Two’s company, three’s a crowd

Sac stoner-rock duo I’m Dirty Too decides less is more

Jess Gowrie (left) and Zac Brown look pretty clean to us.

Jess Gowrie (left) and Zac Brown look pretty clean to us.

Photo By william leung

Catch I'm Dirty Too on Friday, August 3; 8:30 p.m.; $5; 21 and over. TownHouse Lounge, 1517 21st Street;

Guitarist Zac Brown and drummer Jess Gowrie didn’t intend to start a two-piece rock band: They just never found the right bass player to join the group.

Of course, the fact that the pair was writing larger-than-life melodic stoner-rock anthems only made their decision to not round out I’m Dirty Too’s rhythm section that much stranger. But with a little bit of creativity, they made it work.

“The more I fiddled with my configuration of amps, the more it sounded like we had a bass player,” Brown explains. “We figured why ruin a good thing with the chemistry we have as a two-piece?”

Brown now runs his guitar signal through a guitar and a bass amp, each one attached to different effects pedals to create two different sounds—one bass, the other treble—a trick that gives the songs a thick sound to rival any traditional rock trio.

A bigger challenge they faced as a two-piece, Brown adds, came in taking up the slack of not having a separate lead singer. He and Gowrie searched for someone, but, as with the bass dilemma, never did find the right fit.

And so they looked inward.

“Neither of us had done a lot of singing before, if any, really. We didn’t even want to sing in front of each other,” Brown remembers. “We had to get over that. So we shared parts, which took a lot of the pressure off.”

By the time they’d played their first gig, they were trading off lead-vocal duties in sections and harmonizing together in others.

Rather than screaming their heads off like many of other stoner rockers, the duo takes a quieter approach, juxtaposing their melody-driven vocal parts against a heavy riff-oriented sludge-metal sound.

It’s not the vocals they found challenging, however, but rather the social pressures that come with crowd interaction.

“What’s most nerve-wracking is between songs when we have to talk,” Brown says. “Sometimes it comes off right, other times, I’m getting blank stares, and we just jump right into the next song.”

Now, as the two have grown more comfortable onstage, their soft-spoken nonrock-star charm makes for an appealing stage presence—not to mention a democratic spirit.

“We are 50 percent, straight down the line. Each of us have input and veto power in every single song and every single part,” Brown says.

There are, however, certain limitations. Brown, for instance, must write musical components that will translate to both the guitar and bass.

“There’s not a lot of room for intricate parts. If I play in the higher register, we lose that low end. It keeps me playing in a style more like a bass player. It makes me focus on the rhythm I’m playing. It has to be raw-and-to-the-point riff songwriting,” Brown says.

But as far as limitations go, he adds, this one has turned out to be a blessing.

“Playing riff-oriented music is why I started playing guitar when I was 11 years old. I heard [Led Zeppelin III], and was like, ’Wow. This is fucking great.’”

Now, though they’ve grown confident with how the band’s sound translates live, they also weren’t sure if they should record bass parts for their new album, The Downhill Dive, set for release Friday, August 3.

Ultimately, Brown says, they decided against it.

“We tried to keep it to a realistic sound of our live show,” Gowrie says.

The decision was the right one. On record, the absence of bass isn’t noticeable: The low notes are adequately covered by Brown’s guitars, making the lack of a proper bass track barely noticeable.

Brown and Gowrie are excited to finally release the new album—not just for how it sounds but, they say, because enough fans were more than willing to donate funds for the band’s recent Kickstarter campaign.

That support, Brown says, is invaluable.

“There are people that do believe in us and are willing to put their money where their mouths are,” he says. “[They don’t] just say, ’You guys are good. You guys can do something,’—[they] really do something about it.”