Thursday, April 29, 2010

Q&A with Shelby from The Dabbers

Every time I see The Dabbers play live, I'm mesmerized. Everyone in the crowd is. It's not just that Shelby Gubba (pronounced Goo-buh) happens to be as cute as a button and charmingly bashful on stage with her breathy back-up vocals, but she really is one hell of a bass player. She used to be my roommate and I'd admirably ease drop when she'd practice in her room thinking no one was listening. The girl can play. And no, I'm not saying "for a girl... she can play" - she's got chops and is one of my favorite bass players (check out the video after you read her Q&A, I think you'll agree).

When we first met, you played bass in Braaiins! Were you in any other bands before Braaiins? And do you play any other instruments?

No other bands before that. I learned to play piano and bass when I was in middle school. At the time I worshiped Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and just thought he was the coolest dude ever. I bought the cheapest bass my 7th grade allowance could afford at the Guitar Center in La Mesa on it’s closing day. I played on an off until highschool when I sold it, and didn’t get a new bass until 2007. And then shortly after that…Braaiins!

What was it like being the only female in that band in a primarily male-dominated scene?

It was fun but nothing very “special”. I mean, I just was myself and I didn’t think it was weird to be a female and play music, so I found it to be somewhat odd that the majority of compliments from fans would be a reference to my gender, not just my skill. For example, “You play really great for a girl”, or “You’re such a great girl bass player”. I didn’t get why they just could leave that out of it, but I still appreciated any positive feedback of course, and it always made me feel extra special when a girl fan would tell me that I was inspiring.

After Braaiins, you started a band with Zack Wentz (Kill Me Tomorrow, Tender Buttons) and some other friends. Whatever happened to that band?

It was called Unplanned Hands. It lasted for a few months, but it just wasn’t feasible to continue full time. It was a lot of fun playing together, but at the time I was learning drums for the first time ever (using the kit we now use for The Dabbers), so I’m sure the fact that I was on a learning curve was frustrating. Zack was playing guitar, so it was really incredible to see what he could do on a different instrument than his usual drum set up from Kill Me Tomorrow. Our friends Cristina & Andrew played bass and guitar, respectively, and it was just a really organic musical experience. I think we all kind of wanted different things out of it, and once The Dabbers kicked into “full speed ahead” and we started booking more shows, it was harder to focus our creative energy into more than one project. We split early last year, but we are all still great friends and I am so thankful for the process we went through. It really forced me to try and experiment with a totally abstract and organic process and because of this, it boosted my confidence as a musician. then went on to start The Dabbers as a duo with Zack where you play bass and he plays drums and sings. You’re starting to sing a little and that’s awesome! Will there ever be any songs you sing lead on? Who are some of your favorite singers and musicians?

We’re actually working on a few songs right now that I would be doing leading vocals on. It’s incredibly new to me to be in the spotlight for vocals, and I still have a hard time totally belting out my voice for backup singing anyway, so it’s going to take a lot of practice and believing that I can do it!

I honestly never paid much attention to female vocalists before and now I am listening much more closely. One of my favorite local female singers is Aimee (last name?) from Black Mamba; she has the most gorgeous voice and I would love to sound like that, all reverby and big, plus she’s just got such great stage presence. Also, I’ve learned a lot from listening to the way Zack controls and alters his voice (while playing a mean drumbeat mind you..) and I think he is incredible (duh)

As far as other bands/musicians with amazing (and inspiring) vocalists I also love The Aislers Set & Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu.

Tell me about the bass you play and the amp you use. (Because it sounds as cool as it looks!)

I play an Epiphone Thunderbird in electric blue. I bought two identical basses just in case, and now that they don’t make them in blue anymore, I’m really glad that I was obsessive about it beforehand, haha. I play through a custom-ordered Avatar speaker cabinet and a vintage Road head, which I don’t know any specifics about because it’s ancient.

How would you describe The Dabbers sound and what were your influences when forming this band?

I think our sound is best described as loud garage pop. “Garage” because I think anyone could listen to it and “get it”, and that we’re not trying to go for anything complicated or super weird, we just want to make hooky songs and have fun doing it. I think it’s pretty pop influenced and at the time we formed I was listening to a lot of Guided by Voices and other 90’s pop bands. Honestly though, I think our band has been most influenced by our love & devotion to music and each other…sorry that’s so mushy!

Tell us about your and Zack's record label and your releases!

We started Rax Records because we were so excited about our recordings with Mitch Wilson that we couldn’t just wait anymore. We put our money together, came up with Rax Records (inspired by a book we both love titled Rax by Michael Coney), and went through United Record Press for our 7” first. We put it out on multi-colored vinyl and they come in every color from hot pink to sapphire blue, I absolutely love them. We only ordered 500 so they are very unique!

We then put out our full-length album through Disc Makers and designed all the artwork for the album ourselves, along with two feature photos from both Sade Williams and Alex Kacha, both incredibly talented women.

After we felt confident with our CD release, we signed up with several online resources where our album is for purchase, including: CD Baby, Insound, and iTunes.

What are your future plans? Tours? More records?

Our second album is currently in the works, and we would really like to start recording that as soon as possible with Mitch again. He was so fun to work with and I don’t think we could commit ourselves to any other recording studio after working with him.

As far as touring goes, it’s going to be a little easier because...we just bought a band van! We are looking forward to making a few “mini” tours, or at least hitting more spots up the West Coast, whereas before we were limited as to how much we could travel. Nothing big, because I am pretty committed to a full-time job and couldn’t take the time off.

Also... since we are getting married in July this year I don’t want to start planning any major trips besides our honeymoon!!

When you’re not playing music, you’re involved in a lot of art. Do you still sell stuff on Etsy and can we expect more merchandise for sale in the future? Where can we see your art and buy your stuff?

I think that my art has naturally become inseparable from the band art that we make, so making flyers for shows and coming up with new Dabbers art is more where I am headed. I want to get back into selling cute little things on Etsy, but the competition was a little intimidating the first time around and I think I should probably do my research next time...maybe sometime in 2011? I’ve gotten really inspired by DIY wedding stuff, so maybe my next adventure will be in that area (I can see customizable hand-painted cake toppers in my future for some reason...).

I don’t have any art for sale right now, but please check out my blog:

I am pretty active on it and would love to have more followers who comment and give me feedback on my posts. It's pretty much a consistent flow of posts about life, love, art and music, and that would probably be the best way to keep track of all of my Gubba endeavors. Oh, excuse me, I meant almost-Mrs.-Wentz endeavors. ;)

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