Let's Take Five: An interview with Dignitary

For the latest instalment of our Let’s Take Five feature, we caught up with Dignitary and we spoke about their upcoming debut album, the Velvet Underground, two person mosh-pits and New York residencies!


Firstly, so that our readers can know a bit more about you, please introduce your band.

Michael Cuenca: I front Dignitary. I’m also an indie filmmaker and direct all the bands’ short films/music videos. We’re from Los Angeles.

Fallon Scherzinger: I play bass. We’re based out of Los Angeles although all 3 of us are from Orange County. Mike and I have known each other since we were kids and then Gabe just happened to be from there too, even though we met him here in LA.

Gabe Huerta: Guitar. We’re the core of the group and have friends fill in on keys or drums or on backing vocal duties for live shows.

MC: We’re not your traditional post-punk band. The songs are romantic, new wave… Some psychedelic flourishes.

FS: I’d say we’re extremely ’80s influenced. There’s a little dark wave, a little pop. Most songs are very dance-y, even the mopey ones. Bouncy bass lines, crying guitars. I could list a bunch of descriptions we get that I don’t mind, but also don’t agree with! Listen and come up with one of your own.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-14-56-52Your debut LP, ‘Full Moon in Vertigo’ will be released next month (18th October). If you could sum up the album in just three words, what would they be and why?

MC: If I could sum up the album in three words they would be: work-in-progress. The LP has been a work in progress for three years. It’s almost a blueprint for what we can improve on and move forward with. I’m more excited about our 2nd LP which is going into the mixing stages soon. That one’s in a more new romantic vein but with one good dose of angst and captures what I’ve really been trying to do with the band for a while. Fun stuff.

FS: Nostalgic, haunting, romantic.

Not romantic in a Patrick Swayze kind of way either. You know what I mean. Many of these were songs I learned when I first joined he band in 2013 as a keyboardist. These songs have been played for a couple of years now and I’m glad they’re finally seeing the light of day. Three more words: haunting, ghosts, reverb…

GS: It is good. Because it is.

MS: Gabe’s the George Harrison of the group, by the way. He’s the quiet one.

Where did the initial spark that inspired you to create music and be in a band come from? 

MC: I fell in love with that line that whoever bought the first Velvet Underground album went and formed a band. I was a huge Velvets fan as a kid. Huge. I obsessed over them. And I tried so hard to emulate Lou Reed when I started writing my own songs. I didn’t know how to play guitar for a long time, just bass, though.

What pushed me even further was reading about the Pistols and all the people who attended their first gigs… their Free Trade Hall show: Siouxsie, Steve Severin, Devoto, Pete Shelley, Billy Idol, Ian Curtis… they all went and formed bands. I’ve always felt the need to be a part of something… part of a scene (maybe)… A music scene seemed like a logical step. I romanticized the whole thing. Sadly, that never transpired and I’ve always been pretty bitter about shit since whatever band I’ve ever been in gets kind of overlooked and set aside. Still an outcast. Still an outsider. We’re not hip enough, I guess. Haha.

FS: I’ve always been into music, going through different genres as I grew up.

MC: Yeah, when I met Fallon she was a total rude girl. I didn’t see her for a few months and then she had this gigantic Iron Maiden shirt on and denim vest – all metal. Then we both went through a mod phase.

FS: Yeah! Mike is 3 years older than me and when I was 12 years old he influenced a LOT of what was going through my ears. He still does. I had picked up the bass when I was 15, took a few lessons but always felt too insecure to actually do something about it. I abandoned trying to make music after that… until Mike asked me to be in Dignitary.

He’s the songwriter, so all I had to do was practice, and that’s how it came about. I love the band anyway, so trying was easy. He taught me the songs… first on keys, then on bass. And I’ve never had more fun. It’s the first band I’ve ever been in. I contribute to songs sometimes, like when I mess up during recording and we agree it sounds better. (It’s true!)

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What has been the strangest gig you’ve ever played (or strangest moment at a gig you’ve had) as a band and why?

FS: There was this one show in Seattle… Don’t get me wrong, it was great, the crowd seemed really into the songs as they were playing, but between songs it was crickets. They’d be dancing and rocking their heads back and forth and then once we were done… Silence! We got a lot of compliments after the show, so we didn’t feel bad about it, but there was definitely an awkward silence between every song.

MC: Oh yeah. I wouldn’t call it strange just, hey, what the hell, let’s enjoy this. There was the downtown Vegas show after the Out from the Shadows Festival in Portland. No one was at this cafe. Two friends of ours had driven out from LA to hang with us. Actually, one of them is my friend Dan Rojay. He opened for us with this amazing folk set. He was great! Our set was a joke. I started rambling on the mic, my buddy Steve (who I play with in the band Anal Ballz) started a two-person mosh pit with Dan, got me involved, disconnected the PA, falling all over the floor, cables flying, chairs sliding, it was a massacre. And then we all ate shrooms – and it was the hardest, craziest, visceral explosion trip I’ve ever been on – and all was right with the world.

Finally, have you got anything to share regarding upcoming tour dates and what have you got planned for the remainder of 2016?

MC: We leave for a New York residency tomorrow (September 20th). Five shows. All different sets. Then we come back to LA and play a show at UNION on the 29th with the Electric West – who we’re touring with – and Second Still. We have our LP release at the Echoplex with Daniel Ash DJing in October. And the new album should be good to go by hopefully January/February.

FS: We are trying to play as much as possible right now, so keep your ears wiiiiide open.

GH: Yep. We have a lot of material: 3 EPs, the upcoming Full Moon LP, and the 2nd LP stuff.

MC: Tentatively titled As We Part. It’s a very personal album. I don’t really write personal music – I prefer telling short stories – but that one covers this crazy emotional roller coaster journey I’ve been on for the last year or so. The songs “Quite Like You” and “Behind Distress” were originally meant for that album so I guess those two tracks can give you a hint of what’s to come – at least lyrically.

GH: We’ll be testing a lot of that new material live within the next few months, starting with the UNION show.
MC: So stay tuned…

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You can keep up with Dignitary by following them on both Facebook and Instagram. To pre-order their debut album, ‘Full Moon In Vertigo’ you can click here and you can listen to the band via Soundcloud below.

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