At the end of our interview, Ben Manuel asks, "How many times have I said 'grimy' and 'gritty' so far?"
I reply that I've lost count, which elicits a big laugh from the Scoop Outs' bass player. "Yeah, that sounds about right!"
You can't use "gritty" or "grimy" too much when you're talking about Scoop Outs' sound, but phrases like "weird folky" and "from the heart" should not be left out either. This hard-partying band of friends has been working for over four years to craft their debut album, and they want you to cross the bridge and venture up Portland Street this Saturday so that they can share it with you.
Beyond the grime, the happenstance that is the magic of a small scene in a small city is a theme that keeps coming up in talking with the band. Scoop Outs formed back in 2008, when Manuel got back to town and saw Jesse Webber and Ed Caswell playing a set at Gus'. He loved their scrappy sound and believed he had found "a band that obviously had a missing member." When producer Fred Lee approached them after a show about recording, it seemed a natural progression to move into the space directly across the hall from his OmniArt Studios when the chance popped up. Good fortune struck again when a friend asked Manuel to take over his regular spot on Friday nights at Jacob's Lounge on Portland Street in Dartmouth. This move allowed for a regular weekly jam party, complete with a growing and enthusiastic crowd, and helped make Jacob's a viable venue for local acts hesitant to invest in the fifteen dollar cab ride (each way) to play in places perhaps not ready for the fringe/outsider sound developing steadily in Dartmouth.
The Odd Socks' drummer Dylan Jewers (playing the show on Saturday along with Elk Lodge and Dave Marsh & The True Love Rules) echoes Scoop Outs' insistence that Jacob's has been a real boon to the development of Dartmouth's tight-knit scene. "For Dartmouth bands, Dartmouth musicians, [Jacob's is] great because Dartmouth needs that stuff. Halifax has all that, but we're a developing city. Dartmouth needs more, more, more."
Asked why it has taken them this long to record their first album, not one member offers any excuses or justifications. "We are lazy people and recording time would normally just turn into drinking and watching internet videos" says drummer Ed Caswell, echoing the sentiment shared by Manuel and guitarist Jesse Webber. "We are all very busy dudes with tight schedules---and tight pockets" Webber tells me, "but yeah, we wasted a lot of time drinking beer and having Youtube parties." Internet distraction aside, now that they have an album in hand to sell at shows and apply to festivals with, these Dartmouth boys are excited to move ahead.
"There's so much good stuff being made and I think it's just the perfect time for music anyway. The playing field is totally flat. No one is making money being a recording artist, so you have to get out there and actually play shows and advertise," says Manuel. "If you're willing to put the work in, then eventually you will become a really tight band and actually get a fan base. People appreciate hard work."
So why not walk the bridge or grab the #1, and head over to Jacob's on Saturday to appreciate that hard work and get the more, more, more that these fellows want to give you?
Scoop Outs, w/Elk Lodge, The Odd Socks, Dave Marsh & The True Love Rules, Merv Hartlen, Saturday, December 22, 9pm, Jacob’s Lounge, 106 Portland Street, $5