Artist Spotlight: Dealer talk first US tour, making an album and writing music they want to hear
Australian hardcore group Dealer stormed into Club Red last weekend, supporting a heavyweight lineup including Spite and Varials. The recently-formed band is already making waves in the metal community and the buzz around their pair of debut EPs had a roomful of curious attendees at attention for their set. Of course, once Dealer jumped in, a wall of movement took over the floor.
After a whirlwind set, Atlas sat down with singer Aidan Holmes and drummer Joe Abikhair to discuss the band’s wild ride so far, fan reactions to the music and gearing up to make an album. Oh, and shoutout to Mike Milford.
Atlas Artist Group: You guys have been labeled a “supergroup”. How do you feel about this characterization?
Aidan Holmes: I wouldn’t call it a supergroup, no. Just a bunch of dudes that know each other.
Joe Abikhair: I wouldn’t call us a supergroup. We were all in pretty average bands. [Both laughing] You know what it is- it’s just that we were all in bands. No one was very good, no one was very big- it is what it is. Our previous bands had some attention and that’s all it was. It is very flattering though.
To be honest, at the forefront of that was probably Milo (Alex Milovic) and he’s probably the most humble dude of the lot of us.
Aidan: He isn’t playing bass anymore but he does handle a lot of the management and booking side of things. He is an important part of the band still.
Atlas: How does the scene in Australia compare to other places that you’ve been?
Aidan: I don’t think we’ve seen enough to make a comment on that. Way more welcoming here (in the US).
Joe: With past bands, a couple of us have been around the place a bit. It’s so hard to tell- a lot of our past experiences with bands have been in a different genre or a different size, things like that. It’s hard to gauge. Since being in America, things have been absolutely overwhelming. We were expecting…maybe 40 payers a show and then you show up and there’s like 400 and you’re like ‘this is mental’.
Atlas: This is your first US tour. How has it been so far?
Aidan: Awesome. Unexpected, didn’t expect any of this.
Joe: Every show blows us out of the water.
Aidan: It just keeps getting better and better.
Atlas: What’s been the reaction to your set every night from the other bands and fans?
Aidan: A lot of the time they’re glad that we’re there. I think a lot of the people like us didn’t expect us to be here so quick. Like the band formed probably like a year ago. It’s pretty unheard of a band just fuckin’ off immediately to another country. The bands on this tour package are the best. This is the most welcoming- Unity TX feel like brothers already. Spite- we’ve been talking to Darius for awhile now and we’re here in the flesh and it feels like we’ve known each other for years. Varials- Mitch used to be in a band with Joe and Maurice. This whole tour package wasn’t awkward at all, breaking the ice. We’re bringing Varials back, we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them over the next month and a bit.
Atlas: What inspirations or influences do you draw on when you’re making music?
Joe: This is a very mixed group in terms of influences, in terms of age, in terms of things like that. Our youngest member is 21 and our oldest member is 32, and in that decade of growth between them there’s a whole lot of influences. Trying to get it all together, trying to confine it all and trying to get something that is sweet to one crowd but is also sweet to another is challenging, but that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to tick all the boxes and make a bunch of music that all of us like. Even though we’re all sort of from different generations, we’re just trying to flow with it.
Atlas: Are there any specific names that come to mind when you’re thinking of your own influences?
Aidan: None that are anywhere near connected to the band!
Joe: Our influences- let’s put Deftones right at the top of that list.
Aidan: I’m still relearning getting into heavy music. I come from…like The Cure and Oasis and stuff like that and I grew up with a lot of different music as well.
Joe: I think we gain a lot of influence from particular musicians as opposed to particular acts. It’s super, super vast. Maurice for example- you don’t even hear that guy listening to heavy music. All he listens to is hip hop. But he gets up there and he’s an animal. But I think that’s what’s so cool about it because the way that we try to incorporate beats and the way that we try to incorporate sounds, it all stems from that. It’s just a huge joint effort and we’re all very different but it works.
Aidan: We already know that our next record will be very different in terms of…you get to fuck around on an album. On an EP, you’re sort of limited. I think on the album, we’re going to be showing some things you haven’t heard [and] we’re going to be showing some things you definitely have heard. We’re going to mix it up and create our own sound. A lot of bands say they’re going to do that, but when you’ve got one member of the band listening to hip hop and another member listening to shoegaze crossed with black metal, it’s gonna get funky. You can tell it’s gonna get a bit funny.
Joe: I think it’s a prime example of writing music that you want to hear and not writing music for people to hear. We’re writing it for us and if people like it, that’s so fuckin’ awesome but it is what it is.
Atlas: You recently dropped an EP, Saint. What went into making that? It was definitely a surprise for the fans.
Aidan: That’s exactly what it was for us, too. We didn’t expect to be playing this many shows and then we started headlining shows and bringing out some up and coming bands that we really love and it got a bit awkward when those up and coming bands are playing a longer set than us. Our first EP was like 18 minutes so we were like, fuck, we need to put something out there immediately. So our first thought was that we’d write a couple tracks so…we could get it the fuck out there, so we could do it. And so that’s what we did. We had Mitch from Varials, who I mentioned before, he mixes us- he helped us out playing a producer role and helped us getting these tracks out sounding the way they sound. We were trying to expand on the sound we already had. I wanted to put everything into this four track but obviously you can’t- we’re just expanding on what we had and it’s there and we’re real stoked on how it came out.
The response has been ridiculous. We’re playing Mesa tonight in Arizona and people are singing the words and it came out two days ago. We are a long, long fuckin’ way from home. It’s surreal and all I can say is thank you. I’m totally grateful every day waking up in this country, I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Atlas: Has there been a show or a crowd that’s really been a standout so far?
Aidan: I’d say this one!
Joe: For me, tonight was the one. Honestly tonight was a really fantastic show. There’s been a couple of shows before this that have done some bigger numbers but as far as crowd involvement and people just really appreciating what you do, tonight was fantastic. We had an awesome time, the crowd seemed to have an awesome time. This was the best one so far, absolutely.
You could play to 1,000 people but if that vibe isn’t there… Tonight was like, we’re a unit and it was sick, it felt really good.
Aidan: Fresno was the one I was kind of worried about but I’ve never heard of Fresno in my life but apparently people in Fresno heard about us!
Joe: We seriously came into this like if we get 15 payers, that’s sick because 15 people on the other side of the world is still an accomplishment.
Atlas: From what we’re hearing, you guys are the band to watch on this lineup.
Joe: That’s really flattering to hear, honestly. We had no idea what to expect. You don’t know who’s buzzing in another country.
Aidan: Even when you’re in the band, you don’t really hear it. And if everyone’s loving this shit now, we have so many more ideas and the album is where we’re fully going to experiment and muck around. It does get a little bit worrying because maybe it’ll be a miss for some people that wanna hear Soul Burn fucking 11 times. The album’s not gonna be Soul Burn 11 times. The album is what I’m the most excited for.
Atlas: What are you hoping your fans take away from your music?
Joe: Not to take away from you [pointing to Aiden] who writes the lyrics, but I personally relate a lot with what Aiden writes and I know that the rest of the band does as well. A lot of the stuff that Aiden writes, he really hits the nail on the head for how we feel about a lot of topics and a lot of subjects in our lives. I think it’s really cool being part of one team and having someone at the front of it who gets us like that.
As far as what the future holds, I don’t know! I mean, we’re all miserable cunts so I’m not sure!
Aidan: I just hope that people can take what they want from it. My goal was never to be “hey fuck me, this song is about me being sad”. I want people to listen to it and be like “hey, I get it” or “I can relate to that and not feel alone”. Obviously the songs are personal to me but I want them to be personal for you too.
Joe: Growing up, how many spots in your life have you been in and music has pulled you through it? You wanna be that band- either subconsciously or whether you choose to do it- that’s fuckin’ incredible.
Aidan: You can tell when it’s real and you can tell when it’s not. I’ve seen so many bands try to do this shit- not to diss.
Joe: You know when it’s put on.
Aidan: That’s the goal- to keep it real.
Atlas: Do you ever find yourselves thinking about a master plan for this project?
Joe: There is no master plan.
Aidan: I’m gonna keep doing this shit till I get over it.
Joe: We’re making music that we wanna hear, we’re making music that we wanna play and when we’re done, we’re done. If this project outgrows us then that’s a shame. If we outgrow it then that’s a shame too. I hope that we can just keep doing it.
Aidan: When it stops being about us doing it for us, see ya later.
Joe: When Dealer started…we never intended to make it anything more than what it is right now. We just wanna make something that’s an outlet for us and an outlet for kids and it’s an outlet for everybody and that’s it.
Aidan: Joe and I met up a year ago for a beer, just chatted and just said ‘fuck it, let’s just do a band’. We had careers and jobs, fuckin’ houses and we’re ready to go- real life shit. Then it grew but we grew with it. And then here we are- fuck man, we’re in fuckin’ Arizona. It’s funny, man, but we grew with it! We’re not here to get big.
Joe: If we were here to get big, we wouldn’t be playing Mesa, Arizona. We’re just playing where the fuck we wanna play and we’re just doing it.
Aidan: We just quit all our fuckin’ jobs. Like, I don’t have a home right now. Dead set, I’m moving all my stuff to Joe’s lounge room floor- I’m fucked!
Joe: We lost it all to do this tour- and this is one tour. We’re strapping ourselves in.
Aidan: We’ve dropped everything, we’ve lost everything but we sacrificed because we want to. We can get that back. We can quit this tomorrow and get our jobs and continue what we were doing. Me sitting here saying ‘I’ve lost everything and I’m homeless on Joe’s couch’- it’s a joke. I’m willing to fucking sleep on this fucking cunt’s couch if it means we’re touring the world and having fun together. As soon as I’m over that, I’m getting my old job back.
I don’t ever wanna get it twisted. We are here because we wanna be here- I’ll sleep on the fuckin’ floor if it meant that I wanna keep doing this. When I wanna stop doing this, we’re gonna stop doing this- same with Joe, same with Maurice, same with everyone. But right now, man, we’re fuckin’ feeling it. Riding the wave.
Atlas: Is there anything else you’d like people to know- what’s coming up?
Aidan: We’re doing an album. It’ll be sick. It’ll drop when it drops.
Joe: We’re planning more worldwide touring. There’s a lot in the works right now.
Check out Dealer on The Root of All Evil Tour now!
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel