Throughout rock history, one thing has always been crystal clear: the best bands don’t stay still very long. Stagnation is death and repetition nothing but a bore. Taking risks, dodging complacency, never looking back—that’s where timeless music comes from. The Real Nasty, the celebrated Oakland, California-based trio formed in January 2009, has already done more evolving in that short span than most bands do in a lifetime. Now, with the release of Dirty Dollars, their third CD for the Ninth Street Opus label in as many years, they’ve taken a quantum leap.
“Dirty Dollars represents the development and refinement of our sound,” says bassist and songwriter Ryan Lukas, who co-founded the band in January 2009 with guitarist Jacob Groopman and drummer Matthew “Smitty” Smith. “Originally the concept was to play rock and country but as the band has developed, the need to find a common thread between the two styles has become apparent. To refine the sound we have been leaning on the blues, funk and even some jam elements to push forward. Lyrically the album is similar: songs about love, passion, romance, relationships good and bad, drinkin’, drivin’ fast and girls that love scrappy brutes that play loud, sexy music.”
For those who’ve been following the Real Nasty since the beginning, the most obvious new wrinkle is a shift in the band’s core instrumentation. For their first two albums, the double-disc (one country-oriented, the other rockier) Paper City and its followup Strangers and Friends released in 2009 and 2010 respectively—a conventional drum kit was nowhere to be found. Instead, Smitty provided percussion with a cajón, a wooden, box-shaped hand drum with roots in Africa by way of Peru. That was augmented with cymbals, tambourine and other percussion pieces, but the unmistakable thwack that only standard trap drums can give was deliberately absent from the Real Nasty’s sound. Now, with the introduction of snare and bass drums and the emergence of the electric bass to supplement Ryan’s acoustic upright, it’s easy to see how the “loud, sexy music” described by Lukas is quickly becoming the hottest item on the Real Nasty’s menu.
Wherever they perform, even outside of their Bay Area home base, it’s been love at first listen for the Real Nasty’s audiences. “Being together on the road as a band and having to prove to audiences that we believe in our music and showing people that we have something worth hearing, seeing and being a part of has been invaluable in our ability to honestly convey our music,” Ryan says. “People genuinely get into the music, stop talking, pay attention and listen. We turn heads everywhere we play and are having so much fun together that our interaction onstage gets people excited to see what is going to happen. We are a go-for-it band and I would crash and burn a hundred times for the one perfect moment. I think all of us share that sentiment because we want to be fearless, badass, shocking and exciting.”
That’s not something they need to worry about. They’ve already achieved that in spades. And their ever-expanding legion of fans love them for it. As one critic wrote, they may be called the Real Nasty, but these guys are anything but!