Funk, rock and blues are the essential three ingredients to a Diggin' Dirt song. The Humboldt County seven-piece can be both playful and serious, but in the end it all boils down to the music feeling good. The Source Weekly chatted with lead singer Zach Alder over the phone while the guys enjoyed the day before their show in Fresno. We talked about the band's beginnings, inspirations, video games and last year's wild Bend Fall Festival. Diggin' Dirt will play Bend's Domino Room on Friday, May 6.
Source Weekly: Earlier, I saw you guys posted a clip of all of you playing Super Smash Bros. Who came out on top?
Zach Alder: Yeah! [laughs]. Tyler, our sax player, he splurged and got a Switch. So we all smashed pretty hard last night. I was actually playing Kirby and I destroyed everybody. We just have a lot of fun together, man. I think we did four shows coming this way and having a few days off feels great.
SW: So how did the seven of you find each other and decide to form a band?
ZA: The core group was drum, bass, guitars and one saxophone. And they were going to school together at HSU [Humboldt State University]. So they wanted to jam and started playing house parties. That was over 10 years ago probably, or maybe eight or nine. They started getting a local following from house parties and I myself am from the area, and I was living there trying to sing out and play out. We kind of came across each other. One day we shared a gig at Redwood Curtain. It was a brewing company. And that's where I was like, 'you guys are cool,' and they were like, 'yeah you're cool, and we need a singer,' and that was, I wanna say six years ago. And we've been touring for the last five. It really has changed my life.
SW: Who were some of the vocalists that inspired you as you got into music?
ZA: There's a good few. I was really interested in the early New Orleans funk and the cradle of that genre. There were so many greats down there. Obviously you have James Brown in Georgia, people like Eddie Bo, Mary Jane Hooper, The Meters, less vocal but the attitude; Sly and the Family Stone. I like singing that deviates from classical styles and is way more about raw expression.
SW: This question will be hard to answer because it probably changes, but do you have a favorite Diggin' Dirt song to play live?
ZA: I'm always jazzed about the new thing. But there are a few that have stood the test of time. There's a reggae tune we do called "Piece of Mind" and I still love it. It was one of the first songs we wrote. It's such a good vibe and it has a message of peace. There's a new one I like called "Satisfaction." I like it because it allows me to be a little political and talk about some issues, but in the guise of a funky song.
SW: One song of yours I really like is "Milkman."
ZA: I was just really trying to be silly. [laughs]. It's like the opposite of "Satisfaction." These cows ate mushrooms and you're delivering psychedelic milk to people and making everybody want to dance, you know? Like what is this? It's like someone picking up "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and being like, what is this? It makes no sense, but it's kind of fun. Sometimes I'm just trying to be silly.
SW: You guys headlined Fall Festival in Bend last year. Are you excited to be coming back to town?
ZA: Yeah man! Oh, Bend. That was so great. There was a surge protector that blew out in the middle of our performance. It's an expensive piece of equipment and they don't go out often, and this one, it was just its time. While they were figuring that out, we just stood up there not knowing what to do and I started making my thumb disappear and people started cheering. I told John to do a dance and he started doing this Irish River Dance with no music, bass in hand. People loved it [laughs]. Then the power came back on and people lost their minds! We had a great rest of our show. It was better than had nothing happened. Bend really raged this last time. I can't wait to come back.
Fri., May 6, 7-10pm
The Domino Room
51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend
$15 on BendTicket