Calling your band IAmDynamite could be setting yourself up for failure. But the duo of Christopher Martin and Chris Phillips have nothing to worry about when it comes to the boastfully winking declaration/band name.
The pair who divide their time between Martins Detroit base and Phillips home in Raleigh may very well be the best new band youve never heard of unless you caught them with Blue October or Candlebox at the Fillmore Charlotte. Theyll return to the venue Sunday with Sum 41.
Martin and Phillips met in high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., and have been playing music together ever since. They stuck together off and on through college and while teaching music, but when their last four-piece band fell apart, they decided to try to take music more seriously as a duo.
We werent going anywhere. We were just doing circles around Ann Arbor, Detroit... . We didnt have any focus, Phillips says. Chris and I always did the writing together, so we had the idea of, Lets do that as a duo.
Aside from living in separate cities, being a duo is logistically easier in every respect, says Phillips, who moved to Raleigh when his wife got a job offer from pharmaceutical company.
When wed call our practice (days) or even a show (as a duo), wed play anywhere any time. If were writing or discussing artwork, its not majority rules, so theres never any weird feelings getting hurt or anything like that, he adds.
There is one drawback, he says. If one of us is off (live), then everything is off. The nice thing is, its quickly covered up.
Despite the popularity of stripped-down Midwestern pairings like the Black Keys and the White Stripes, they drew their inspiration from Seattle grunge, which was blowing up on the radio when they were teenagers.
I know right now thats not current, Phillips says. We arent trying to be the second coming of grunge. Being from a small town put us in that situation.
As adults, theyre paying more attention to whats going on elsewhere musically. Thats one reason they can easily shift from opening for a pop, punk or metal band to going on after an acoustic solo act like Edwin McCain.
We want to stretch ourselves and pay attention to what (appeals to) 40-year-old dads and 8-year-old kids. Whats current? Whats the new thing? Its a big bubble to go through.
The recipe is Martin on guitar, Phillips on drums and the occasional trumpet, with both singing and harmonizing on songs that you cant help but tap your foot and nod your head to. Their debut album, Supermegafantastic, is a collection of incredibly snappy, smart pop-rock songs. It also lives up to its name quirky, tight and direct, with one memorable track after another. Its as fresh as early Weezer or the Violent Femmes were in their day.
And if theres a formula for IAmDynamite, its to make music thats simple, energetic and upbeat. Says Phillips: We want to make it as fun as possible.