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Interview: Dominant Legs

It appears that 2008 was the big turning point for San Francisco native Ryan Lynch as he changed quite a few familiar landmarks in his life and struck off in a new songwriting direction dubbing his blossoming sound (and state of mind) Dominant Legs. The Bay Area guitarist had leant his fret skills to local groups like Magic Bullets and later to GIRLS for years, but Dominant Legs was his first foray off into the solo unknown.

A year later, vocalist and keyboardist Hannah Hunt jumped on board and flourished Lynch’s bourgeoning lithe pop with her sweet and subtle boy/girl vocal play, digging into a new dimension and recording last year’s Young at Love and Life EP via Lefse. Since then the project has collected a full and proper band, fleshing out the sound in a way only multiple hands can, and drawing near to the release of the debut full-length Invitation due out next week, also on Lefse.

Tracing Dominant Legs’ short history is like listening to a self-fulfilling roadmap drawn out by Lynch. From his earliest synth bogged demos of “Young at Life and Love” to the most recent and refined “Hoop of Love” the progress unfurls with bizarre precision, as though the final product was easily inevitable. Of course, creativity doesn’t really work that way, but it seems to be a fitting metaphor for Dominant Legs and their effortless pop–the tapping drums, the funky guitar strums, a general attitude that maintains that similar feeling of assurance that everything has and always will be okay.

Your Young at Love and Life EP was generally really up-beat, in a starting over sort of way as opposed to like naive optimism. Was there a significant ending that took place in order for the genesis of Dominant Legs to become a reality?

There was the end of my participation in the band Magic Bullets which I had spent nearly six years playing in. Before that I had played music with the two main song writers, Phil Benson and Corey Cunningham, in another band for three years. So, I had been playing with them for nearly a decade. It was a new life as a musician in that regard. It did feel a bit strange to be without them.

The optimism and sense of renewal is something that I felt would be somewhat surprising to those who knew me well. I went through a pretty lengthy fight with myself the years prior to the record. I like to think the angel on my one shoulder won the fight. I feel like a much more pleasant and understanding person these days. I feel the EP was a result, whether I was aware of it or not, but the LP was written with the intention of making others feel good.

Your sort of ‘classic pop sampling’ sound really seems to inspire some creative descriptions of your music–like “Arthur Russell covering Aztec Camera”– Do you ever feel like there is an influence people don’t generally pick up on that surprises you?

I think that you have to be careful and not to be overly influenced by one particular artist. Otherwise, you run the risk of being a pale imitation of that person. If there is one aspect of our music that is directly influenced by someone else, I would say that I hope my guitar playing at least touches on Nile Rodgers‘ playing. I’d be the first to tell you that he has much more skill than I, but he is a definite influence.

I read that the name of your debut Invitation is a nod to a Springsteen quote, what about the cover art? Did you guys have an inspiration for that or was it someone else’s suggestion?

We had a few ideas floating around and one day we saw an old photo on our friends Tumblr and we thought, “Let’s try something like that.” We usually do all of our photos with our friend Hayden Shiebler. Hayden and Hannah [Hunt] got together to take some test shots for reference, but the they turned out to be perfect, so there it was… the album cover. To me it represents a natural, hedonistic experience.

How did the recording process for Invitation differ from the EP? For example, the lead singles “Hoop of Love” and “Where We Trip The Light”, their arrangements sound a little more full-bodied?

The recording process wasn’t much different than the way it was before, but there was a big shift in the writing process. We had a full band finally and five members adding their input and influence. We had much more freedom with arrangements because we were working with a real drummer, where before it was all drum machine. I also wanted to go further towards traditional pop arrangements.

With the added musicians we were able to do that while adding nuances to still sound contemporary. I personally believe that there is still nothing better than a well constructed pop song. I wanted to experiment without limitations to the songs, but also stay somewhere within those boundaries.

Besides releasing your full-length debut (congratulations!) you guys are also about to take on a big North American tour with Nurses. Your sounds seems to translate really well live, although I guess you never know what the road is going to throw your way. When you’re faced with a difficult venue situation what aspect of your sound do you focus on?

Honestly, everything is a concern. When we were just a duo I was always stressed about the samples. We were always at the mercy of the sound system at the venue. Now that we play everything it is not so much of a concern. I always hope the vocals sound fine. We’ve never toured this long before and I hope our voices hold up.

You guys are originally from/based in the Bay Area–you’ve toured all around the world, is San Francisco just the place to be these days? Your “Hoop of Love” video seems to be a convincing argument in that direction.

It wasn’t our intention to play off of the whole “San Francisco fun in the sun” vibe. I actually thought that half of the video was going to be in the wind and fog that covers the city on a more consistent basis. It is a great place to live, but I think there are many. We weren’t necessarily trying to showcase our city as much as represent fun and freedom in general. That sense of getting away.

Thanks Ryan!

You can stream Invitation on Hype Machine HERE

You can pre-order Invitation due out September 27th via Lefse HERE

Don’t miss Dominant Legs at Glasslands on Saturday, October 15th with Nurses // Celestial Shore

Get yr tickets HERE

For all general enquiries and hate mail, please reach us at info@popgunpresents.com or tweet us @popgunpresents

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