Band members from Tacoma indie group Dunce shared with me their experiences playing shows and their recording projects at the downtown Tully’s Coffee shop. Before I learned about the band, Brenden Dickerson (guitarist/lead singer) and Max Mayer (drums) shared their musical experience before Dunce was formed. Dickerson went to the Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA) and studied songwriting and music theory. For those of you, who don’t know SOTA, it is a private art school that is a 10 minute walk from UWT campus. After high school, he focused on songwriting at the Evergreen State College. Mayer lived in Boston for a year and then went to the University of California at Berkeley.
In 2011, Dickerson formed an alternative group called Hail with his friend Chase in Tacoma. Shortly afterwards, Mayer got introduced to Dickerson by joining the band as well. In 2012, Chase left the group, and Hail turned into the Indie duo called Dunce.
For almost three years, Dunce has been working on creating an intricate and heavy indie sound. Dunce has achieved this by experimenting with songwriting, and touring Tacoma venues. In March 2015, Rodney Mitchell (bass/vocals) joined the group, changing the band’s sound from chilled out indie music to a heavier alternative sound.
Shortly after Rodney joined the group, he produced the band’s EP called Desue.
Mayer explains that he likes the “do-it-yourself” aspect of creating alternative music. Desue is heavily influenced by a variety of alternative/rock groups, from bands that are popular all around the world to those that are still growing. Their staple influences include Radiohead, Grizzly Bear from New York, and Tame Impala.
If you like Indie groups like Death Cab for Cutie and Tame Impala, you will enjoy the album’s willingness to experiment with hypnotic sound and emphasis on throat singing, which is a guttural style of singing.
Dickerson is the songwriter of the group and likes to focus on three main topics: anxiety, relationships, and himself. The first track on Desue, “Life Sucker,” expresses feelings of bitterness, anger, and disappointment about a previous terrible relationship with his ex-girlfriend.
Mayer explains that every band member in Dunce brings their own creative aspect to the table. In the song “Aesthesis,” Brenden wrote the music while Max wrote lyrics. Discussing the song, Mayer said, “Before I was in Dunce, I was playing in more popular/less creative music. It was hard ‘cause I was told what to play.” In essence, “Aesthesis” is about transitioning from performing cover songs to collaborating with other musicians on music that is more imaginative.
The songs “Exit” and “Don’t Know What I’ve Seen” take you on a journey with their soothing melodies and experimental strumming techniques. “Deathwish Kid” is warming, nonthreatening, eccentric, and reflective. “Facing Your Stock” brings in the intensity in the throaty vocals while “Dual Kodachi” puts an emphasis on deep thinking and daydreaming.
Dickerson enjoys playing in the Tacoma music scene. He says, “Basically everyone is like friends or acquaintances. Everyone is generous with his or her time and supportive.” Max adds, “A lot of the indie music scene here stems from Tacoma School of the Arts or Stadium. So many people know each other for a long time, and so the music community is tight knit.”
Dunce will be taking a hiatus for a couple of months while working on their second album.
For more information on the group, you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram.
To listen to Desue for free visit