Washington DC psych-indie outfit The Dupont Circles are celebrating the release of what must be one of the longest awaited debut albums in musical history.
The band is teaming up with Canadian label TBM Records to deliver In Search of the Family Gredunza – more than 30 years after the band first got together.
It’s a story that surely brings hope to journeymen part-time musicians everywhere and should once again shine a light on a group that first caused a stir with a scattering of recordings in the ’90s.
Matt Catchpole caught up with guitarist Michael Bennet to find out why it’s taken so long to get that difficult first album over the line.
Starting out as The Spills in 1988, The Dupont Circles were formed by Michael with Bob Primosch on drums and vocals and Kelly Ross on bass.
The trio put out a debut single Sarah The Weathergirl on Michael’s own imprint Cara Records in 1995 and three years later followed up with the 53 Bicycles EP.
Michael says those early releases made “a small ripple,” but failed to attract the attention the band was hoping for and Kelly left shortly afterwards.
“I guess I was probably inspired by the punk DIY ethic in doing the initial self-releases,” Michael remembers. “I didn’t think a label was going to be interested in putting something out by a totally unknown band [but] I knew people who had put out 7”s and it seemed doable.”
Kelly was replaced on bass by Michael’s old college pal Mike Kerwin who’d played alongside him “in a postpunk instrumental combo” called Lost Barbecue.
Both Kerwin and Bennet spent time in England and were influenced by bands on Alan McGee‘s Creation label, along with the psych-indie of bands like The Television Personalities.
“I’m a total anglophile,” Michael admits. “Mike, Bob, and I are all record geeks and have absorbed tons of British music, from Merseybeat, freakbeat, and UK-pop psych, through punk, postpunk, Britpop, and beyond.
Contemporary reviewers likened the band to Chronic Town era REM – an inspiration Michael readily acknowledges.
“Starting out, our influences were REM, Robyn Hitchcock, Flying Nun, Creation Records, along with a smattering of ’60s garage.
“Some of the covers we used to play in the early days included songs by the Sea Urchins, Primal Scream, The Byrds, Flaming Groovies, Go Betweens, and, like virtually every band of that era, the Velvet Underground.”
After those early single releases, the band looked to expand their profile by contributing to various compilations.
They also expanded to a five piece with the addition of Amit Chatterjie (keyboards) and second guitarist Jonas Carnemark.
The Circles also began playing more live shows at venues like The Red and Black and the Rock and Roll Hotel.
“Our big compilation appearance was on the seminal March Records indiepop compilation, Pop American Style, which was what really got the band known – to the limited extent that anyone actually knows who we are in the indiepop world,” Michael explains.
Released in 1995 Pop American Style featured the DuPont Circles’ song Everwhere Girl alongside contributions from bands such as Verbena, Dune Buggy and Rocketship.
Further compilation appearances followed as the band juggled recording with day jobs as lawyers and in engineering.
“At some point, tribute compilations became a thing, and I always liked the idea of contributing to those because covers could be worked up quickly and got us a little out of our usual niche,” Michael says.
It was a compilation and a mutual love of The TV Personalities that first brought Dupont Circles to the attention of Wally Salem of The Beautiful Music (TBM).
“We did a Television Personalities cover for Wally’s monumental TVP tribute series,” Michael says. “We’ve stayed in touch ever since though I’ve yet to meet him in the flesh.”
When a planned 2008 album release with UK label Marineville Records came to nought, it would be TBM who eventually stepped in with an offer.
Even then it would be a further five years before the album was finally ready to go.
An interview the band did with appropriately named Greek music zine Lost In Tyme refers to Dupont Circles ‘glacial pace’ – something of an understatement when you consider the album’s 30-year gestation.
“With hindsight, sure I wish we’d released more records,” Michael admits. “In the ’90s we recorded at WGNS Studios with Geoff Turner. Since then we’ve recorded in Jonas’s home studio, which has been kind of a blessing and a curse.
“It gave us unlimited time to mess around with arrangements and overdubs, but conversely it becomes like a black hole, where you can keep experimenting and never actually end up finishing anything. Kind of the Brian Wilson Smile experience (without the sand),” he jokes.
Michael hopes it won’t take the band quite so long to deliver a follow up to In Search Of The Family Gredunza, which is named after a Dr Seuss animation.
“Now that we’ve learned the tricks of the trade, we’ve got some unreleased material and I’m still writing, so hopefully, this won’t be our last record,” he declares.
“But maybe I’m not the best person to ask!”
- In Search Of The Family Credunza is out now via TBM Records
- For more about Dupont Circles visit their website or bandcamp pages