“Together we have the capabilities of a potato when it comes to promoting ourselves,” Callan Trippe admits. She’s also speaking about keyboardist David Vaughn. They are one half of local jazz, rock and blues band, Dirty White Rags.
“[David and I] have been playing together for about five years, but we’ve never really had the confidence to go outside our comfort zone,” Trippe continues.
Since their start as a duo, eventually picking up a drummer and bassist, Dirty White Rags has typically kept Fermental as their main haunt. Aside from sporadic appearances across town and a couple of videos on YouTube, they’re pretty much the white whale of the local music scene.
“They were playing for like six people,” Carolina Pine Music Series and Festival cofounder Anna Mann recalls of the first time she saw Dirty White Rags. “Their sound is a lot bigger than six people.”
Mann is helping them with booking more shows and developing a marketing strategy where none previously existed. She insisted they needed an online presence and proceeded to shoot a video for them, took some promo photos and booked their forthcoming show at Satellite Bar and Lounge on Saturday, April 2.
Opener Dylan Drake—who recently released an album “Dreaming So Well” as part of the RPM Challenge, which mandated artists write and record a record in a month—will take the stage with his brand of “dream folk” at 9 p.m. Dirty White Rags (DWR) will follow.
Mann also introduced DWR to Trent Harrison of Hourglass Studio, with whom they’ve been working on their first EP. While the album is a relatively short collection of just five songs, it’s a huge step forward for the group.
“Trent is a champion,” Trippe praises. “He just made the whole thing painless and fun, which is surprising since we put it off for so long. It doesn’t feel real. . . . We’re really excited for this opportunity to expand our reach.”
Tentatively named “Junk Mail for Strangers,” it includes originals they’ve played for years. Trippe and Vaughn first met at a local open mic at Juggling Gypsy, where she was likely singing “Georgia on my Mind” in between slinging drinks behind the bar. Vaughn knew immediately he wanted to work with her.
Until then Vaughn was mostly working with church choirs and listened to a lot of ‘70s hard rock, as well as bluegrass and country. Trippe didn’t. Heavily influenced by jazz and blues, she and Vaughn share in the songwriting process.
“Having those two different strengths really complements our stuff,” he says. “Because we both love jazz … and with our tastes, we just pretty much do whatever we want.”
Their different interests and influences in music clash sometimes, too.
“I’ve written songs and Callan will be like, ‘yeah, we’re not doing that,’” Vaughn laughs. “But if it’s just not something that fits her style and her voice, we just move on to the next thing.”
Trippe usually comes up with rhythms and melodies, while Vaughn fleshes them out. Some songs have come together in as little as 15 minutes, like their first collaboration in “Serial Lover,” while others have taken years to evolve.
“Serial Lover” also is one of the most requested songs at DWR shows, much to Trippe’s surprise. “It’s kind of weird because it talks about vaguely taboo things,” she explains. “But it’s such a peppy, happy-sounding song people don’t notice the first line is, ‘I love my man, as best as I can/I keep him tied up in the back of my van.’”
Though Trippe is a healthy mix of bubbly yet a little shy and reserved, she’s anything but on onstage. She seems to channel Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles in a mod dress when singing this dark yet whimsy tune.
But rather than be another quirky band with jazzy songs about bondage, Trippe also says they’re trying to break away from the pack. Enter: drummer Stuart Currin and bassist Samantha Lynn.
Currin brought in his drumming talents about two years ago and has a knack for playing anything by ear. “He’s one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever come across,” Trippe adds. “We’ve had maybe one real rehearsal with Stuart since he started playing with us, and without fail, he is so quick to pick up when you throw anything at him.”
Lynn came onto the scene about a year ago and Trippe was quick to snatch her up when she found out she played. “Sam I just kind of bullied into it,” Trippe laughs.
Currin and Lynn also add more depth to songs as backing vocals, providing harmonies and fuller sound. Trippe says the songs are more expressive than they could ever could be with just piano and vocals. “Adding extra layers and harmony lines brings a lot more emotion to it,” she adds. “We’re super lucky to have those guys.”
“Starlight” is another song on their EP that’s been around for a while, but has come a long way since the first time she sang it to Vaughn years ago. “It’s one of my favorite things to play and I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he says.
“Starlight” is about someone sitting by the window, waiting for the next shooting star to make a wish on. “But it’s never going to happen,” Trippe reveals.
Trippe’s favorite track so far is “Fly Away.” She wrote it while more or less living in isolation after a hiatus in Atlanta a couple of years back. “My father had just died and I was all over the place,” she admits. “Then I wrote this simple little song. I sang it into this little microphone I had and e-mailed it David, and we came up with the music miles apart.”
Trippe and Vaughn’s excitement is hardly contained in talking about their upcoming gig. It’s indicative of their passion for song and performance—even if they lack persistency in promotion. “Our main goal is to have as much fun as humanly possibly,” Trippe says, “and we usually do.”
Dirty White Rags are tentatively planning an album release party for the first weekend of May. Follow their work on Facebook and see them live with Dylan Drake at Satellite on Saturday, April 2.