Dillinger Four


Photo by Katie Hovland

Last month, Dillinger Four played the Double Door as part of a brief tour commemorating their 21st anniversary as a band. After the string of shows wrapped up, we talked with singer/bassist Patrick “Paddy” Costello about how everything went. We also discussed the band’s history, including some of the more noteworthy shows they’ve played in Chicago over the years. In addition, we conversed about D4’s most recent album, Civil War, and Costello touched on some of what they have planned for next year, which involves releasing new material and more touring.

Bill – You guys recently finished a short run of Midwest and East Coast dates in celebration of Dillinger Four’s 21st anniversary. What gave you the idea to celebrate with a tour like that?

Paddy – To tell you the truth, I think we would have done it anyway. Last year we were going to do a 20th anniversary for D4, but it also happened to be the 20th anniversary of a DIY, all-volunteer punk record store up here called Extreme Noise that we’re involved with. We just realized it was kind of silly for us to celebrate our 20th at the same time they were celebrating theirs. They did a series of shows all year as well. So then last year we like, “You know what would be funny? What if we just celebrate our 21st birthday?” So then we just kind of got it in our head. To tell you the truth, we tour when we can. Schedule-wise it’s really hard for us to pull off. I think one way or another we would have done it anyway. Everybody likes a birthday party.

Bill – What were some of the highlights of the tour?

Paddy – Oh man. It’s kind of hard to pick because these last few runs were so great. Honestly, probably the standout one would be Chicago and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you. For one, we’d never played the Double Door, so that was pretty cool. And there’s a lot of clubs we love in Chicago. Reggie’s has been really good for us in particular. But it was the first time we played Double Door and we didn’t know how it would go and the fact that it sold-out was great. But then it was also just a cross-section of people who came out. I don’t want to get into name-dropping or anything, but it was so many different people we know from so many different aspects of dare I say the scene. There was just something about the vibe of that night. Everyone was so amped up and everybody was in a really good mood and it just kind of had a party vibe without necessarily being sloppy or violent or anything, you know? That was really great. And also just how understanding people were on both the runs at us taking stabs in the set. We hadn’t planned on all those shows at taking requests during the encore. That was just something that happened in Chicago. That seriously happened onstage. A couple guys were yelling out stuff. Erik, (singer/guitarist Erik Funk) Billy, (guitarist/singer Billy Morrisette) and I just looked at each other and were like “I mean, do you want to take a stab at it?” I can’t remember if it was “Holy Shit” or “Smells Like OK Soda” or something. Somebody kept on yelling for it and we were like, “Well, we haven’t played this in years.”

Bill – I think it was “#51 Dick Butkus.”

Paddy – That might have been. Yeah, and I know we train-wrecked something. I know there was something we played and I think we got like a minute into it and were like “Yeah, no. No point in faking that.” It was funny because that happened in Chicago. We played St. Louis the next night and guys had heard that we did that in Chicago so then at the end of the set guys were yelling out for stuff in St. Louis. We were like, “I guess we do this now.” And then we ended up doing it every show at the end of the night. I mean there’s obviously stuff that we can’t pull out of the hat. There’s stuff that’s like 20 years old now. Some of the songs we haven’t played in 20 years. That was pretty funny. We definitely had to get creative with the lyrics.

Bill – When you reflect on spending over two decades as a member of this band, what are some of the first things that come to mind?

Paddy – You know, honestly, it’s funny because we were just talking about us collectively kind of having an epiphany driving into Tokyo. Maybe it’s because it was the first foreign country we went to as the band. In like 1998, we did our first trip to Japan and I hate flying. I pretty much spent the entire time drinking on the plane, that’s the only way. I’m like the B.A. Baracus of Dillinger Four. I have to medicate on a plane. So we landed and by that point I was hung-over. I wasn’t even drunk the flight is so long. We got in the van and we were driving into Tokyo at night and Tokyo is massive. We just see on the horizon this glowing, it’s like the whole horizon is on fire. And just for a second, and I found out I wasn’t the only one who had this, just for a second we were like “Holy shit. We brought this band to Japan.” And it was just crazy. We really didn’t set out to do anything. There was never any master plan with the band. We really were just drinking buddies and we started a band. That was a pretty big one I found out to all of us. For some reason when we were driving into Tokyo it kind of hit all of us. There’s a lot of stuff that comes to mind. When you think about it, it’s like the four of us have kind of grown up together in a way. We formed in our really early twenties, but it’s like we’ve all just kind of been through so much shit together and the band’s just kind of always been there in one capacity or another. Obviously it’s more active at times than others, but we’ve never broken up. We haven’t had a band member change in 20 years. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. When I was growing up, other kids had fathers that belonged to like a Moose Lodge or whatever. With us, we have this club we belong to called Dillinger Four that plays music, you know? It’s really weird.

Bill – Given that you’ve played numerous shows in Chicago throughout the years, what have been some of the most memorable ones?

Paddy – You know what I bring up a lot? And there were a lot of people at it. I’m pretty sure it was the Take Action Tour we did with F.Y.P, Scared of Chaka and Fifteen. I’m pretty sure it was that tour where we did two shows at the Fireside Bowl. It was insanely hot and the air didn’t work in the bowling alley at the time. I just remember those shows being so fuckin’ packed and it was so fuckin’ hot, but it was like the best fuckin’ time. We ended up doing encores, but we didn’t plan them to be encores. It was basically like you’d play ten songs and then you’d have to get outside. And there were hundreds and hundreds of people who were all kind of feeling the same way. Everyone would run outside and try to cool off as best as they could and then go back in. We’d play a couple more songs and everyone goes bananas and jumps all over each other and is yelling at the top of their lungs. Then it’s like, “Oh shit, we gotta go back outside again.” But like nobody left, you know what I mean? It was just jammed-packed for hours and hours. That one stands out big time. I know another one at least for me personally was playing with Naked Raygun at House of Blues. It’s not necessarily because it’s the House of Blues or anything. I just remember standing there being like, “How the fuck did this happen?” I was 14 and going to see Raygun at the Metro and they seemed like Gods to me. I couldn’t have even fathomed playing the Metro and then all of sudden we’re in a place the size of the House of Blues and it’s super sold-out. Obviously minimally because of us, I’m not saying it’s because of us, but I remember being onstage and seeing all of those people and just never in a million years would have imagined that. And opening for Raygun on top of it, it’s just like “How the fuck did this happen?”

Bill – I remember you guys playing shows with Leatherface back in 2000 and how significant that was to you then. How does it feel now to be thought of as a band that’s highly-influential to others?

Paddy – I don’t know that any of us really think about it. That’s kind of something more we hear from people when we tour. We do well up here in Minneapolis, but we live on an island, you know what I mean? In particular, a couple of us are bartenders and/or own bars, so we’re around people all the time. So it would just be weird if somebody turned to one of us out of nowhere and was like, “Hey man, do you know that what you guys have done has significantly influenced me?” You know what I mean? It just doesn’t happen. It’s just mostly when we go on tour and then it kind of makes you…I don’t really like talking about stuff like that because it kind of feels weird. I’d rather shoot the breeze with somebody about what they had for lunch or something. People can tell me that stuff we’ve written has influenced them, but still in the back of my head I think about how I remember us trying to sound like Elvis Costello mixed with Motorhead or something. I just remember us thinking about it like that. I remember songs at the beginning and being like, “Aw man, this sounds too much like Rocket from the Crypt.” Now I go back and listen to those same songs and I’m like, “I was complimenting myself. That doesn’t sound anything like Rocket from the Crypt.” I don’t know. I guess I don’t really think about it much.

Bill – Your last album, Civil War, came out seven years ago. When you go back and listen to that record, what aspects of it do you like best?

Paddy – In general I just really like the songwriting. Obviously I’m talking mostly about Erik’s stuff because he was just on fire around that time. Personally I wish the sound of the record was rowdier. I almost wished it sounded a bit more like Situationist Comedy. I don’t know if you ever heard, there was a bootleg that came out of our BBC Sessions and some of the Civil War stuff is on there. It’s just stuff that we recorded live at the BBC and I actually kind of like how that sounded better. I mean I love the record, I’m not embarrassed by the record at all, but there are parts of some of those songs that we spent a long time on, like getting down sort of odd time signatures that we hadn’t done before. In the end I think that’s what pops into my head when I think about Civil War. And also there was a lot of stuff to write about at the time too. Looking back on it lyric-wise, I’m pretty proud of some of the stuff we wrote songs about. Just like reality TV for one, I mean we have at least one song if not two on that album just about that. It’s even more of an institution now then it was when we made that record. Although looking back on it it’s funny because I do remember debating between calling the song “Paris Hilton is a Metaphor” or “Kim Kardashian is a Metaphor.” I had originally just written it as “Paris Hilton…” so I just went with that. Now in retrospect, maybe I should have kept it Kim. These are the oversights we live with, (laughs).

Bill – Have you written any new songs recently or thought about recording a new album?

Paddy – Yeah, there was already talk this past summer about us doing a new record, but after doing this stretch, literally we weren’t a minute off the plane getting back from the East Coast and Lane, (drummer Lane Pederson) was like, “Alright. When are we going to get to practice? We gotta write songs.” Lane is far and away the member of D4 that’s the hardest to nail down. It isn’t common knowledge, but he’s a psychologist. He’s very successful in his field, but he’s also very active. I mean honestly there are months that go by that I don’t even see him in person. There are months that go by where he’s traveling constantly for his work. So it isn’t really us being lazy, it’s just literally to get the four of us in a room at the same time is a pretty big hurdle to jump. So to have Lane be the one who’s like, “Alright let’s do this. I’m stoked to get together.” That was really what we were looking for. It sounds like the plan is starting around December to get a regular practice schedule going and start hammering stuff out. But, at the end of the day Erik and I actually write very similarly, which is kind of funny because we’ve never really talked about it. But neither of us really just sit down and crank out a song. We always have parts and you’re kind of mumbling words to yourself along to it. And then when it becomes time to get songs together you try and figure out what parts go together. For some reason we got a reputation for writing all our lyrics in the studio, but that isn’t really true because a lot of times we go into the studio and we haven’t really written down the lyrics to a song, but you’ve been singing the same thing to yourself for four months, you know? It’s like that’s the one time you sit down and actually hammer out exactly what you’re going to say. But so far the plan is to do at least one new release next year. There might even be another EP or something. I probably have right now six songs, more or less, kicking around. You’ve got to get together with the band and play them because sometimes there’s stuff you play out loud and you’re like “Ah, that’s bullshit.” But that’s the plan right now is starting in December.

Bill – You kind of mentioned having of lot of motivation with the lyrics around the time you guys were writing Civil War. What have been some of the things that have inspired your lyrics lately?

Paddy – Nothing in particular. A lot times when you’re sort of singing to yourself it’s just certain phrases that are references to things, not necessarily an entire complete thought. When I say I have six songs kicking around, it’s like six different sets of verses with a vocal pattern in mind. One thing that kind of keeps popping up in the stuff I’m working on right now and I really hate to sound like a cliché, but kind of like the working poor being so amazingly devoted to the powers that be that are looking out for them the least. People have been writing songs about that forever. We were writing songs about that 20 years ago and 20 years ago was way better than it is right now. It’s just amazing. I bartend so I talk to a lot of people. I try to avoid politics, but it always comes up. It’s so crazy to me the devotion. It’s almost a craving of that abuse, taking it as a point of pride like you’re not a real patriot unless you’re totally sucking at the tit of an abusive mother. It’s almost to the point that you’re looked at like an idiot or a “crybaby liberal” if you don’t agree. It’s like, “No. Fuck that.” The powers that be don’t like me. They don’t care if I live or die. Why would I vote for them or be dedicated to them? It doesn’t make me any less of a patriot, whatever that means. That sort of sentiment has popped up in a couple different things I’m working on right now. That obviously plays in with the election coming up, hearing a lot of the rhetoric. Obviously, for fuck’s sake, Trump is a never-ending well for inspiration on that mindset. That’s one that keeps coming up.

Bill – Have you guys made any definite plans for 2016?

Paddy – Yeah, even in the wake of those two stretches we just did, which were really short. At best they were jaunts, but there’s already talk about West Coast stuff. We’re definitely going back overseas as well. That’s like a hair from being confirmed. It kind of boils down to time, like if Lane has the time then we definitely want to head out. When you really break it down, you have Lane who’s a very successful doctor, Erik who owns a very successful business and Billy is the manager of a bar/restaurant that’s just opening up in St. Paul. Are we going to jump in a van and tour around the country for a month? I don’t see that happening very soon, at all. By the original plan right now we’d be out of town again. The whole plan originally was that all of October we were going to go different places every weekend. But yeah, stuff is definitely planned for next year for sure. In terms of new material, I actually proposed the idea to the guys of maybe a handful of EPs. I don’t know if it’ll necessarily be an album. We don’t know. We’re still kicking around the ideas. At this point it’s just the way music is released now. Whether it’s an album or four different smaller releases, it kind of doesn’t matter anymore. I brought it up to guys and said we could just focus on four songs and just nail them, track them, get them out and then go right back into the practice space and start working on four or five more. And then just put them out as they come, rather than going into the studio and trying to get 15 songs done. We’ll see what happens.