Band member Pone Toney believes some of the magic is lost when any of the mystery is revealed
Blame Neil Young for the members of Dirtkid opting to remain anonymous.
Growing up in Northeast Ohio, Pone Toney would often listen to his father rhapsodize about Young’s “Old Man,” expressing a deep connection with the song, which he believed the Canadian musician had written about his actual old man.
“And then I showed [my dad] this bootleg Neil Young tape where he’s talking about the song and how it’s actually about this guy who lived on his farm and took care of his animals. And I remember seeing my dad heartbroken because for the last 30 or 40 years he thought it was about Neil Young’s father, and explaining that one little bit just ruined the song for him,” said Toney, who records and performs alongside Pencilneck and Pilgrim in Dirtkid. “I like when there’s some mystery behind what you’re doing, when you can leave some things open. Over-explaining the music, or knowing too much about the people who make it, that can sometimes take away from what [a listener] gets from it.”
This sense of mystery extends into the lyrics on the electro-rock crew’s new album, Cardiac Chrome, which Dirtkid will celebrate with a release show at Spacebar on Saturday, Dec. 14. Throughout, there are references to blurring faces, spider webs littered with helpless flies and the polished metal hearts from which the album takes its title. Though often inspired by inner turmoils, Toney said he masks his meanings in metaphor in order to keep the songs as amorphous and as open to listener interpretation as possible.Alive's two staffers prefer to go by Scott Baiowulf and Mudman. Sign up for our daily newsletter
The music itself, however, is unmistakably concrete, a dark, buzzing landscape of drill-bit synthesizers, relentless electronic drums and treated guitars. Though heavily digitized, the songs maintain imperfections, helping preserve a handmade quality.
“We use a lot of cheap synthesizers and vintage gear picked up in pawn shops, and sometimes maybe it doesn’t work right, or it has certain quirks, and those become a big part of the music, too,” Toney said. “Electronic music can be so inhuman and sterile and clean sounding compared with rock and roll, which is gritty and has that raw feeling. … Those imperfections add character.”
These lo-fi affinities extend to the band’s stage show, where cheap analog televisions stand in for the hi-tech light displays Toney encountered when he stumbled upon his first rave at age 13 or 14. “I had no clue [what a rave was] and it was just culture shock,” he said. “There were all these screens playing ‘Dragon Ball Z’ and everyone was dancing and it was just kind of mind-blowing.”
From there, Toney immersed himself in electronic music, starting with house and eventually uncovering more experimental artists such as Aphex Twin and similarly mind-bending rock bands like Black Moth Super Rainbow. Though Toney got his start playing guitar, he quickly gravitated toward electronic music due to the sense of limitless possibility offered by the form
“I think a lot of it is that I just love sound and texture,” he said. “The guitar, there’s only so much you can do to make it sound different. … With this, we can get kind of creative and think outside of the box, which fits our musical background, which has been to just kind of figure things out as we go along and not stress about musical scales and all of this and that — not that I have that kind of ability. Those are things I couldn’t do even if I wanted to.”