Interview with The Dopamines vocalist/guitarist Jon Lewis | By John B. Moore
With five years passing since their last record, 2012’s Vices, many fans were left wondering if Cincinnati’s The Dopamines had finally called it quits.
Vocalist and guitarist Jon Lewis admits it was definitely a possibility. “I’ve literally, on more than one occasion, sat down with [vocalist and bassist] Jon [Weiner] and [drummer] Michael [Dickson] and would present a plan to play some final shows and call it quits,” he says. “I said the same to [guitarist] Josh [Goldman] too back before we were all working on the new record together, as well as some other close friends. We went back and forth thinking it was a good idea, then a bad idea. You know, ‘Better to burn out than fade away,’ and saying shit like that.”
Ultimately, they decided to take the pressure of an immediate follow-up record off the table and agree not to work on anything new until everyone was ready. If there were still people around “who gave a shit” when the time came, that would be good enough for them. “To fully answer the question: yes, I never thought this record was going to be made,” Lewis admits. “It wasn’t until the first night Michael and I began tracking drums that I started to relax a little. And when we all sat and got wasted and listened to early mixes to take notes, it was fucking nuts. We all were like, ‘Wow. How did we pull this off?’”
The end results can be heard all over Tales of Interest, released June 2 on Rad Girlfriend Records, Goldman’s own label. “We sent it to a handful of labels who normally wouldn’t—and historically haven’t—touched us with a 10-foot pole on the off chance someone liked the record enough to throw us a bone… which is probably what happened with Ten Foot Pole,” Lewis jokes. “We’ve typically bounced around labels anyway. With all the experience we’ve had with labels, good and bad, we were more prone to keep this one as close to self-releasing as possible. Josh runs a good label, he’s an honest dude, and he’s in The Dopamines. Rad Girlfriend was the label that got tossed around the most when Josh wasn’t in the room.”
The recording of Tales of Interest—which Lewis started writing songs for as far back as 2012—was pretty much business as usual for The Dopamines. “We’ve always treated [recording] like vacation with small spurts of true focused productivity,” he says. “And by that, I mean, like, when you’re on your 45th take of a song because you are in your own head and frustration takes over, then everyone kind of turns the party off and tiptoes around until you get through it, and then the party is back on.”
Long gone are the early days of the band spending every waking hour together. They have families now and actual grown up careers and commitments. “We don’t spend as much time as we used to together as a unit, so it’s hard not to slip back into inside jokes and trying to make each other laugh—at each other’s expense—when we’re together,” Lewis says.
Despite the pull of their non-band-related lives, The Dopamines still plan to tour as much as they can get away with once the record comes out. So far, they’ve committed to playing the U.S. for roughly two weeks at the end of June, hitting up FEST 16 in Gainesville in October, doing some European dates in spring of 2018, and making as many stops as possible in between.