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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Q&A | Iowa City band Dirty Blonde featured in DI Headliners

Dirty Blonde is one of four bands that played in Headliners, the newest concert video series by The Daily Iowan. The next episode featuring Dirty Blonde will be published on Friday.
Emily Nyberg
Des Moines based band Dirty Blonde performs at The Daily Iowan Headliners in The Daily Iowan newsroom on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.

Dirty Blonde is an indie band consisting of University of Iowa students Charlie Bell and Eamon Reed and Drake student Nick Jackson. The band started in July 2021. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The next episode featuring Dirty Blonde will be published on Friday. 

The Daily Iowan: How did this band form? 

Nick Jackson: I think it was maybe it was the summer of our junior year Eamon I started playing together, but we didn’t have a drummer. And so we were on the lookout for somebody who could do the drums. Charlie was always the one that we were like if ‘Oh, God if we could have Charlie.’

Eamon Reed: Because he was really good, he was on tour with another band. And we’re like, ‘Oh my god. He’s already going on tour with his own band and stuff.’ So really, top of the line is Charlie. And then there was really no other options.

Jackson: We had a connection through a friend and then just started jamming together. And yeah, and the rest is history.

So being together for two years, what have been some of your highlights as a band? 

Reed: I think probably going to the studio. We’ve been to the studio three times now. And it’s just always a lot of fun. We all get very angry at each other, but it’s a good time. We had a headline show at Gabes sort of fell into our hands. And it was our first show at Gabes, so that was a really exciting night. 

Jackson: It’s one of the first times we played in Iowa City, too, which was big because we’re originally from Des Moines. And so we played around Des Moines a fair amount, but we’re trying to get more recognition.

Charlie Bell: Yeah, we’re not very good at networking.

Reed: We got to play at 8035 and we got free passes and it made us feel really special.

How would you describe the Iowa City music scene?

Jackson: It’s definitely bigger than Des Moines, I feel. There’s not a whole lot going on Des Moines unless you’re a metal band or something.

Bell: Or very well established.

Reed: I would say in Des Moines you’re gonna find a lot of middle aged hipsters and stuff who just regular certain bars and venues, but here there’s a little bit of that middle aged people, but it’s mostly college students. 

Jackson: That’s not to say we don’t love Des Moines, because of course we do.

How would you describe the sound of Dirty Blonde’s music?

Bell: Progressive, liberal. 

Reed: Our gonna name was gonna be The Allies, trying to get a very liberal sound.

Jackson: We just play off each other. I’m playing jazz guitar Drake and so there’s a little bit of that influence. Charlie’s drums have always been super tight.

Bell: It seems like we all kind of, you know, bring our own stuff. And then we’ve been playing together long enough that we learn to work within each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Reed: And because I really only started playing bass, when we started as a band, I wouldn’t say I have any influence on the bass other than just you know what these guys are playing. So I think that’s kind of a little something special.

Jackson: It’s like we’re growing together.

Are there any other artists who really impact your music? 

Bell: There’s always at least two guys that come up to me after every show and they’re like, “You listen to the Police?” I’m like yes, how could you tell? In our earlier days we used some Police songs as kind of references for what to do – at least I did – in terms of like, dynamically and technically. And then Nick really branched out I think, to a point where we take more funk influence, maybe a little more R&B. But yeah, it was a lot of The Police and just like ’70s, ’80s music in general, that we listened to.

Jackson: I think now too, with our newer stuff. We’re kind of branching into more like a, like, alternative jangly sort of thing and we didn’t get to play any of those today, but it’s interesting because it’s like we have different times where we like different things. 

Reed: Or phases. The songs we played today were  the first songs we came up with and even then, even though we’re playing the same song, it still sounds different. It might be faster, but we have so many new songs that are just kind of sitting on the back burner because we haven’t quite finished them yet. But it’s a whole new kind of feeling because it came from a different part in our lives and our time together. 

What’s your favorite part of performing?

Reed: When all the stress goes away afterward.

Bell: It is really a release. It doesn’t matter if I’m not doing well in other areas of life. It just feels good to play and have that feeling. You really get in the groove on stage. There’s not much else that can get you that feeling. 

Reed: The bad thing is we’re often never satisfied with what we played onstage, we’re just always really hard on ourselves. All of us are just trying to shake that so we can have some more fun and be more legit. 

Jackson: There’s a zone when you get in and you’re just locked. And that’s what really feels good because you don’t there’s no stress. Sometimes I get stressed when I go onstage, but when I can conquer that and I can get over that, that’s what I enjoy.

What do you hope your audience takes away from experiencing your music? 

Reed: Not the lyrics. We always come up with the lyrics last. We mainly focus on just the groove and staying tight and together. And so what I really like is when people come up and compliment us after the show and say, “You guys sound super tight,” or “I liked this certain thing you did on the bass.” So I guess just as long as they like it and they can understand where we’re coming from.

Bell: As a drummer, I always want to see asses moving, that’s how I know I’m doing my job. That’s the thing that makes me happiest when I see people grooving.

Reed: You’re standing behind me and Nick so you can see that.

Jackson: I love when people compliment the way we write our songs, not even in a lyrical sense, but structurally or like, “Oh, I like that sound. I like that tone that you have.” It’s always different when we get together and play. And so there are little specific things that will just happen. And sometimes they won’t, but when they do and people pick up on them, that really makes me feel good. Because it’s like, I’m glad you noticed because it probably never happened that same way again. 

Bell: It means a lot when some random person donates their time to watch it. 

How was your experience playing at The Daily Iowan Headliners? 

Reed:  I thought we played well. We haven’t had the chance to really practice together in a couple of weeks or a month and we thought it went pretty well. And I think our sound and aesthetic if you will kind of fits the office.

What’s next for the band? 

Jackson: I can’t predict, but we’ll probably just keep on playing in Iowa City. Try to grow our sound and grow our fan base in Iowa City and play some more shows. We’re recording over winter break at Flat Black Studios, which is just outside of Iowa City 

Jami Martin-Trainor, Natalie Dunlap, and Evan Weidl are the executive producers of Headliners. Sound production was by Dan Miller, and videography and editing were by Emily Nyberg and Cody Blissett.

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About the Contributors
Natalie Dunlap
Natalie Dunlap, Assistant Digital Editor
Natalie Dunlap is the Assistant Digital Editor at The Daily Iowan. She is the host and producer of the Above the Fold news podcast. She has previously worked as a news reporter, news editor, politics reporter, politics editor, and digital producer for the DI. She is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in English and gender, women's, and sexuality studies. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting while listening to pop culture podcasts.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.