Andy Clager keeps things weird while giving “the gift of song”

Early this year, the three musicians in Son of Dribble sat down with fellow local trio Wharm to hammer out details for releasing a split cassette with three songs from each band. The meetup happened to fall near the birthdays of Son of Dribble singer Andy Clager and guitarist Darren Latanick.

Drummer Vicky Mahnke, who joined Son of Dribble in the fall of 2017, surprised her two bandmates with a cake emblazoned with both of their faces. After the planning was done, the two bands headed into Latanick's kitchen to celebrate. “We all stuck our hands in the cake and ate it,” Clager said, and the moment was captured for posterity; a photo of multiple hands smooshed into white and pink cake graces the inside cover of the Son of Dribble/Wharm split cassette. “[Mahnke] made these pink brains on the inside, and we ate the brains. It was some voodoo stuff.”

The two bands will celebrate the release with a show at No Place Gallery on Friday, March 8, alongside Neuf Zero (a new project from Mike Swen) and Kneeling in Piss (the new band helmed by Alex Mussawir of former Band to Watch Future Nuns). Clager said the show will feature two “dueling” stages, with Son of Dribble and Wharm playing alternating sets.

The split cassette arose out of mutual admiration between the two bands; on side A, Son of Dribble covers Wharm's “Creepy,” and on side B Wharm covers Son of Dribble's “The Rain.”

“‘Creepy' is a ripper. We turned it into more of a bass-heavy, goth song,” Clager said. “Our songs are more in-your-face and immediate. Theirs get in your head, and you find yourself singing it later, like, ‘I didn't know I liked that song so much!' That's the trick in songwriting. You plant something, and you don't try too hard.”

Don't mistake Clager's lack of over-exertion for a lack of creative vision. Since the beginning, when Son of Dribble was only Clager and Latanick, the art-pop band has managed to carve its own path by embracing experimentation and artistic freedom. As one show-goer recently told Clager, “I don't know what I just saw, but I loved it!”

“You do it because it's something you feel and you wanna do it. There's no bigger point,” Clager said. “I have no vision other than to keep control of what we do and how we do it, and to hand over the gift of song. If people enjoy it, that's enough. And if they don't, that's fine.”

While Son of Dribble's songs have veered more and more into pop territory on the new split cassette and on eight-song 2018 tape release Dogcage, the trio still keeps it weird on record and onstage. “We played a show before last Christmas where we got a table and put it on the stage at Bourbon Street. I did almost the whole show with my head in the ceiling, standing on a wobbly table,” Clager said. “[Another] show we had our friend lay down across the front of the stage and wear this white wig, like he's a sleeping angel and I'm singing to him. We think of things that might be visually striking and strange.”

Still, Clager doesn't want the band's stage antics to distract too much from the songs, which he writes about “life and death and love and desperation.” “We burn traaaaaaaash,” Clager sings on A-side track “Burnt Rash,” a dark song full of sunny melodies and clap-along beats.

“Getting older and having a family, sometimes existence feels like a whim. You're trying to figure out if anything really matters, and when you come to the idea that probably nothing matters, you're kind of serenading the abyss. You're looking for answers you're never gonna get,” Clager said. “It can be a little bit jarring, but there can be freedom in that. Are you gonna obsess over what somebody thinks of you? Nah, just burn it. It doesn't matter. So if you can find a melody and give the gift of song, and if somebody ends up smiling or connecting with it or shaking their butt, it's temporary relief.”