Gentlemen Rogues talk all things "Surface Noise"
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Friday, February 23, 2024 - 14:38
Gentlemen Rogues talk all things "Surface Noise"

Austin Texas quartet Gentlemen Rogues have been celebrating aggressive guitar pop anthems — bearing the influences of The Replacements, Superdrag, Jawbreaker, and similar visionaries since 2011. But it took until now for the band to release their debut full-length, ‘Surface Noise,’ out now on Double Helix Records & Shifting Sounds. If you like your pop powered or your rock n roll punk-tinged, these guys have got you covered. Or you can just come for the melodies and stay for the strong lyrics. We caught up with lead singer/guitarist Danny Dunlap to talk about the new album.


PRT: Can you tell me briefly how Gentlemen Rogues got started and how you all met?

Danny: The truncated version goes like this: Our drummer Josh and I used to play together in an indie-rock, power-pop trio called The Fall Collection. We used to play shows from time to time with our bassist Dave’s old band Cruiserweight, so that’s how we originally met Dave. In the mid 90’s our other guitarist John played in a band from Houston, TX called Dig Dug. Another old band of mine called JILL would occasionally play shows with Dig Dug. So, John and I go way back. Gentlemen Rogues has had this line-up for the past 5 or 6 years.


PRT: What is the most gentleman rogue-ish thing you have ever done?

Danny: We got our band name from a movie review that I read of Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’. I believe that phrase was used in the movie review to describe the types of characters that are traditionally in Wes Anderson’s movies. I liked how the two words, coupled together, kinda contradicted each other in a similar way that the band name The Stone Roses does. With all of that said, I’ve never really thought about the type of behavior that would go along with being a gentleman rogue? BUT, when I was younger I was an assistant manager at a movie theater, and would often times work the ticket booth selling and tearing tickets for the different movies that the theater was showing. One day I realized that I could sell and tear a movie ticket, give one half of the ticket stub to the customer that bought it, but then sell the other half of the ticket to the next customer in line. This would result in two customers paying for the same ticket, doubling the sales for every ticket that I did that to. All of the overage from my register till would then go into my pocket when I counted out the ticket sales at the end of the night. So, while I was politely punching up movie tickets and directing customers to their theater, I was simultaneously “embezzling” movie ticket sales from my employer. Does that qualify? At the least, it seems like a scheme that Owen Wilson’s character (Dignan), in Bottle Rocket, would have cooked up believing it was some sorta brilliant, elaborate heist. Ha!


PRT: You started the band in 2010/2011 and have already released a string of 7” and EPs, but ‘Surface Noise’ is your debut full-length. Is there a reason you held off for so long?

Danny: We used to have this “philosophy” that we only wanted to release singles and EPs, because our perception of people's attention spans was such that we thought delivering everything in short, small doses was the way to go. If I’m being honest with myself, I think that philosophy might have been adopted because the idea of writing a full-length album felt very daunting to me. We did release the equivalent of a full-length record a couple of years ago called A History of Fatalism. It’s two EPs that we pressed to vinyl for the first time, one EP on each side. It sounds extremely cohesive, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was our debut LP. With Surface Noise, I guess we just stopped holding off and decided to make a full-length album. It didn’t feel like a conscious decision, but I will agree that it was long overdue.


PRT: And why did it seem like the perfect time for a full-length now?

Danny: We began writing the songs that would become Surface Noise about a month before COVID shut the world down. The timing was far from perfect, but we were given the gift of time, and rather abruptly. We couldn’t tour, couldn’t play shows, and couldn’t even get together to rehearse for a good while. COVID was strangely a positive time period for me. I became fairly prolific and wrote pretty much all of the songs on Surface Noise during that first year of COVID. One thing that I really tried to be conscious of when working on these songs was intentionally not writing any songs specifically about COVID, quarantine, etc. There are some subtle nods here and there on the record, but I didn’t want this to be our “COVID album”, despite nearly the entire record being written and recorded during that 2-3 year period.


PRT: How different was it to write and record a full-length instead of a 7”?

Danny: The obvious answer is that there are considerably more songs on a full-length record than a 7” single, so it takes longer to write an album’s worth of material simply due to the quantity needed. However, it’s more complicated than that. If a band only has two or three really good songs, they can still make a really badass 7”. But if a band only has two or three really good songs, they can just as easily make a mediocre album with a lot of filler. So not only do you need an appropriate number of songs, you also need to really be thinking about quality control. Ha!


PRT: Surface noise is not really what you want to hear when you are listening to vinyl. Why call your album that?

Danny: Good point! The album artwork actually came before the album title, which is probably a bit backwards from how that sort of thing is normally done. When our drummer Josh was working on the artwork for our last record, A History of Fatalism, his computer display “glitched out” and froze. He thought it looked cool and had the forethought to take a screenshot of it. When it came time to think about the artwork for our new record, Josh suggested using the screen shot of the “digital glitch” that he captured. We all liked the idea, especially because it was a bit of a happy accident that occurred naturally, albeit unfortunately for Josh at the time. We could have never planned it. We only had to touch it up a little bit, so the image on the front cover is 90% what naturally happened when his computer bugged out.

As far as the album title is concerned, I was reminded of a quote from John Peel (the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ/tastemaker), where someone was trying to convince him that CDs were better than vinyl because CDs had no surface noise. He responded with “Listen mate, life has surface noise.” Considering the time period during which the album was written and recorded, that sentiment felt appropriate. That title also fit the artwork pretty well, considering they both represent a type of distortion.  


PRT: Musically you are influenced by everyone from Elvis Costello and the Replacements to Jawbreaker and Superdrag. Are you all into the same kinds of music or does everyone in the band bring something different to the table?

Danny: We probably share more of the same likes than we don’t. For example, any band that John Reis is a part of (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, etc.) we’re all automatically big fans of. We can all agree that John Reis totally rules. We definitely share some differences in taste, too. A couple of the guys are into some metal stuff but that’s not really my thing. We all have fairly diverse musical tastes as individuals, and the different music that we each listen to finds its way into what we’re doing, I’m sure. Even if we don’t realize it.


PRT: One of your songs was  the “Coolest Song in the World” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Bob Mould personally selected you to support a leg of his Distortion and Blue Hearts tour. When things like that happen, do you hope it will help get you to the next level with the band? Or are you already content with how it’s going now? Guess that’s a very longwinded way of asking what your ambitions are with Gentlemen Rogues?

Danny: It was really special getting to play those Bob Mould shows. Whether it be Husker Du, Sugar, or his solo records, Bob Mould is another one that we all agree on. Bob said very kind words about us on stage each night during the show. I don’t know if he meant it, but I wish I’d have recorded those moments on my phone. If there was ever a time that I was feeling down and defeated I could just watch a short clip of Bob Mould saying nice things about us and I can almost guarantee that I’d snap out of whatever funk I was in.

I’m a fairly driven person, but I’m also not totally delusional. I don’t think that Gentlemen Rogues will ever reach the heights of full on rock stardom, but ya know, stranger things have happened. I’d love for Gentlemen Rogues to gain more recognition than we currently have, and would love for our songs to reach as big of an audience as possible. I think most bands want that. Having Steven van Zandt pick our song ‘Do the Resurrection!’ to be “Coolest Song in the World” on his SiriusXM station Little Steven’s Underground Garage definitely helped us reach an audience that we likely wouldn’t have otherwise. More of that, please!


PRT: What’s up next for Gentlemen Rogues once the album is out?

Danny: Our new record Surface Noise just came out. We’re going to follow the release of the record with a couple of single and music videos that we made with our friend Andrew Leeper. We made a video for the song ‘Involuntary Solitary’ that is an homage to Kids in the Hall. It looks like one of the classic intros to their TV show. I love how the video turned out and can’t wait for people to see it. It’s immediately nostalgic and comforting. We’re going to be playing a couple of shows during SXSW and will be heading out to the West Coast in late March to do a couple of weeks of tour dates in support of the Surface Noise.  That’s about it for now!

Tom Dumarey
Tom Dumarey

Lacking the talent to actually play in a band, Tom decided he would write about bands instead. Turns out his writing skills are mediocre at best as well.