One of the biggest things that has happened to the Denver music scene over the past two years is the resurgence of Dressed Bessy.
Last year, the classic Denver pop-punk group released their latest album, Faster Faster Disaster; he had big touring plans to support the record this spring. The comrades of the group were advertised to play South by Southwest in Austin – one of the first major cultural events canceled as the coronavirus arrived in the United States. At first, the band members considered going to Texas to perform unofficial SXSW shows anyway, but ultimately decided to stay home out of public health concerns.
In the weeks that followed, as more closures were announced and the devastating live music industry came to a halt, the band introduced themselves to the community and even released new projects, including the music video for the haunting song “Mon Cheri,” from Faster Faster Disaster. The group uses the outing as an opportunity to raise funds for Feed America, a nonprofit organization that fights hunger in the United States.
Westword caught up with guitarist John Hill to talk about how Dressy Bessy members deal with coronavirus shutdowns, mutual aid and think about that clip they just released.
Word from the West: How are you dealing with the crisis?
John Hill: Like most others, we stay home, try to exercise, eat well, and take it one day at a time. Our job when we’re not on tour mostly happens in our house anyway, so it’s not that different right now. We also realize that there is a new reality to face. We’ve seen a few changes in our 20+ years, but this one is a whole new challenge. I think we are a little better equipped after dealing with 2008 while having a brand new version. Right now, however, we’re primarily looking for ways to help others and stay healthy.
I have seen your group provide a ton of support. Talk about what you are doing and why?
We said it during our album campaign: More recently, we have really realized the importance of community, here and everywhere. During times like this, even though we keep very busy, we are flexible and have time to help. In addition to learning about our neighbors, we have posted a few times to offer help to our friends and fans. We have also decided to ask for donations to alimentamerica.org for this video. We have limited resources, but some can really make a difference. These are unprecedented times, and to get through it we all need to engage, make sacrifices and make sure our neighbors are taken care of. We also need to find ways to help the small businesses that we frequent on a regular basis. If they fail, we have nothing to come back to.
What role does music have right now – both making it and sharing it?
It’s a fine line, and we want to make it clear. Tammy works so hard on videos, photography, and art, and we hope this helps people get through this time rather than promoting ourselves. While we were filming during the 2008 crisis, it felt a bit like a USO tour combined with a campaign rally. We could have canceled the tours as we lost money but felt compelled to move on. I feel like when times get this tough, people who are able need to step in and help, whether it’s helping out, giving money, or helping. boost people’s morale.
What can Denver do to support all of you as artists? What can artists do to support the community?
First, we need someone to lead this country who realizes that the arts are the heart and soul of society. This sentiment also applies at the local level. While many elements of Denver are sparkling with novelty and whimsy, we really need to strike a balance between economic endeavors and the arts. Real estate values mean nothing if the heart of the community cannot afford to live. We are not a traditional group that generates millions in tax revenue for the city, state or country, but we, along with so many others, generate income and promote the city wherever we go. We make money, but there are times when we don’t, or even lose money, to get our music known to people. It would be very beneficial if there were programs in our government to help us and small artists like us. We support the community, and it would be great to know that our government is supporting us as well.
What is the video and the song about?
The song was inspired by our original bassist Rob Greene, who died in 2018. He had left the band a few years earlier, but we spent fourteen years traveling the world together, and it was like losing a brother. There is no reference to him in the video, as it is not specifically about him, but it was written with the feelings that accompanied his passing. Honestly, I can’t listen to the song without crying, but I repeat it sometimes, which happened last night.
Listen to Dressy Bessy and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks Reading List.