Art of the Dealership

Wherein one East Bay trio gets acclaim and attention the old-fashioned way: by accident

Regardless, they began to think about recording a single. Unschooled in the logistics of such an undertaking, they sought guidance in the form of a bimonthly local music magazine known more for its lopsided ads-to-content ratio than any editorial revelations. Flipping through the scads of studio advertisements in the back, they literally dropped a finger and came up with Guy Higbey.

A one-time guitarist for Metal Blade recording artists Epidemic, and producer of local metal heroes Old Grandad, Higbey isn't the first person you'd think of to elucidate Dealership's brainy, fuzz-pop sound. Higbey himself was confused. "My first reaction wasn't bad, but they were definitely different," he says over the phone from his Locomoto Productions studio in Menlo Park. "But I've always looked forward to doing different things." What began as two-song single project quickly grew in scope. "It sounded really good, and we were like, 'Why the hell not?'" says Pinckard. When the dust cleared the band had enough songs for a self-released EP, Secret American Livingroom.

For all of the band's fuzzy bluster and hooks galore, it's in Livingroom's lyrics that Dealership's real brilliance is borne out. Defying typical rock 'n' roll rhyme schemes, the album's words read more like letters to friends, lovers, and enemies. Pick a song, any song. From "Nerdy Girl": "Sits just seats away with his back to her/ The fictive love of the class monitor/ The thrill is there and at night she conjures: I can feel it/ I know you want me, I see it." "Green" seems to be a simple tale of high-school lust, but on closer inspection becomes a mini-discourse on the sexual politics of the 10th grade. "I touch your face 'cause I don't know where else to touch/ Yesterday on the bench we shared your hot lunch," Groves sings.

The images are so forceful that it's almost a letdown to hear the band insist on the impersonal nature of what's being sung. "We don't want to impersonalize our music, because obviously there's going to be a lot of us in there," says Groves. "I think the way that we might go about it is to start with the idea of personal experience and then extract it so that it's not specific."

"It's sort of ridiculous," says Groves of the band's haphazard growth. "In the same sort of clumsy way that we went about forming, we've gone about making Secret American Livingroom. Only in February did I realize the whole strata of industry people, like publicists, managers, and booking agents." Currently Dealership is completing work on the follow-up to Secret American Livingroom, tentatively titled T.V. Highway to the Stars. Like other upstart bands, they plan to send it out to smaller labels in the hope of finding a home. Meanwhile, they're playing out and trying to remain calm in the face of increased attendance at their shows. They're happy playing to smaller crowds because, as Pinckard explains, "we don't get freaked out." When asked about their goals the charming trio explains that they've already been met: forming a band, releasing an album, playing shows.

"One thing that really strikes me about them is their knowledge of theory and the way things work," says Higbey. "They definitely know what they want things to sound like." Or as KALX's Smith puts it: "I think quality is just inherent in their songwriting ability," he says. "They just pen wonderful pop songs.

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