Chances are, we’ve all been called a “Dirty Bird” at some point, usually by an elderly female relative or even an English teacher (R.I.P. Mrs. Winch). But who among us ever thought of it as a band name?
Aspen Hunt did.
“When I was a young tyke, my first ‘dirty bird’ accusation came from my grandma when I was caught stealing cookies and homemade root beer from the kitchen,” reveals the Dirty Birds’ singer-guitarist, adding that the phrase haunted him for years “without reason.” Apparently shifting into bullshit mode—if he wasn’t there already—he details how one day, it was revealed to him as the consummate band name. “I knelt down on the forest floor. A bright shining light appeared in front of me and … through the luminous fog I heard a drunken, bellowing voice say, ‘This is your beloved band name. Use it.’”
“Yeah. Or so the story goes,” quips drummer Rylee Mills, confirming the crap factor, which might render Hunt’s account of the band’s genesis questionable …
“Way back in, uh … ’97, I was a lone maverick, retreating from temptation, writing songs with my guitar in Kauai while all my friends were playing in hardcore bands back in Salt Lake.”
… but acceptable. Hunt says his time on the island had him thinking, dreaming and even eating (!) in country. When he returned to Salt Lake City and informed his hardcore friends, namely guitarist Jon Ellis, of his country chrysalis, they thought he’d eaten too much Maui Wowee.
“Jonny scoffed at the idea of playing country with me,” says Hunt, “but I convinced him that the twang would make his thang sang. We began to play every day and our voices and guitars melted together like white trash and Keystone. Then came a family member—not a black sheep, but more of a pink ostrich. My brother, Nate Padley, began tickling the ivories in 2000 and the twang began to tingle.”
Mills and bassist Erik Dodd would complete the lineup, and the band would convene in a room at Rimini Specialty Coffee, where Hunt works. After hours, they’d practice their twangy tunes, which is essentially ’70s California country rock. Hunt says the chief inspirations are “Radio AM 700 and life.”
“I usually begin a song with a basic melody, and lyrics usually come out as if I couldn’t stop ’em if I wanted to. Jonny and I develop the song from there and everybody adds their own two bits as we play it for the first time until, lo and behold, on the seventh day, we have a Dirty Bird original.”
Fourteen DB originals comprise Thinglesing (Thinglesing.com), the band’s newly minted debut titled for a drunken slip of the tongue. More than songs, they’re stories, with engaging characters, themes and sounds. The band are top-shelf musicians, using guitars (acoustic, electric, bottleneck), banjo, harmonica, drums and keys as storytelling tools as much as lyrical imagery.
“I dig country because of its lyrical freedom,” says Hunt. “The word Thinglesing came from a slurred late-night attempt at saying “single thing.” The moment it came out of my mouth, it just clicked with me and seemed to sum up what I wanted the band to be. If no single thing, then every thinglesing.”
And what that comes down to, really, is just being a Dirty Bird.
“We’re a bunch of good ol’ boys and we do what we do quite naturally,” says Padley. “It actually took us a while to realize that what we were doing musically had a country twist at all. Then we got cowboy hats.”
Mills: “We believe we have some good staying power and, of course, we’re the sexiest shit to hit country since Loretta Lynn.”
“Everybody’s gotta little Dirty Bird in them,” concludes Dodd. “Let that bird out and you will soar to new and exotic worlds of delight.”