Dale is a band that consists of three Reno natives—Tucker Rash, Julien Nicolosi and Ben Jennings—whose musical roles are in flux. Generally, Rash creates a backing track, Nicolosi adds lyrics to it, and Jennings adds guitar.
The name of the band’s first EP, Heap Piano, is an anagram for apophenia, which, Rash explained, “is the human tendency to perceive patterns in meaningless strings of data. So we must be inspired by apophenia, or just coincidences—putting meaning to things where meaning isn’t there.”
The band members make and release their own music, but spreading confusion and mystery is where they excel. Of the three, the only member with significant musical experience is Jennings. The rest of their output consists of non-sequiturs, stream-of-consciousness, and plenty of face paint. Black metal “corpse paint” is a preferred style for the band’s live performance. Though the band isn’t black metal, it serves to further muddy the aesthetic waters. The lyrics, too, defy easy explanation.
“A lot of the lyrics we write are completely meaningless,” said Nicolosi. “We’re just trying to make something we like to listen to. Then and only then can we give it a meaning.”
Heap Piano is Dale’s longest release, a blend of goth, darkwave, industrial beats, with mostly spoken lyrics. The final track “Don’t Ask Us About Aisle 5” alternates between the lyrics “We are Dale / happy to help you,” and “You are Dale,” while a frantic arpeggiator runs and an unsettling, minor key-whistle wails. “Cahoots” recounts a strange, violent account at a grocery store. Goblins, Old English fonts, coffee and death are recurrent themes.
Live shows match the released material in their tendency toward unbridled expression. They exhibit attention to detail, performance and atmosphere, but they lack the contrived approach of many performance-art projects. It’s mischievous, confrontational, but it’s all earnest. Rather than most musical performances, which on some level serve to exhibit the skill of their musicians, Dale shows are all about the experience.
Despite the band’s freewheeling nature, its members still face the same trial-and-error process that every band experiences in the quest for how to create something memorable and exciting. Their first show, while spotted with some clever ideas, didn’t take off as much as they’d hoped.
“We made coffee on stage,” said Rash.
“And I wore a deck of cards around my neck with the word ’iPod’ written on them,” said Nicolosi.
But they say things didn’t really click until Jennings entered the picture for their second show. All agree he was a welcome change of pace. It was then that they started feeling more like a realized band than a fun project.
Another inspiration for Dale comes in the concept of solipsism.
“It’s the idea that your consciousness is the only one in the universe, and everyone else is a figure of your imagination,” explained Rash.
They consider the name Dale to signify a kind of hive-mind. As soon as they take the stage, the three lose their identities and become Dale, along with everyone on the planet. Hence, “You are Dale.”
However, to breed further uncertainty, Nicolosi hints that Dale might not be so all-encompassing.
“Some are Doug,” he said.
The dualistic worldview ends there, not necessarily straying into a good/evil paradigm, but not ruling it out either. A Doug does seem to represent an other, but any further analyzing would be projecting the worldview of the analyzer. Like other fixtures in the Dale mythos, it’s best viewed as a Rorschach test.