DRGN King The BSide Session

When Philadelphia’s DRGN King recorded its debut full-length, Paragraph Nights, released in 2013 on Bar/None Records, it was more a studio project than a band. But that project, an eclectic collaboration between singer/guitarist Dominic Angelella and producer Brent “Ritz” Reynolds, whose background was more in hip hop, soon became a true rock band, touring the country in their “drgn wgn”.

DRGN King joins us in the studio for a BSide (May 3, 2014).

Angelella fleshed out the live lineup of DRGN King with friends he had made while studying jazz at The University of the Arts, although drummer Joe Baldacci and bassist Steve Montenegro mainly helped the band rock harder. “Joe played on a lot of [Paragraph Nights], and then the more we started playing out live, the more it became a band,” says Angelella. “We’ve known Steve for a long time too.”

It was with this new, louder incarnation of DRGN King that Angelella recently recorded the band’s second album (due out Fall 2014 on Bar/None), writing with the new rhythm section. Baldacci’s experience working on both albums was vastly different, playing along to loops on Paragraph Nights and then being a bigger part of the creative process for the follow-up. “The first record was me very much having to, just, like, smoosh whatever musical instinct I had into stuff where I was replacing programming with live drums,” he says. “Now it’s a little looser.”  Montenegro’s role in the band is also somewhat in flux, as he’s apparently made a decision to begin switching his primary instrument in DRGN King. “My bass amp is broken, and I’m using a borrowed bass right now, because I might switch to guitar and I sold all my basses to get this one cool guitar,” he says.

DRGN King drew their name both from a local Chinese takeout place, and from the name of a band Angelella and Baldacci had played in together years earlier. “I’ve always been really bad at naming things, but we were in a band called Dragon Zord,” Angelella says. “So it seemed like a logical progression to name it DRGN King.” He adds, self-consciously, about the way the band’s name is spelled, “I know the no-vowels thing is played out, but I promise you we’re sincere.”

Although Reynolds remains with the band, often playing keyboards live, it was the core guitar/bass/drums trio of DRGN King that came to Mobtown armed with those unreleased new songs to track for their BSide Session. Angelella even brought material that specifically draws from growing up in Baltimore, before he relocated to Philadelphia to attend college and eventually start the band. “Saint Tom’s” is inspired by a Baltimore County church where Angelella threw rock shows as a teenager. “It was crazy to sort of create this weird, freak counterculture thing in this religious space,” he remembers. “There would be this little uncomfortable element, maybe someone would take a cross off the wall and start playing their guitar with it, and throw it on the ground.”

The other song the band played at Mobtown, “Don’t Trust The Sad Boys,” is a dryly funny and self-lacerating examination of certain cliches of the rock’n’roll lifestyle. “It’s about the concept of the sad drug-addicted white male in rock music, and the romanticizing of that, and being a human who falls into that stereotype from time to time,” he laughs. “Casting a light into the mirror, yeah.”


Recorded on May 3, 2014 at Mobtown Studios

Guitar and vocals by Dominic Angelella

Drums by Joe Baldacci

Bass by Steve Montenegro

Produced by Mat Leffler-Schulman, Nick Hughes and Sean Mercer

Engineered by Sean Mercer and Paul Mercer

Filmed by Joe Austin, Justin Foreman and Nick Hughes

Edited by Nick Hughes

Interview by Aaron Henkin

Photography by Tedd Henn

Photography post-production by Cassandra Robbins

Written by Al Shipley

Audio post-production by Aaron Wold

Thanks to Anthony Farlow, Lisa Kaneff and Jeffrey Silverstein