A spin of IAMDYNAMITE songs like “Where Will We Go” and “Stereo” is to stage-dive into a whirlwind of infectious, high-energy guitar hooks that recall the ’90s power rock of the band’s shared youth growing up in a small Midwestern town.
“For both of us it’s kind of a similar story,” recalled lead singer and guitarist Chris Martin (above, left) of being a kid in Milan, Michigan, just a few miles outside of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus. Getting into rock music at the onset of puberty, Martin got turned on to Beck‘s breakthrough album Mellow Gold and bands like Radiohead and Nirvana. “I started playing guitar and just got fanatical about it. From that point on, it was always about rocking out.
“I really wanted to be in a band, but it’s hard in a small town like Milan,” he continued, his thoughtful demeanor bellying the manic energy of his band’s music. “There weren’t a lot of people around with drum sets. So when I was about 15, my super-awesome mom bought me a drum kit and a full bass rig. I could have friends come over to my house and play. The first band I was ever in grew out of that scene.”
It was during those spontaneous after-school jam sessions that Martin first met drummer Chris Phillips, with the pair forging a bond that carries on to this very day.
“It was a small town and there were only a few drummers, and Chris was one of them,” Martin remembered. “We ended up booking a show before there was even a band or a secure line-up, and I asked Chris to play drums. I was like 16 when we had our first show at the Milan Fair.”
As the duo performed in various bands throughout high school, band members would come and go, with the Chris and Chris as the only constants. As they continued to gig around town, the came to a harsh realization: they sucked.
“Me and Chris have been in every band together, but they were always kind of crappy. It just felt like we played shows and no one cared,” Martin remembered. “It was hard to find people who were really committed, because we really wanted to be in a band. So we decided to write even simpler songs and just be a duo. There had already been a bunch of popular two-people bands like the White Stripes and Black Keys, so we knew we could do it. We just thought we could get away with it, so we did.”
Performing under the name Mahoney, the duo began to hone what would go on to become IAMDYNAMITE. Developing catchy, more dynamic tunes, the band’s confidence – and audience – began to grow.
“We were just tired of everyone being bored at our shows,” Martin laughed. “We wanted to make music that would reach everybody in the room for the few minutes we have together, ourselves included. We started to focus more on melody and rhythm and not to veer anything too long or elaborate. That was the genesis of everything.”
Relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina, the band began gigging regularly around the region, expanding their base and pulling larger crowds until they found themselves being courted by indie label Brando Records. The label, based in Austin, Texas, put the guys in Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Recording Studio, where they recorded debut album, SUPERMEGAFANTASTIC.
“If there was a secret grow room there, I can’t comment on it,” Martin joked regarding Nelson’s legendary marijuana habit.
The band has toured relentlessly behind the album, crossing the country with label-mates Blue October as well as headlining dates of their own, building a fan base one show at a time. Taking a quick breather before going out with Canadian punk-poppers Sum 41 for a five-week tour, the band is already plotting their next full-length release, despite the logistical obstacles.
“I moved back to Michigan, and Chris is still in Raleigh. The two of us are still figuring out the logistics to get together and write the next album,” Martin explained. “We need that lazy, fun, jammy time to really make it happen. We’re looking forward to it.”
While IAMDYNAMITE’s next album is sure to be chock full of catchy hooks and sing-along choruses (“Growing up in the ’90s, it’s hard to escape. It just kind of comes out”), the band is looking at expanding on their signature sound.
“We’ve been talking about that a lot lately,” Martin admitted. “I think you may find us branching out a little bit on the next record. I don’t think we’re gonna go bananas and synth-out or get crazy with the African drums or anything. I say that now, fast-forward a couple of years we’ll be exactly that. We’d like to introduce some new sounds for sure.”
Ultimately, IAMDYNAMITE’s reason for rocking remains the same: to have as much fun as possible.
“Let’s just have the best experience we can in this room together,” Martin said of the band’s notoriously upbeat live shows. “That’s the goal every night.”
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local