Despite naming itself after the broadcast medium, local electronic trio DiRTY RADiO is surprisingly disparaging of the airwaves.
“When we first started DiRTY RADiO,” keyboardist Anthony “Tonez” Dolhai tells the Straight, sipping a tea with bandmate Farshad “Shadi” Edalat at Starbucks, “it was just a project that we put together for Shadi. Virgin Radio’s music director came across our CD, found some songs he really liked, and he started playing them. Then all these other stations starting picking us up. We had three songs chart in the Top 50, and suddenly the phone started ringing—labels were calling us, managers were calling us…”
“But the radio’s just not really relevant anymore,” chimes in Shadi, DiRTY RADiO’s singer. “They’re not breaking music, and they’re not really tastemakers. And Canadian stations are kind of afraid of us. We want to launch outside of Canada—and we’re going to do it using blogs and the Internet.”
The band poured resources into perfecting its “SoundCloud game”, and its digital approach is already paying off. Along with drummer Zachary “Waspy” Forbes, DiRTY RADiO’s unique brand of “future house R&B” is lighting up the online world. With recent harmony-drenched single “Numbers” boasting over three million plays on Spotify, and new club banger “Curious” racking up over 47,000 listens on SoundCloud alone, the band is mastering multiple modern platforms in its quest to spread its upbeat synth-pop across the globe.
“Every time we put a song out, there’s a great reaction online,” Waspy says. “And not just from the fans, either. We’ve found that the more people start hearing Shadi’s voice, the more really great international producers have started sending us stacks and stacks of beats. By the end of this year, we’ll have a full record of collabs. We’re writing all the time, and those tracks are blowing up on the Internet.”
That’s no exaggeration. After DiRTY RADiO released seven singles over the past year, its online presence grew dramatically. But despite its obvious aptitude for producing tracks in the studio, the band attributes much of its burgeoning success to live performances.
“We have a really unique sound,” Shadi proudly suggests, swirling a Frappuccino. “We’re the only three-piece Canadian band that plays electronic music live, really. Other than Humans—but they’re a duo, and they’re using drum machines. Nobody plays instruments right in front of you in the same way we do. It’s great that we’re not just DJs, because we can actually perform.”
The band has honed its explosive live set by touring alongside a number of up-and-coming artists. Spending much of 2015 on the road with Australian indietronica group Miami Horror before jumping in a van with Toronto favourites Dragonette, DiRTY RADiO has finally brought its show back to its hometown of Vancouver. And with a set list perfected over a year of travelling, it promises to be a triumphant return.
“We’ve purposely stayed away from playing this city,” Waspy says. “We were really experimenting and changing our sound, and we didn’t want to perform on our turf during that time. We had a whole record, and then we scrapped it. We weren’t feeling the sound, and we didn’t want to play here until it was perfect.”
“This is our first big headline show in Vancouver for three years,” Shadi adds. “It’s going to be really special in that sense.”
Despite the band’s clear enthusiasm, its homecoming gig nearly didn’t happen. After hastily moving it from May 13 to avoid a scheduling conflict—not, as Waspy jokes, because “he had to go to rehab”—DiRTY RADiO will take to the stage this week with locally spawned supporting acts the Life Times, I M U R, and SaveMeBoots.
“We’ve got some exciting things planned for the night,” Tonez says. “Normally, we have a really simple stage rig—it probably takes us about 15 minutes to set it all up. But we’ve customized it for this show. We’ve rigged up synchronized LED lights on our stands, and we’ve got a lighting designer who’s going to come down and dial in some really cool patterns.”
“We’re pulling out all the stops now that we’re back performing in Vancouver,” Waspy adds. “We’ve got big ambitions to go global, but this will always be our home. It’s where we started. And right now the scene is amazing. Everybody’s just killing it—look at Sleepy Tom, Vanic, and Humans. This community is just blowing up, and we love being a part of it.”
Fortunately for the city, DiRTY RADiO is dedicated to maintaining its base in Vancouver—at least for the near future.
“The idea is to keep putting music out online, and keep building the catalogue from our studios here,” Tonez describes. “We have enough stuff in the vault that we can keep releasing tracks every month for the rest of the year—both singles we’ve written ourselves and collaborations.”
“And we have a few more shows coming up in Vancouver this summer, too,” Shadi jumps in. “Honestly, we’re really looking forward to them. We’re proud to be from here. This city better watch out, because you’ll keep seeing more and more stuff from us.”
DiRTY RADiO plays the Imperial on Friday (June 3).