Written by Colin Kirkland
“Dyado” means Grandfather in Bulgarian
This band in particular has a poetic origin story. In the summer of 2015 Matt Lohan grabbed his fiddle and left his home in South Carolina to head north and work on a sailing ship off the coast of Maine. While he was settling into the town of Camden, his great-uncle who dwelled in the coastal area – a man called “Dyado” – invited him over to a dinner party at his house. When Lohan arrived, he met his second-cousin for the first time. They were both musicians and shared a love for a particular instrument: “It was total random chance that I played fiddle and she played fiddle and we both loved fiddle tunes, and her best friend loved fiddle tunes too.” Three fiddle-loving spirits – Matt Lohan, Louisa Stancioff, and Emily Ramsey – quickly unified and created a band named after the man who brought them together. I got a chance to chat with the three-piece “dream-country” band recently as they continued to make their way down the East Coast on a two-week-long tour. When they arrive at their destination outside of Asheville, North Carolina, they will start recording their first full-length album.
For a band that built itself around their use and love of traditional-folk instruments such as the fiddle, the banjo and the acoustic guitar, Dyado is beginning to shift their perspective in search for a sound they can call their own. As if he were describing a fine cheese, Lohan explained Dyado’s pivot from folk: “Sometimes it seems like artisanal folk music is going in this direction that feels overly curated…we want to change it up.” Stancioff added to that thought and said, “I will always love folk music and we will always have folk roots…but we want to be more than just that because we’ve grown beyond it.” So, I wondered, how have things begun to alter within less than two years of being a band?
“Back when the band was starting up,” Lohan reflected, “we used to say ‘deep-north meets deep-south’ kind of sounds to describe ourselves.” According to Lohan, he brought the “foothills, bluesy, country old-time sound” up to Maine and Stancioff and Ramsey “were steeped in this tradition of group-singing and playing the Maine fiddle tunes and the contra-dance and the foot-tapping and we started to combine both of those but at the same time we were all getting into different sounds and weird harmonies…that’s why we’re not folk; there’s a little bit of folk but it’s a lot of our artistic expression. Folk music is more of an expression of culture. We have all these thoughts and ideas and want to connect to people on a deeper level through our music.”
Dyado currently has an EP available on Bandcamp that is comprised of six original songs. It is steeped in heartbreak and movement; angelic harmonies soar over haunting guitar reverb, and visual lyricism provokes both concrete and fleeting imagery. In “Black Rodeo,” an eerie love song that is inseparable from tragedy – the opening track to the EP – Lohan sings, “I’ve got graves for diggin’, I got dice to roll / I got a ring for your finger and a broken soul / So my long-leg woman with the eyes that glow / Oh we could run away together to Mexico / Oh I got a 750 and man she goes.” The sorrow found in Dyado’s music is relatable and raw with stories of chilling car rides – “This old car makes me feel so alone / But I’m just halfway home” – attempts to overcome and move on – “Dark as a river and hard as stone / I’ll pick it up and throw / Throw it away just as far as it goes / Just as you threw me away” – hopeless relationships and leaving against your will: “Darling I’m leaving South Carolina / But know that it’s not on account of you / What more could I do?” Stancioff’s clear rasp guides us through momentary realizations; Lohan bookends the EP with hope for lost love; and Ramsey’s beautiful vocals infuse each emotion with her own intimacy. After listening, I was intrigued to learn how a new band recorded such a clear, professional sounding product.
Ramsey told me that after they met and spent a little time playing together, they started early recordings in Camden, Maine at the house of Stancioff’s grandfather and Lohan’s great-uncle – the original “Dyado.” The band then continued to work on the EP in Maggie Valley, which lies outside of Asheville, North Carolina. They recorded everything in a cabin that belonged to Lohan’s friend. “We basically started with all the acoustic stuff while using different parts of the house.” Like how Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel experimented with the acoustics of a cavernous chapel on “The Boxer,” Stancioff, Lohan, and Ramsey utilized all aspects of the cabin in order to generate specific resonances: “It had this huge hall so we sang some acoustic and acapella songs in there and the bathroom had some crazy reverb so we recorded some fiddle in there.” When Stancioff and Ramsey headed back up north to attend college, Lohan spent time recording the rest of the record in a practice room at the College of South Carolina in Charleston. There, Lohan polished everything they had recorded together, adding electric bass, electric guitar, synth and organ parts.
All members of Dyado write their own songs. Typically, when they have tunes that are “almost done” they bring whatever they have and work the rest out with each other. This is when they offer up changes and propose other lyrics and harmonies that might modify the melody. However, Stancioff added that “sometimes we just write songs together starting from a little idea.” Lohan chipped in, “We wrote a song this summer that started with a hook and a little bit of a pre-chorus and turned into an entire song that is seven minutes long (laughs) just based on that idea…I think it worked so well as a collaboration because we based it on a time when we were all together and went up and played a gig at a shitty bar in down-east Maine.” On that track and several others, Dyado used particular images that stood out to them from their communal experience and used them as the body of a new creation.
Their current tour is in some ways just an extended trip back down to Maggie Valley where Dyado are planning on starting their first full-length record at the same cabin.
After checking out their Facebook page, I was caught by something on their bio and it wasn’t Lohan’s ironic genre creation of “cruise-ship/chill.” In their bio it reads that they are headed toward “a new sonic territory” with their upcoming album. I asked them what this new sonic territory is and what it means for the next record. “We’re trying to use new sounds, new and different harmonies, new songwriting ideas and techniques that bring in our different influences from western and northern Maine and the Carolinas,” said Lohan. “It means that the EP to me felt like this really fun, experimentation away from folk music and into more of our own sound that is the combination of our three musical identities. We’re hoping that the LP takes the ideas from our EP and unifies them and creates the Dyado sound.”
Approaching their personal sound means various new technologies and instruments. Stancioff informed me that Dyado now uses two electric guitars and have temporarily set the fiddle aside. In term of the recording process, Lohan told me that they now have access to a few old tape machines: “We’ll be tracking some of the things on the tape machine to get a cool coloration of the sound…on the EP we were experimenting with natural reverb and I think we are going to keep doing that…blasting a guitar into a bathroom and recording the ceiling.” What Dyado made clear was that they are still very interested in exploring natural forms of sound-change, whether it’s in an old cabin hallway or while driving in a car. “That’s our technology,” said Lohan, “But mostly we’re just gonna try to get weird.” I commended this plan and mindset. Change seems necessary for the natural evolution of a band, especially one who is refreshingly open to straying from their roots. Our roots will always be there, I thought, in us during those moments when we need to remember who we are. And for Dyado, the sorrow will remain as well. “It won’t just be all breakup songs,” but Ramsey reminded her bandmates that there will still be heartbreak and suffering as well as political themed messages as well. “Music is medicine,” said Lohan, “Sometimes it doesn’t taste good, but it does make you feel better.”
Before we concluded our chat, I went back to Dyado’s description of themselves as a “dream-country” band. When I first asked about it Ramsey quickly spoke, “Well, Louisa and I are the dream,” and pointing over to Lohan in his camo-baseball cap and flannel shirt, she said, “And Matt’s the country.” We all laughed for a while at this. But recently I have become curious as to what up-and-coming musicians’ dreams actually are; what are the dreams of Dyado, as people and musicians? Reality kicked in when I asked this question, but everyone handled it well and gave rather-immediate answers. “The ideal situation would be to sustainably keep doing this while making a fine amount of money to pay for instruments and student loans,” said Stancioff. “It’d be cool to be able to play our own music for people who want to hear it and get paid to do so.” Lohan added that “I think we have a cool thing and a cool sound and the three of us like connecting with people and like traveling so it kind of makes sense to be in a band that wants to tour and wants to play. I love making records. Music’s my life and I don’t have anything else so if I don’t keep doing this I’m screwed.” I thanked Dyado for being honest and real with me throughout our conversation, even though I wasn’t surprised – their music offers no cut-and-dry answers to our everyday issues, just personal accounts of the hits of reality and how they deal with them, welcoming us in so lovingly to do the same.