SXSW Obsession Part 4: My Interview with Little Black Dress

When I got the assignment from Spinner to interview Little Black Dress, a band from Dallas, I’d never heard of them before.  A few days later, when I started to do my research for the interview, I googled lead singer Toby Pipes‘ name.  I had no idea what I would find – so imagine my surprise when the first entry that came up was for a band I was actually quite familiar with: Deep Blue Something.  You see, back in the day, (1995 to be exact) I was a freshman in high school.  As a young, idealistic teenager with MTV who had not yet entered the cusp of her 1960s rock addiction, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was one of my favorite songs.  Oh yeah.

Yep, Toby Pipes now fronts a new band, Little Black Dress, whose music is miles and miles away from the poppy hooks of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  Despite his brush with super-stardom, my phone interview with Pipes was a true pleasure.  He’s extremely down-to-earth with a great sense of humor, perspective, and a clear vision of what he wants out of his music.  You can read my official published Spinner interview with Pipes here: SXSW 2010: Little Black Dress.  And, though I never mentioned the B-at-T words during the interview, I personally think the haircuts from the video deserve a re-visiting.

Catch Little Black Dress making a rare live performance during SXSW on Wednesday, March 17th at the Hideout, 11:45 pm.

Click the jump to read the bio on LBD I wrote for Spinner, as well as the unpublished portions of the interview!


Toby Pipes and Nolan Thies didn’t necessarily intend to start a band nearly five years ago, but as owner and producers at Bass Propulsion Laboratories in Dallas, they found themselves using the studio to craft a sound that was a far cry from Pipes’ days in the ‘90s college-rock band Deep Blue Something.  Taking influence from the dark ‘80s synth-oriented and shoegaze music of My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, Talk Talk, and New Order, Pipes and Thies eventually wound up with sixteen fully-formed songs.  After those tracks were heard by execs at Exploding Plastic/Idol Records, Brent Elrod, Earl Darling, Cooper Heffley and Taylor Tasch were recruited into the band to complete their first official LP.

According to Pipes (who adopted the name Little Black Dress after being baffled that a television show named the “little black dress” as the number one most important thing to women), the band’s 2009 debut album Snow in June is an experiment in balancing the extended moody jams of its predecessors with a listener-friendly pop sensibility.  Combining those two factors, the band went for a “big, luscious” sound on Snow in June. Pipes describes having viewed each song as a potential candidate for a soundtrack, identifying the ideal movie for his music as “something like Sid and Nancy.”

Though Little Black Dress approach their music seriously, Pipes is quite laid-back in his approach to touring and the music industry as a whole.  Chalking it up to his prior experience of having skyrocketed to fame as just a college student, he now values the ability to have creative freedom, work with other bands, produce and record his own music, and to be free from big-label pressures.  Little Black Dress play only a few a shows a year, but will be making appearances in showcases at SXSW 2010.

Unpublished portions from the interview:

On LBD’s sound:

AGMG: Do you think your years of producing have changed your approach to your own music and changed your sound?

TP: Having the studio gives us time to do it over and over again until we think we get it right.  That’s probably the best thing about it.  I think that has a lot to do with the sound of it because we tried to make everything on this record like it would be in a movie, like it’s kind of like a soundtrack.  We wanted it to be big…we didn’t want it to have a garage-y indie sound.  We were trying to stay as far away from that as we can because it seems like everyone is doing that.  We wanted it to be big…kind of big and luscious. <laughs>

AGMG: So, if you had to name a movie that your music would go well to, what would it be?

TP: Have you ever seen Sid and Nancy?  You know how Tangerine Dream did all the background music for when they’re in the alleyway and everything is in slow-motion?  That kind of stuff.  I think it would go good with something like that.

AGMG: Like a broken “rock” story?

TP: Exactly.  Or someone overdosing in a train.

On the music scene in Dallas:

AGMG: It seems like right now you’re valuing the experience of being in a smaller, kind of local band.  Do you find the local music scene in Dallas to be laid-back or is it intense?

TP: Dallas is building back up again.  Deep Ellum is building back up finally to where it’s becoming a spot again.  Everything got real spread out in Dallas for a while and it seemed like everyone was in a band.  A lot of the shows weren’t worth going to, but it seems like it’s turning around.  In Dallas, it seems like things are getting better; there are bands that have a similar sound are playing shows together to where it’s not just random for most of the night.

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