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DRGN King

February 2013
DRGN King
"Paragraph Nights
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mp3

Somewhere between the first and last tracks on DRGN King's Paragraph Nights (Bar None), the record’s spiritual grounding reveals itself with startling clarity. After nearly an album’s worth of psychedelic, maximalist indie-pop, with all the attendant touches of pleasure-loving and Altamont Sunrise-watching you could hope to hear, “Warriors” finds frontman Dominic Angelella asking “We heard about the house you built - did you find your way back home?” This is not the carefree euphoria of teenagers. Rather, Angelella and his bandmates are channeling a more mature, collectively-oriented freedom, one that’s shared by other adults who know what it’s like to create, struggle, triumph and grow through supporting one another. At a time when pop music is so often aggressively self-involved, it feels almost revolutionary to invoke such familial comforts. This is undoubtedly the most emotionally affecting line of his on Paragraph Nights, the question held aloft on a soft background chorus of triumphant whoops and yelps, as if offering the emotional support of a whole gang. Have you made your house a home? Are you at peace? If not, Angelella wants you to know, here we are for you.

As with Angelella’s other projects, DRGN King’s overture is engineered with exceptional confidence and talent, even throughout its spacey interludes and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tendencies. The sound is so dense that it can seem like DRGN King have always been a full band, with each member contributing a monolith of effects from the get-go. Not so; DRGN King was born a two-piece. Angelella’s songwriting duties often ride sidecar to the encyclopedia of effects, phasers, synths, and atmospherics offered by producer Brent “Ritz” Reynolds and the myriad of performers recruited to asseble this debut.

“Warriors” is a leisurely, beat-inflected strut, and one of the most radio-ready songs on the album. It’s a standout for the band as a whole, and when broken down, for individual members. Its bassline is a thing of sheer delight, and Ritz, who cut his production teeth on the Roots and Peedi Crakk, uses his designation as the hip-hop mind of the group for one of the most exciting parts of Paragraph Nights. “I got a bad, bad feeling they’re gonna take it all away....Warriors, out to play, and no one stay inside/The beautiful, the young, the brave.” Rather than a lament, Angelella’s exhortating people to level with themselves before it’s too late in life.

The moss-covered piano intro gives way to “Wild Night,” childlike wonder personified. After this bit of luminous electro-pop, Angelella slows things down for couple of sultry garage jaunts. “The Cardy Boys” is full of Mercury Rev-style nostalgia, as well as the same sort of lush production values given to Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips by Dave Fridmann. Tame Impala is another, more contemporary touchstone; their folkloric sonic tapestries and easygoing lyrical persona is instructive if you’re hellbent on finding a comparison who have succeeded in the mainstream.

“Barbarians” is a fittingly primal nightlife anthem. “Down in the trenches with barbarians” - who are these barbarians, specifically? Of any alluded-to group on Paragraph Nights, Angellella makes them sound like the most fun, going by hip-thrusting guitars and space-age synths.

The Santana-like guitar howls on “Caught Down,” the album’s penultimate number, are too prominent - and bizarrely perfect - to ignore. But just when this song is powering down, the drums weaken for a seemingly depleted conclusion, and neatly pivots into “Looking at You,” a funky hand-clapper and tambourine-shaker. It’s a total flouting of typical album structure, as if Angelella was determined to have one last moment of wistfulness before ending the album on an upbeat note. For the capstone to an album that feels like it belongs to a collective, this is an excellent way of corralling everyone for one last pump of the fist. Above all, Paragraph Nights is an album of mastery - whether technical, stylistic, or emotional, Angellella somehow knows where he’s headed from start to finish and how to keep people on board. - Alyssa Greenberg





Where Is My Mind?: DRGN King's Dominic Angelella

Philly’s own DRGN King grew from hours of late night recording sessions with guitarist/singer/songwriter Dominic Angelella and hip-hop producer Brent “Ritz” Reynolds (The Roots, Wale, Mac Miller, etc.) to a full-blown rock band. It feels like forever ago when the fruits of their labor first began to surface, but then disappeared again. However, we have remained patient. Well, the wait is finally over because the group’s debut full-length album Paragraph Nights is officially out today via Bar None Records. We had a chance to discuss with Angelella about the evolution of the new record, his music education, his hometown Baltimore music roots, and much, much more. You can read our interview with the red-haired, Jesus look-alike guitarist HERE

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Where Is My Mind?: DRGN King's Dominic Angelella

- by Q.D. Tran


Philly’s own DRGN King grew from hours of late night recording sessions with guitarist/singer/songwriter Dominic Angelella and hip-hop producer Brent “Ritz” Reynolds (The Roots, Wale, Mac Miller, etc.) to a full-blown rock band. It feels like forever ago when the fruits of their labor first began to surface, but then disappeared again. However, we have remained patient. Well, the wait is finally over because the group’s debut full-length album Paragraph Nights is officially out today via Bar None Records. We had a chance to discuss with Angelella about the evolution of the new record, his music education, his hometown Baltimore music roots, and much, much more. You can read our interview with the red-haired, Jesus look-alike guitarist below.
 
The Deli: Your band name is DRGN King, which was originally spelled Dragon King, and before that, you had a project called Dragonzord. What is your fascination with dragons?
 
Dominic Angelella: Dragonzord was initially just a name I picked for an acoustic project that didn’t have a name. I was about to go on tour and put out an EP and was nameless. Immediately, I thought of the dragon from power rangers as something that was so left field of anything that anyone else was naming their solo acoustic projects. It was basically just a dumb name that stuck. 
 
When it came time for Ritz and I to name our band, we thought of an earlier conversation we had with our friends in Nicos Gun. We had agreed that if we ever started a collaborative band, it would be called Dragon King, after the chinese food/all purpose store in South Philadelphia that Brent/Nicos Gun frequented. The more we thought about it, the more it stuck around. It was given power, and now it’s never gonna go away. 
 
TD: What or who inspired you to start playing guitar? Was it the first instrument that you ever played? If not, what was?
 
DA: Music was always really important to me, and I always wanted to play guitar. My parents started me out on piano, like many parents do to budding young musicians as a way to see if they can “hack it.” So I played piano for a little while, and then crossed over.
 
TD: What is your favorite cover song to play on a guitar, and why?
 
DA: Probably “Maggot Brain,” but I would never play it for anyone. I’ve seen too many guitarists mess up that song. I also like to take apart amazing folk songs to see how they’re written. Right now there’s this Arthur Russell song I can’t stop playing. 
 
TD: You grew up in Baltimore, which currently has a thriving music scene. What was the city’s music scene like when you lived there?
 
DA: When I was in high school there, I was immersed heavily in the punk/crust scene there. It was a couple years before the whole Wham City thing happened. Some of those kids were there playing in punk bands. It was still intensely creative, and people were putting amazing spins on the genre. The first few Double Dagger shows were really incredible, and some of those bands from that time are still my favorites. The Squints were really great. 
 
TD: You came to Philly to study jazz guitar at the University of the Arts. How has the city’s music scene changed since you’ve been here?
 
DA: Philadelphia has been the same since I got here, I think. I just travelled through all the music scenes. There’s a great West/South Philly basement show thing, a great hip-hop scene, and a great jazz scene. It’s cool to be able to experience all of it.
 
TD: What is the most important thing that you learned from your studies to help your current music career?
 
DA: When I was in college, I was sort of a jerk. There are so many teachers doing their best to teach you how to play traditional jazz with the idea that it’s a great foundation for all music, but I just wanted to be really loud and noisy and abrasive and piss people off. That was always the jazz that I wanted to play in school. I was so set on being a contrarian that I forgot how important it is to be open-minded. So, I think I learned to be less judgmental and more open-minded, all while understanding what it is that attracts me to certain sounds/types of music.
 
TD: If you had a chance to do it over again, would you keep the same major or study something else, and why?
 
DA: Uarts was cool because besides music classes, I could take all these weird humanities classes, so while you study guitar you can also study writers and religions and whatnot. I ate that up. It was a good balance.
 
 
TD: Why did you name your album Paragraph Nights? What is the meaning behind that?
 
DA: Paragraph Nights comes from two places. The first is the title track to the album, which is sort of a person having wistful recollections of a shitty night. It’s not uncommon for people to romanticize things from their past that, to an outsider, might seem really trivial or dumb. For some reason, it’s important to them. 
 
Also, Ritz said something really interesting the other day. He said that he felt that Paragraph Nights was in reference to the fact that we recorded most of the album in really odd hours. I would come over to his studio after I’d get off work, and we’d hang out all night, listening to music we liked, watching movies, and writing. Sometimes we’d pass out, and sometimes we’d stay up until 6 or 7 recording. 
 
TD: What was the most difficult obstacle for you during the recording process?
 
DA: It was just a long process, which in retrospect, was totally important. I’m just a really impatient person sometimes, and I’d get really frustrated. I’d never been in a band before that labored over recordings. Usually we’d just go into a studio, and knock something out in a day. But I’m really glad we took the time we needed to record/rerecord/layer sounds and mix. It makes a difference.
 
TD: How did you get hooked up with Bar None Records?
 
DA: We put out the video for "Holy Ghost," and a couple months later, we got an email from them expressing interest. We looked at their back catalog, and listened to some of the music they were releasing, and got excited. They came to see us play at Bryn Mawr College, and brought a case of Stella Artois, and we hung out. It was fun. 
 
TD: If someone were to ask you what your music sounds like on the album, how would you describe it?
 
DA: Me and Ritz started the band because we had a similar view/outlook on music. We had a great love of so many artists throughout the past 100 years, and just wanted to add our ideas into that great pool of recordings. The band started out as a wild, genre-crossing recording project, and became a rock band. We could name references all day, but that gets boring. We used to say “The Beatles meets Wu Tang” or “Brian Eno meets Dipset” to be cheeky and shit, but we really just want to make music we like. Lately people have been saying we sound British. I like that one. 
 
TD: Are there any plans to tour in support of the album yet?
 
DA: We’re gonna be touring the East Coast a little in February, and going to SXSW in March. After that we’re gonna keep touring and playing and writing for our next record. 
 
TD: Where or what is your favorite thing to eat on tour?
 
DA: Pizza is the best go-to. It’s really hard to not eat horribly when one plays out of town. Mediterranean food is the best way to not get all messed up. 
 
TD: How do you like to kill time between load-in and your performance?
 
DA: Generally it involves stupid games on cell phones and books and pinball, if there's a pinball machine around.
 
TD: What do you like to do more - performing live or recording in the studio, and why?
 
DA: It’s equal now. They’re two totally different experiences. The studio is a great place to mess around with ideas and get expansive with sounds, but playing live is always spontaneous.
 
TD: What is your favorite thing to get at the deli?
 

DA: A turkey sandwich of some kind? A nice beverage? Potato Chips? One of those three things. 

 

 

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DRGN King
Paragraph Nights

 

 
 
 

 





Free Download: “Wild Night” - DRGN King

Check out a new electro-pop track called "Wild Night" from DRGN King’s forthcoming debut record Paragraph Nights, which was featured on Spinner.com earlier today and is available for free download HERE! The album will be released on January 22 via Bar None Records. Here is what frontman Dominic Angelella had to say about the band’s latest offering: “This song started off as a weird little electro demo and slowly blossomed into the frenetic, guitar-y thing that it is today. We hope you enjoy.”
 
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Free Download: "Holy Ghost" - DRGN King

DRGN King's single "Holy Ghost" was recently featured on Rolling Stone's website. You can learn about how the song came to be, and download the track for free HERE. The band's debut full-length album Paragraph Nights is due out January 22 via Bar None Records.

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