Less dolphin ice sculpture. The phrase could be the title of a George Clinton or Frank Zappa song. Instead, it was advice producer Joel Hamilton tossed to Boston-bred duo Dwight & Nicole during a recent recording session.
“If something wasn’t working, he’d say something like that, ‘make it less dolphin ice sculpture,’ some funny analogy, and it was meant to let us know we were getting away from the work,” singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight Ritcher said. “He has a great sense of humor, great ears and he really kept us loose.”
A retro soul band, contemporary blues act, roots rock duo and r&b dynamo all at once, Dwight & Nicole have found Hamilton can capture their spirit on tape like no other producer. And that can be heard on new single “The Next Go-Round.”
Written by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Nicole Nelson and based on a simple, hypnotic keyboard line she came up with, “The Next Go-Round” works nicely as a calling card for Dwight & Nicole’s sound. It resembles a gospel tune written a century ago and would also fit nicely on Brittany Howard’s 2019 experimental pop album.
“I was just pondering the thought, ‘Is love ever lost?’” Nelson said. “It can’t be lost. It’s such a force, it has to continue to exist on some level even if it’s just in your mind, on that plane of existence. … I’m not much of a keyboard player so the part is really simple but Dwight liked what I was doing and sat down at the drums and I put my phone on and recorded us and the song was there on day one. That’s the demo we sent to Joel, that’s what he loved and so we stuck close to that.”
In the studio, Ritcher added a wild, downright messy guitar part to the track using his signature Gibson Flying V.
“Maybe we did a couple takes but we didn’t want it to be perfect, it wasn’t about that,” Ritcher said. “For that guitar part I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just inside the song.”
The sessions with Hamilton generated the group’s most diverse batch of songs yet. Some feel like ’50s rock ’n’ roll, some resemble modern indie rock, and some get at both the past and the now. If the pandemic hadn’t struck, we might have a complete new LP from the pair. Instead, it looks like we’ll get a series of singles dropped over the next few months.
“Is it singles? Do we release an EP or full-length album or do we do something else?” Ritcher asked. “Releasing music now is like the Wild West, and that’s something we need to be ready for and excited about.”
Right now, Dwight & Nicole have a ton of material (enough they could hit the studio with Hamilton again next week if that was an option). But Ritcher’s correct in looking at the landscape and wondering how to succeed in it. Thankfully, as a lean indie band who keeps upping their livestreams, they will get back in front of audiences soon — Dwight & Nicole play a drive-in show at Burlington, Vt.’s Champlain Valley Expo on July 4 to raise money for social justice charities.
“We have been independent artists for the last decade plus and we know it’s survival of the fittest,” Nelson said. “When things are seeming falling apart, we seem to make our biggest artistic strides. That’s because we are always doing what we love to do, always honoring that in any space we’re in.”
For details on the Champlain Valley Expo event, go to highergroundmusic.com.