BANDSPEAK, BOSTON/NE BANDS, Upcoming Boston Hassle Shows

A Conversation with Dent: Harley Cullen, Lane Shi, and Jack Whelan


I caught up with local experimental metal group Dent to talk about their past tour in China, performance art, and their future plans to play metal festivals overseas. The trio revealed themselves to be a super-close group of friends who love playing together and are striving to create in a suppressed scene. Dent will be playing a show 8/7 at The Record Studio with Bugs & Rats, Devil Music, Chat Logs, and Negative One.

BH: How do you know each other?

LS: From Berklee. I met Harley in ensemble; it was called “Women in Rock.” Harley has a lot of pedals. I knew I wanted to jam with him. After we jammed I asked, “How do you feel?” and he said “not bad,” and my heart dropped. What an asshole! But it worked out.

JW: I threw a house show at my house last year. It was really popular. I felt a bit invaded having all these people in my space but that’s how I met Lane. Our mutual friend introduced us. We had to go to court about that house show. I played music in nursing homes as community service.

LS: We wrote our first song as Dent together that first time we practiced.

BH: What was your tour in China like?

HC: It was more ridiculous than it was difficult. We had to get a three-month visa even though we only went for a month.  We took four different flights. We went from Boston to Hong Kong.

JW: I flew out with our bassist and videographer. We had a layover in Frankfurt.  We toured with Skinny Pigeons, their bassist had to leave early but they just continued as a two-piece.

HC: We had a new bassist. We were still new to being a band and we were dealing with sound guys and our first tour. It was cool to see how close Skinny Pigeons were and that level of tightness a band could have.

JW: We sort of owe them.

LS: We don’t fucking owe them!

JW: They gave us our first basement show.

BH: Other than music, do you have other artistic pursuits?

JW: Lane and I have been talking about doing something more than music. Lane had an interactive performance art piece.

LS: “Naked Winger” is the name of my art piece. It’s a multimedia installation combining music and visuals along with sensor. It’s interactive: the sensor triggered a heart pulse and the heart pulses send a signal to two walls of visuals (all different types of adjectives of stress and pressure). This piece has my experimental short movie about stress process. By people sitting inside a dark room I constructed with help from friends, I gave space to each individual and their own heartbeat reaction to my video and music, and reflect on two sides of walls. The purpose of this piece is to release the stress with honesty to not anyone else, but only to you.

HC: We want to branch out from music involving some sort of artistic element. We have been playing with projectors and using movies that Lane made.

LS: There are so many forms of art. I want to make a film score to support the image I have in my head. That’s sort of what we have in mind for our new album.

HC: We have been trying to include more visual art. The artwork for our album “Eyeballs” was not designed by us but by a Chinese artist we collaborated with. We love it, but we’d think it would be fun to do it ourselves in the future.

JW: To have complete creative control. Be in charge of the album artwork. That’s what we want for the next album: a film score to the image in our minds and attention to arrangement and motific writing. In this iteration of an album we will spend more time focusing. Our first album wasn’t cohesive. It was very indicative of who we are, but not cohesive. It’s an album of singles, it’s eclectic. Very scatter-brained. So in the writing we are trying to make an album that sounds like itself. We want an album that stands alone. A lot of bands have filler songs and I don’t want that. I want this album to definitely be more like we write a song and if it doesn’t fit we save it or scrap it.

HC: I think it’s impossible to truly scrap anything.

LS: I feel like with Dent we found something we belong to. We write things that have an emotional explosion. That’s why our music ends with chaos. That’s the intensity of our emotions. Traumas can go both ways, shape your humanity or fuck with your head. I feel an attachment to people when I share my music. Music is one way for me to become a better human. To wake me up.

BH: What local bands do you like?

HC: Bat House is one of the fucking coolest bands we love them, Gamma Pope from Berklee, Quarrels.

JW: We are playing a show I organized with a band from Oregon September 2 at Great Scott. It’s us, Palm Spring Life, Quarrels, and The Mercury Tree.

HC: The Mercury Tree are like a chilled out Mars Volta. We played a few shows with The Blues Dreambox. They are like a dreamy scary blues band that has a noisy aspect, the guitarist plays a fretless guitar and it sounds so cool.

JW: I really love Brazil. Alex is the nicest! Alex Judd is the nicest guy and he lives at the Womb. We should send him flowers before he leaves.

BH: What are you working on next?

LS: What we want to do is just write a bunch of music. We are playing a bunch of festivals. Next year we are playing Park Carnival Park Festival in Taiwan.

JW: In Xiamen, China, the last city on our tour we had the best time. We went skinny dipping! It was like Cancun. One of the best shows! We made over $500 USD in ticket sales. We met this guy Landy and he was really willing to accommodate us.

HC: We also might play a festival in Montreal.

BH: What sparked China?

HC: Lane’s friend runs a tour management company and he helped us to book a tour. He paid for our train tickets. He was so willing to help artists. To help us as strangers. One of the coolest things about his company is that it’s one of the only companies that books in the South of China. So we played shows that many American bands or even Chinese bands wouldn’t play. We played in Guangzhou, Kunming, Xiamen, Nanking, and Chongqing

BH: Do you think you will stay in Boston after next year?

HC: We don’t know if we will stay in Boston. It’s kind of hard to live here. But we don’t want to leave and make new friends. We’ve talked about moving to Philly because they have a great metal band scene, more doom and thrashy bands. It seems like a more active/fertile place to be, but Philly might be a stop-off.

BH: How is your next album coming along?

HC: We’re in the process of writing the new album, very beginning stages. We don’t have anything we know for sure is going to be on in yet. We need to figure out what’s going on with our bassist; we need to have someone we can write with. Basically we are waiting and waiting some more.

LS: After China our relationship changed for the better. Conflicts were exposed and dealt with.

HC: Touring with two bands you deal with your own band’s personal stuff and then the other band’s drama. Being in such close quarters with seven other people and hanging out every day is a lot. That was our first tour. We kind of dove in head first into that one, all these different factors that other people would have taken slowly.

BH: What do you like or dislike about Boston?

LS: It’s beautiful. There’s water and nature. Boston summers are fantastic!

HC: About the scene, once you find it people are really into supporting you. We have sort of a repressed scene because of noise complaints, so people are really into this scene and being involved in the underground show type situation. The thing that kind of sucks about being from Berklee is you get stuck in “the Berklee bubble”.

LS: People who enjoy simple music. People who don’t leave Back Bay. Berklee is like a station you go into a shower, you come out clean but your mind is changed. It’s really hard to get out of the closed mindset. I don’t take voice lessons at Berklee, that’s not what I’m studying. I’m grateful to go there and meet people.

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