When a band writes a song called "The Assassination of Kurt Cobain by the Coward Dude York," it probably doesn't want you to take it too seriously. It's a clever, snide, tongue-in-cheek title that pretty much describes the fun-loving sound of the group that wrote it.
Dude York started as a cure for boredom in Walla Walla, Wash., a quiet town in the eastern part of the state, known for wine and sweet onions and little else. The band didn't yet have a name when Whitman College students Peter Richards and Andrew Hall would get together to kill some time, borrowing equipment from friends and neighbors.
"You kinda have to throw your own party in Walla Walla," Hall says. The Idaho native grew up on the piano bench but switched to the trap kit in college. "I just close my eyes and hope for the best," he says of his drumming. Though far from Neil Peart territory, Hall manages just fine as the pacesetter for the band's punk-leaning, self-described "teen pop."
Now a Seattle trio, Dude York has fine-tuned its approach. The addition of Claire England, formerly of Brite Futures, has cleaned up some of the scruff. Her bouncy basslines and soft vocal harmonies take some of the sting out of Richards' crackly voice and Hall's frenetic drumming.
While still flippant rockers, Dude York has grown out of the dorm and into the studio. The band's newest album, Dehumanize, was produced by Neighbors frontman José Díaz and took two years to finish—odd, given the group's catalog of punchy tracks, which rarely exceed three minutes. Songs like "Iris" and "Hesitate" are denim-clad pop numbers, clean with a slight edge. Others, like "Heartland," offer hints of soul—blistering and '90s-rock-infused, but not without some crooning and musical sweet-talking.
Mainly, though, Dude York just wants to have fun and sing songs about serial killers, girls and swimming after taking molly. The lack of self-seriousness sometimes backfires, though.
"We've only played Portland twice," Hall says. "The first time was at Rotture, and one of our amps blew up, and everybody just stood around and didn't do anything about it. The second time we got a $650 ticket, and I lost my favorite water bottle."
SEE IT: Dude York plays Rontoms, 600 E Burnside St., with the Lower 48 and Fur Coats, on Sunday, June 15. 8 pm. Free. 21+.