For the past few years, the Dikes of Holland have been widely acclaimed as the best live underground act in Austin, Texas. I caught dozens of other local groups in the flesh the two years I lived in ATX, but for me, the Dikes always held the crown. A thundering, five-headed juggernaut, they swill beer, thrash through crowds, swap instruments, sweat immensely, and churn out great, pummeling, punk garage rock. They’re not to be missed if they pass through your town. In late February 2014, I caught up with multi-instrumentalist Trey Reimer via e-mail to discuss writing, recording, performing, and recordkeeping with the Dikes. Stream their latest LP, “Braindead USA“, and check out the interview below.
How’s it going? What’s up with the Dikes these days and nights?
Things are going great! We just played The Creationists’ last show and spent the next couple of days writing some new material. We have about 10 new songs so hopefully we’ll be recording in the next couple of months. Our new songs have the same Dikes’ energy but there seems to be some darkness in our new material. It’s fun to write dark music.
What’s the group’s songwriting process like?
It differs slightly from song to song but for the most part someone usually comes to practice with an idea and we see where it goes from there. Occasionally we’ll have a full song written out before showing it but I prefer just having a rough idea and working on it together. The outcome is always better when it’s a collaboration.
Do you record your rehearsals/practice sessions? If so, how do you decide what to keep?
Recently we have been especially since I live in another state [Trey’s native Oklahoma] now. I’ve always thought though that if a song or idea is good enough then you’ll remember it (I’ve probably forgotten all my Big Money hits because of this stubbornness).
Neckbeard Ranch makes me chuckle and cringe every time, because I’ve had some unruly beards over the years. How long did you have your own studio?
We had that studio for a few years but we all moved out of that house. JP still has all of the gear so I’m sure we’ll make a new studio in the future so we can once again grow that neck beard out!
When you’re cutting a record, do you record to analog tape or digitally to hard drives? How do you keep your recordings safe? Do you make multiple copies or back them up? Who owns the masters?
We record digitally and back them up on an external hard drive. We don’t prefer digital to analog it’s just what we’ve had to work with so far. We also own all the masters.
Let me put on my archivist cap for a minute. Archival records are those records created in the course of business that having enduring value and are deemed worthy of long-term retention for preservation and access. Besides your LPs and singles, what belongs in the Dikes of Holland archives?
Fuck if I know. I just strum guitars.
I’m thinking about mint copies of each release, photos, posters, videos, recording contracts, etc. The Dikes have had great press (two Austin Chronicle covers and features, the in-depth Austin360 article, Spin’s “50 Best Things We Saw at South by Southwest 2013”, and your WFMU session, available in the Free Music Archive). Is collecting or preserving these kinds of things something the Dikes are doing or interested in?
I can only speak for myself when I say that is something I have not been doing, unfortunately. It’d be great to have all that stuff in mint condition but all I have is some press of ours in my filing cabinet and about half of our records. I do like the idea of preservation but it’s never something I’m naturally inclined to do. I think it’s because I prefer looking to the future.
Did you know you can download your Twitter and Facebook accounts? You should. I do it once year and back them up on my external hard drive. Everything’s nested in folders sent to the e-mail address associated with the accounts, so it’s saved there as well.
The fact that it can all disappear in a moment’s notice gives me great hope and pleasure. There’s nothing better in life than a clean slate.
I think it’d be a shame to lose that historical documentation of the band, and your interactions with fans and other bands. The Dikes have a great sense of humor. Do you all have access to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, or does just one of you manage them?
We share the Facebook page but I’ve always updated our Twitter account. I still don’t quite understand Twitter and I literally think no one is going to see what I write so it’s usually just a bunch of bullshit except when I’m professing my love for The Blind Shake and Crooked Bangs.
The Austin music scene still seems to be thriving now, and you all are or have been involved in many other groups/projects (Spray Paint, Foreign Mothers, Reeeemer, Gangster Rainbow, La Migra, Planets, etc.). The couple years I got to take it in, as amazing as it was to hear how much cool stuff was being created, I was also glad to see a few people visually documenting the scene, in particular Andy Ray Lemon and Angel Delgado-Reyes: http://demoniotx.blogspot.com/. I think those two are responsible for all the live footage of the Dikes available on YouTube. What’s your relationship like with those guys?
Yeah those two are great along with Renate Winter, Jon Chamberlain, and Eric Karjala. All of the success we’ve ever had we owe to the documenters. For example, we got to go on tour with Black Joe Lewis and play in front of literally hundreds and hundreds of people, who for the most part all literally hated us, all because Joe watched our YouTube videos Angel shot. It’ll also be good to have chronological documentation of our drinking habits over the years to show at our future AA meetings. We drink too much. Thanks Eric K. for the tagged photo where I’m covered in beer and have stroke face. That’s going to be a good one to show at the meeting.
Have you considered making a music video?
One day we (Liz, I think) came up with a great idea to remake the volleyball scene in Top Gun, speeding motorcycles and all. The problem is we’re kind of a lazy band so it’s probably best we put that effort into the music. If anyone ever came up to us with an idea that we liked and said they’ll do all of the work I’m sure we’d be into that. As long as it has something to do with Top Gun.
Jamie Zuverza, who draws all those creepy/funny posters for the 29th St. Ballroom, Beerland, and Hotel Vegas shows, said he was digitally preserving them and keeping copies of any that were printed, too. 10, 20, 30 years from now, when the music’s changed or in a slump, those are the kinds of things that might go up in an exhibit.
Jaime is the biggest sweetheart of a person I’ve known in Austin so that makes it so easy for me to say and without much jealousy that he is one of those real special talents that most artists can only strive to be like but will never quite be. So yeah, I like his work.
I imagine I’d see a bust smoking three cigarettes and wearing gold chains, then Jamie’s distinctive lettering and the names — Hidden Ritual / Mirror Travel / Low Times — and say, “Man, I can’t recall a note, but that must’ve been a good night.”
I caught the Dikes playing as The B-52’s on New Year’s Eve 2012 and dug the set without knowing any of their music besides the big singles. You and Liz Burrito told me to listen to them, which I finally did, and I’ve got six or seven of their records now. What’s their influence on you?
I’m not sure they were so much an influence as they were just a great band with great songs that people need to listen to. Let’s just say there’s a lot more to them than Love Shack. That’s a hard night for me to look back on with much enjoyment though because I know a lot of people lost a great friend that night.
How many shows do you play a year?
50 give or take 25. Depends on how many tours we go on.
What do you hope for or expect or demand of an audience?
Hope, expectations, and demands from an audience are a dangerous thing to have. Like my good friend and mentor Treasure Mammal said, “Fuck expectations,” and it’ll always be better than you thought it’d be. Oh, and it’s also dangerous to have demands for a crowd when you’re playing a basement show in Buffalo, NY, with a bunch of krust punks. Just play as fast as you can and maybe spit on the wall a couple of times and hope they don’t catch on to you because you really don’t want to find out what they use those shoulder spikes for. Actually, those people ended up being really nice to us after we played. Was it because I spit on the wall? Can’t say for sure.
How do audiences differ throughout the States, far beyond the Austin oasis?
I’ve always loved playing the smaller cities/towns. They always have the most excitement and energy. Even if they didn’t really like us there’s no way we could ever notice and that’s fine with me. As far as the bigger cities go Chicago is pretty special for being such a large city and still having a supportive and nurturing music scene that’s always been good to us. Our core audience members that seem to love us the most no matter where we play are the middle-aged men whose idea of casual drug taking might differ from other people’s idea of what the word casual means. The only exception that I can think of is the denim man with the snake skin boots who used to run sound for the Rolling Stones. He hated us with a fierce passion. He couldn’t believe we didn’t have roadies pre-tune all of our guitars before we started playing our set at the Margarita bar in El Paso, TX.
I saw y’all 14 times when I lived in Austin and was sad I missed it when you recently came through DC. It’s been a terrible winter and I was worried when you recently drove all over the north. How was the “Dikes on Ice” tour?
If I can sum it up in one word that word would be “treacherous” and since it seems like I can I’m going to go with that… “treacherous”. The fact that anyone left their house and came to those shows was pretty unbelievable. To see one person risk life and limb to get to our show is a better feeling than 100 people coming out when the weather’s beautiful.
When will you hit the road again?
The only thing we have planned right now is SXSW and that’s always like a mini-tour inside a city.
Well, we’re about out of time….not true! Just a quick wrap. Thanks for this exchange, Trey. I look forward to hearing more new music from the Dikes and hope I got you thinking about building your archives.
Good to hear from you and thanks for always being so supportive of our band. Hope all is well!