Jack Dalrymple, though he would be very reluctant to agree, is a bonafide bay area legend. Having fronted or been a part of some of the scene’s coolest, most influential bands, including One Man Army, Swingin’ Utters and Dead To Me, his new band, toyGuitar, is a catchy, breezy bit of pop punk that sounds like both fresh and like the classic Dalrymple material we all know and love.
Jack’s truly one of the nicest people you will ever meet or talk to. He’s laid back, funny and humble almost to a fault. We spoke to him recently about his new band, his old ones, and why he’d like to punch himself in the face when he sees pictures of the Utters on tour in Canada.
So, you had a song on your EP called ‘She’s An Alarm.’ Which was also the name of One Man Army’s last EP. Are the songs on In This Mess some of the songs we might’ve heard on a One Man Army full length, if it had ever come to be?
Jack: I think I’ve alluded to that in the past, but I’m not sure now that was necessarily the case. I know we had a couple songs on that first EP that were originally meant for a new One Man Army record, but I think I’ve just always been attached to that ‘She’s An Alarm’ name for some reason, so I decided to use it again. I think people get confused as shit about that though (laughs).
There’s also a lot of broken hearts with the fans with that whole One Man Army thing, so I think people like to hold onto any little shred of possibility they can in regards to a connection there.
Jack: Yeah and I appreciate that, but, when it’s done it’s done. I mean those are some of the best years of my life, so I get it, but sometimes you get a point where you just want to do something else.
I know Miles is in Swingin’ Utters with you and was in The Sore Thumbs. Can you tell us a bit about the other band members and where they came from?
Jack: Yeah, I’ll try. I’m terrible with names, but Rosie played in a band called The Plexikill or something? I’m not sure. Paul played in this really rad band in Oakland called The Primitive Hearts. They’ve got kind of a Portland rock vibe that was super cool. And yeah Miles was in The Sore Thumbs. But they’re all great. It’s incestuous here around the Bay area with all these bands.
It definitely has a real family community feel to it, even more so than other scenes I think.
Jack: Yeah, it’s kind of a smaller scene, but everyone knows everyone else, or of them at least.
Does this band scratch a different artistic itch than the other bands you are in or have been in the past?
Jack: Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of different bands that all have their own sound. But toyGuitar has an ease and a newness and freshness to it that’s really cool. And I just enjoy hanging out with these guys and making music with them.
And it’s your own creation, rather than something you joined after the fact.
Jack: Totally. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been writing for the Utters and love that band to death, but I always feel like I have to be careful with the Utters because they’ve got such a f*cking awesome institution in place with Darius and Johnny and I don’t want to be the dude that come in and f*cks that up. Although it’s probably too late (laughs). But I don’t want to be the dude that writes these dumb songs that aren’t Swingin’ Utters songs, you know?
I know from talking to the other guys in the Utters that you had to initially be talked into having a more active songwriting role for that reason, but I think that extra something that you’ve added to the last couple Utters records is great.
Jack: Thanks man. And they’re always on my ass to write more too. And I want to do it. I just have to be careful. But it’s an awesome songwriting process with those guys. Johnny’s a beast and Darius is a f*cking amazing songwriter.
That’s got to influence your own songwriting too, just to be around that kind of thing.
Jack: Totally does. That band directly and indirectly started a whole bunch of bands around here in the 90’s. And they influenced me to start One Man Army. I was a Swingin’ Utters fanboy man.
So do you write now for specific projects, or do you just write what you write and see where it fits later?
Jack: Yeah, I feel like all my stuff kind of sounds similar. I’m not that great of a songwriter and I just write whatever and if Johnny’s singing on them or whoever, it kind of changes it. But it’s usually just a riff I start with or something and go from there.
In This Mess has a kind of low-fi, almost vintage sound to it. Was that intention or circumstance?
Jack: I think that’s just equipment man. I’ve heard that before too. I think it’s just this clean sound you get when you play Fender guitars through Fender amps, it has a low-fi sort of sound. People keep calling it surf rock, which I don’t hear, but that’s cool if that’s what people are picking up from it.
There’s definitely a surfy vibe to some of it. ‘Sliver of Sun’ has an amped up Dick Dale vibe to it.
Jack: Totally. Which is a lot of the solos Miles is playing too. Kind of a Mexi soul surf solo thing happening.
Jack: There’s this guy my wife turned me onto on Instagram. Travis Jenson. He takes these really cool Bay area photos. These portraitures of people around the city. And I saw these skates and just thought it was so awesome. It just kind of tied into the lyrics and subject matter for the record. It’s just some cracky dude on skates. Really cool.
I know because of work and family obligations you can’t tour with Utters as much as you’d like..
Jack: ..It kills me.
And I know you’re pulling double duty in Europe when toyGuitar will be opening for the Utters over there. How much North American touring do you expect this band will be doing?
Jack: We’re doing North America in August I think. And we’ll be heading to Canada for some shows at that time I’m pretty sure. Which will be cool because I haven’t been up there in forever.
Yeah we miss you up here man. Every time the Utters come through town, people are always asking ‘where’s Jack?’
Jack: Yeah I hate it. I see pictures of them on the road while I’m stuck at home and I just want to punch myself in the face. I do get time off work, but I have to prioritize it. If I take time off for the Utters than I don’t have time for toyGuitar and if I take time for toyGuitar then I don’t have time for the Utters. It kills me.
You’ve been in the scene a long time and have one of the most distinctive singing voices and even songwriting voices. There’s nothing you’re involved in that I hear and don’t say to myself ‘that’s f*cking awesome.’ Do you look back on your own discography and feel a sense of pride?
Jack: Pride wouldn’t be the right word, because I truly cringe at everything I do. But when I look back I just feel super, super fortunate to have been able to play most of my life. To go to places and see things and meet people, just by being a subpar musician. I mean I play bar chords, I have a goofy voice and still I’ve met so many awesome people and seen so many cool places. I just feel fortunate. Very lucky to have had the run that I have.