Artists never know what will spark their creativity.
The Dumplings, for instance, found inspiration for their new cassette in Pam Hanlin's sick cat.
"The cassette is called 'Get Well,'" Ms. Hanlin said. "We recorded it in my basement over a weekend when my cat was very sick. His name is Vincent.
"We couldn't really leave the house because I had to watch him. So we were kind of jamming in the basement and pumped out a couple songs that were mainly inspired by the cat sitting there staring at us. We were trying to grab his attention so he would drift off and go to sleep. One song in particular is kind of a lullaby for Vincent. I play the flute on it, which was the instrument I played in grade school."
Tonight, Ms. Hanlin plays the bass with brothers Jon and Jason Dowling as The Dumplings host a cassette-release party at Garfield Artworks on Penn Avenue.
"We'll be playing all five songs from the cassette," Ms. Hanlin said. "It's the first time that we're playing three of the songs live. Nobody's ever heard them before."
The Dumplings first got together early last year when guitarist Jon and drummer Jason -- who were in a project called Leo's Operation -- wanted to form a group with a female vocalist. They had met Ms. Hanlin, 26, at a They Might Be Giants cover show and decided to extend an invitation to her.
"Jon wanted me to learn bass guitar for it, which I had never played before. So I took it up," she said. "I actually went to college at Edinboro to be a journalist. But I always had a passion for music. I never thought I'd actually be in a band, but I thought it would be a cool thing to do."
Since then, the East End trio has been rocking clubs and galleries in Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Garfield.
"The response is generally good," Ms. Hanlin said. "The last show that we played, there was an older crowd. Maybe like 50-, 55-year-old guys. And some of them came up to us after the show while we were hanging out. They were like, 'That was hilarious. You guys are so funny.' And that was a response that I didn't expect because, I mean, we're funny but kind of in a tongue-in-cheek way that I didn't really expect to connect with anybody, especially like some dads that were at the show.
"They said it was unique and that there aren't a lot of bands that go for that anymore. I don't really know what 'that' is. I don't know what's funny about it. We play light-hearted rock 'n' roll. It's like 'Don't take anything too seriously.' All our songs are about day-to-day stuff. Ideas that pop into our heads or things that people say that we make into songs. Like I work at Paddy Cake Bakery, and I hear a lot of ridiculous things at work. And I write songs about that. The music itself sounds like it should be more serious. But the lyrics are really inane."
So, apparently, people are listening.
"I think it's good that it's connecting with people on some level," Ms. Hanlin said. "I would hope people would find something to like about it, because we really enjoy doing it. I don't really have a desire to get a reaction as long as people find something they like about it and enjoy it."
What is the music like?
"Some people have compared us to other bands like The Pixies and Talking Heads," Ms. Hanlin said. "I mean, that's awesome, but I don't know if that has any foundation. But it's something someone said.
"I derive what I do from all the bands I've heard in my life. I'm not trying to imitate anybody."
In a little more than a year, The Dumplings already have made strides.
"I've definitely expanded my bass-playing abilities," Ms. Hanlin said. "When we started, I couldn't really hold a bass that well. My fingers couldn't stretch to hit the notes I wanted to play. So the first few songs we wrote, I think, were curtailed to my ability. They were a little bit more simple than the songs that we put out today."
The important thing to The Dumplings is that they -- and their listeners -- are having fun.
"As a kid, I had dreams of being a rock star and being on stage and playing an instrument and singing. So it's fun to play that out, even if it doesn't mean actually getting anywhere. I'm not worried about that," Ms. Hanlin said. "We're having fun and meeting new people and seeing what kind of music we can make together.
"I guess we want to put out as much music as we can come up with until it gets to be old and stale and not fun anymore."
The fun begins at 7 p.m. tonight at Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave. Joining The Dumplings will be The Cell Phones, Fancy Tramp, Nox Boys and Several Conclusions. Cover is $5 and copies of the cassette will be on sale.
"I'm very nervous," Ms. Hanlin admitted. "It's kind of like a big birthday party. I don't know why I'm so nervous. It's all our friends. Everyone we know coming out and saying 'We like you.'"
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org - music - neigh_east
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