The indie quintet began nurturing a following in and around Texas, recorded and released their first EP, The Guest, in 2007 on indie label Bearded Beauty, and dove headfirst into touring on a national level. By the time 2009 rolled around, Dignan had criss-crossed the country several times, sold out the initial pressing of their EP (1,000 discs to be sure, but still impressive), digitally distributed a few thousand of their second EP, Tangled Woods Sessions, opened for the Plain White Ts, Ra Ra Riot and Color Revolt, among others, and accepted an invitation to perform at Paste Magazines Official 2009 SXSW Music Festival showcase. Invites from Cornerstone Festival and Pachanga Latin Music Festival followed.
But after so much touring, Dignans musicians needed some down time to expel all the ideas that had percolated on the road, and put to paper different emotions weve felt along the way.
So they returned to Texas, holed up for 10 days with no outside interruptions, and crafted the first six tracks of their debut LP, Cheaters & Thieves. When we wrote these songs, we decided we needed to leave our comfort zone, not to have any restrictions, Garcia explains. We just took our time, locked ourselves up in a room and these are what came out.
There was never any question of whether or not to produce it professionally the money just wasnt there and Pena was well-versed enough in DIY recording techniques and technology that he was able to work out what the band needed to get the job done. At some point, they tossed around the idea of bringing in a small-time producer to help push them in the right direction. But it just didnt work out. We decided we could do it by ourselves and that we didnt need anyone to give us any pointers or feedback, says Garcia. The quality of the songs, the artistic direction, the lyrical content were all very proud of the project and that we did it on our own.
Captivating and haunting, Cheaters & Thieves touches upon love and loss, religion (Youll find me running / running from the Devil / but running from God / Im running from God
And I find myself again), the struggle between right and wrong, the search for lifes answers, the passage of time and other profound subjects. The albums single, Two Steps, ponders imminent death with aching loveliness and earned enough popular votes to get onto a Paste Magazine/Heineken CD Sampler this past June.
The band recorded the album in their practice space a garage converted into a informal sound studio in bits and pieces and mixed it at Premium Recordings in Austin. Were really happy about how the recordings came out, Garcia tells me.
Cheaters & Thieves turned out to be an almost entirely indie effort and Garcia says that Dignan is enjoying being unencumbered. Bands think, If only we could get signed by a label and get that backing and support. But that support doesnt necessarily mean anything nowadays. If you go out and work for it, it will work out for you.
So far he and his bandmates have benefited from the results of their DIY methods. We can record ourselves and make it sound good, so why not continue to do it that way?
Yeah, why not? The album sounds as lush and as full as it would if it were recorded in a real sound studio and it cost them a grand total of $600. Were proud to say the record has only been out for 10 days and were already out of debt.
Garcia insists that although Dignan is pleased about their rising success, the goal is not necessarily to sell their music but to spread it around and enjoy the experience. We want to meet people, share meals with new friends, share our music. Its a blast to travel the country with your best friends and do it for free. We just want to play music and were very fortunate and blessed that were able to do it.
Dignan/Look Mexico/XOXO/Alexander and the Grapes, Fri., July 17, 9 p.m., Crowbar, Ybor City, $6 in advance/$8 dos (ages 18 and up).