Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the minute I heard the moniker Tulsa Drone, I was intrigued. At first, I assumed they had to be from my hometown but it turns out they're based in Richmond, Virginia. So what makes a band from the East Coast name their band after a midwestern city? I had to know. Tulsa Drone are unique in that they combine spacey/post rockish sounds with an instrument that reminds me of the Victorian era: a hammered dulcimer. And a bass hammered dulcimer at that. Their debut album on their own Dry County Records, "No Wake," is a minor masterpiece. It blends sounds reminiscent of bands like Tortoise and Do Make Say Think with something you'd hear at a late 19th century ball. It seems like a combination that would never work, but Tulsa Drone's execution is phenomenal. While the press starts to take notice, the band is about to hit the road for a short East Coast tour. Brad Rose conducted this interview with Erik Grotz and Peter Neff via email in March.
Erik Grotz: It's really rather silly, but then most band names are. Peter might like to go into more detail on this, but it's a slight play on words. My wife suggested something with 'dulcet tones' and Peter just turned it into a play on words. We never meant to imply we were a "drone" band, or for that fact that we were actually from Tulsa!
Peter Neff: I thought that 'dulcet tones' was a bit too obvious sounding (not to mention that it made me think of some sort of cappella outfit), and so I suggested Tulsa Drone. In the Tulsa of my imagination, I see a place that is urban, Southern, and which lies on the edge of the big expanse to the West. That image (real or not) seems to fit at least some of the music that we do.
EG: Usually Peter and I will gel on a single idea over and over and over again until we decide to move with it or let it rest a bit. Lately, we've had a lot more interaction with Scott (Hudgins, bassist) in terms of writing.
EG: Well we've all been in bands prior to the CD-R generation and a lot of those tapes are really getting old. I envisioned the label initially as a means of releasing a lot of our past projects, and then just decided to put out this record as well. It's nothing we dictate a full amount of time to yet.
We could have opted to just send out CDs to labels in the hopes of getting signed, but decided against that and to take it another step. No one was going to do as good a job as we were, so why not release it ourselves? And seeing a lot of our friends and peers being forced to tour to promote their records made us realize that getting signed can be a very mixed blessing. I should add, however that there are a few labels we would definitely be interested in.
PN: I've been playing the hammered dulcimer for about fifteen years when I bought a "Dusty Strings" Apprentice model from a friend. I had no idea on how to play it except that I had two hammers and I was supposed to strike the strings. I wasn't particularly interested in the traditional folk repetoire, so I just more or less came up with my own method.
EG: Films and soundtracks are an obvious influence, but we also write a lot of songs based on books, rivers and trains. We're very influenced by where we live.
EG: Richmond is an interesting town. I have a love-hate relationship with it all the time, as does anyone who really wants more of this city. It's laid-back enough to make you feel humble, and it's a medium city so there is usually one or two interesting things going on every week. The cost of living is low and it provides me with plenty of time for creative pursuits. But there are loads of problems, too many to mention here -- but enough to keep things interesting and add slight elements to the music we write.
-- Brad Rose (15 June, 2005)