than Ezra and Cowboy Mouth. We even get lumped in with Bag of Donuts and cover bands. We do enjoy playing, but we play our own songs and we don’t put on costumes and do covers.”
Davis sees dual audiences for Dash Rip Rock in Louisiana. One audience takes the band relatively seriously. The other sees it through “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot”-clouded glasses.
“They all show up and it’s a blast,” the grateful and quick-to-laugh Davis said. “But in other states and overseas, we’re taken a lot more seriously than we are around Baton Rouge and New Orleans. But my personality is one of humor and fun, so it’s a complicated relationship we have with Dash fans.”
Ben Mumphrey, whose studio credits include the Pixies, Frank Black and the Breeders, produced and engineered Dash Rip Rock’s new album at the legendary Studio in the Country in Bogalusa.
Mumphrey has been a Dash Rip Rock fan since his schoolboy days at Jesuit High School. The band’s ’80s performances for Tulane University’s outdoor concert series inspired him to write a fan letter to the group. He got a characteristically irreverent reply.
“They were just crazy young guys, really funny and energetic,” Mumphrey said.
Dash Rip Rock began its long history on hip little record labels in 1987, with the release of its self-titled debut on Atlanta’s 688 Records. The band’s association with 688 Records led to a deal with the Mammoth Records, a North Carolina label that eventually linked with major label Atlantic Records.
Mammoth Records was good for Dash Rip Rock, taking the band far, but by the time the Mammoth roster included indie darling Juliana Hatfield, Seven Mary Three and the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Davis’ trio had moved to Doctor Dream Records for its 1993 album, “Tiger Town.”
Dash Rip Rock was long gone from Mammoth when the Walt Disney Co. bought the label in 1997 for $25 million. Fortunately, one of the trio’s post-Mammoth albums was 1995’s “Get You Some of Me,” featuring the soon-to-be infamous “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot.”
Mumphrey, the early Dash fan who grew up to be manager of Studio in the Country, reconnected with Dash Rip Rock a few years ago when he saw the trio perform at Carrollton Station and 12 Bar. The shows knocked him out.
“These guys are still totally on fire,” he marveled. “And they never stopped, at least Bill never stopped. And he’s one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever worked with. ”
The 12-song “Black Liquor” album includes several songs co-written by Davis and his New Orleans writer friend, Cheryl Wagner, author of the post-Hurricane Katrina based memoir, “Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around: A Memoir of Floods, Fires, Parades, and Plywood.”
Collaborating with Wagner, Davis said, “gives Dash a whole new trajectory. There’s whimsy but there’s also thoughtful lyrics. I credit Cheryl for that, but my songwriting has a matured a bit. At this point, I enjoy focusing on the art of the music. That’s what this record reflects. This record with Ben and Cheryl, I think it may be the best work I’ve done, or the best work may be ahead of me.”
“Black Liquor,” named after the toxic sludge produced by paper mills, is off to good start. SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s outlaw country station picked one of the album’s songs, “Meet Me at the River,” for heavy rotation.
But there’s still no escape from “(Let’s Go) Smoke Some Pot.” During a radio interview last week, Baton Rouge public radio host Jim Engster, one of Davis’ former classmates at the LSU journalism school, couldn’t resist his chance to play the song again.
“The joke years were probably the most lucrative years,” Davis said. “And I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done with this crazy band through the years. But I always try to make a little change per record, or per year, to keep it exciting.”
John Wirt is music writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.