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The Serfs: "We Try to Record in Some Capacity Everyday, so the Music is Always There"

A trio of tireless sonic innovators, Dakota Carlyle, Andie Luman, and Dylan McCartney, make up the axis of Cincinnati's rock scene as The Serfs. Their most recent album, Half Eaten By Dogs (Trouble In Mind), is a dynamic continuation of their craft, sharpening their unique blend of post-industrial synth-punk through a lens both thought-provoking and body-shaking. Amidst an endlessly busy schedule, we caught up with Carlyle to talk about the new album, traveling the world, and playing with heroes both old and new.

Photos by Jen Smith

Paperface Zine: Your most recent album, Half Eaten By Dogs, came out at the end of October. What’s been the reception so far now that people have heard it?

Dakota Carlyle: I try to not pay too much attention to any of that. With all the Metrics (likes, streams, followers etc.) it's just a constantly moving target of nothingness. My friend Jamie said it's the best one yet from across the bar one night and that's enough for me.

PZ: Half Eaten By Dogs features some new sounds for the band, like the saxophone on "Spectral Analysis" and Andie taking lead vocals on "Club Deuce." What's the thought process behind introducing new elements into your sound?

DC: We record in our homes, so it's all about what feels right and who's around at that moment. Our friend Eric Dietrich (The Drin, Sorry Eric) played the sax on that one. I got my hands on a tenor and have been learning my way around it, so maybe the next will have more. The process over the product. Keep moving forward. Death to boring genre music. 

PZ: My favorite track from the album is "Beat Me Down" with its steady beat and seemingly-infinite layers. What was the writing and arrangement like on this one?

DC: That one started with a more ambient recording Dylan had featuring the main bouncy synth part. I heard it through a more beat driven pop lens and we made plans to record it after work. I think we did that entire thing in a few hours. Just building it layer by layer. Then I layered the guitar 72 times. 

PZ: Your cover art is always so beautiful, can you tell us more about this inspiration behind art on this release?

DC: Our creative director and honorary member Matt Morgantini is behind most of it. Each record has started with some half baked idea or image I have and then Matt turns it into something worth putting into the world. We draw a lot of inspiration from Xerox machines and 1 qt. Acetone cans. 

PZ: You also played with John Bender back in January which is amazing, especially since you're both from Cincinnati. How did this opportunity come about, since he's known for being pretty elusive? Also, how was the show?

DC: The museum asked us to play and we reached out to John. He doesn't play much and when he does he never plays the hits. People show up expecting to hear things from 40 years ago and he seems to have no interest in doing that. I really respect that about John. The audience has never known what's good for them. Our set was plagued with technical difficulties, but what's new. 

PZ: You played at Substance back in November and you'll be headlining Dog Days Fest in June. What has the festival circuit been like? What are your favorite bands you've seen at the festivals/excited to see?

DC: The festivals we've played have been cool for the most part. I’d rather play a more intimate club gig any day. It's mostly a good excuse to catch a flight out of town for a few days. I enjoyed Special Interest and Crack Cloud at Substance. We're playing with W.I.T.C.H. this summer, but I can't say much more about that now. 

PZ: And of course there was your extensive European tour, playing 40 shows last year! I know The Drin just got back but how was it for The Serfs? Any really memorable experiences?

DC: It was long and incredible. It’s starting to blur together for several reasons, but I kept a journal I'll revisit at some point. Playing on a moving boat in Hamburg for two hours straight was definitely a memorable one. We started winging new ideas by the end. Dylan making up the words and all. 

PZ: It's pretty well known that you guys have a lot of projects outside of The Serfs that are actively touring and releasing music on your label Future Shock. I literally just saw Crime of Passing and The Drin at TV Eye back in November! How do you keep your heads straight with so much going on?

DC: It gets stressful from time to time, but at this point I wouldn't want it any other way. I love it. We try to record in some capacity everyday, so the music is always there. 

PZ: Are you planning to tour anymore in support of Half Eaten By Dogs? What else is on the horizon for The Serfs?

DC: We're doing some one-off shows around the states this summer and we'll be heading back to Europe for a while in the fall. 

Half Eaten By Dogs is out now on Trouble in Mind Records.


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