OK, quick question. Do you ever find yourself becoming so chemically imbalanced that you kind of accidentally push through to the other side and start role-playing and acting and presenting yourself kind of like an everyday, rational human being making everyday, rational human being decisions?
Hmm, yeah, you know…me neither! — Katie Ortiz
As a pithy thesis statement for Debbie Dopamine’s debut single “Eat Cake” (released today!) the quote above really does take the cake, as it should since Katie Ortiz happens to be vocalist, guitarist, lyricist, and real world doppelgänger for Debbie Dopamine—both the persona and the band—which is exactly why I’ve opened with this quote and also quoted directly from Katie/Debbie throughout this piece (of cake!) taken from an interview provided exclusively to the Deli so “eat it!” other music blogs! (just joking, we love you other music blogs!)
KO/DD: Debbie has been a figment of my imagination for years. She is the part of me that embraces a cynical outlook on existence. She drags me down, but she does it so good. She’s your depressive episode personified in the internet age, sweet and sharply sour, wrapped in a dirty-bubblegum aesthetic.
DELI: Much like Codeine, Morphine, and Viagra Boys, Debbie Dopamine perfectly embodies her/their chosen nom de drug on “Eat Cake” with its prowling palm-muted guitar and spectral piano and chiming arpeggios and tremulous single-note sustains, producing a frisson that’s not unlike the musical equivalent of goose bumps whether produced by pleasure or by anxiety or by both at the same time as reflected in the song’s lyrics which describe “making out with all the empty in my bed” and “making out with all the empty in my head” (hey, we’ve all been there!) not to mention “I’m not gonna pinch on my thighs anymore / I’m gonna eat the damn cake!” so there’s your pleasure/anxiety right there…
KO/DD: I wrote the track in the midst of lockdown [lyrics quote: “I don’t even go outside anymore / what if I never come back] when I was discovering how much of my life until that point I had spent trying to avoid being alone with my thoughts. Depression can have this negative feedback loop where you feel so completely disconnected from the world that being around anyone feels uncomfortable, so you isolate yourself to get away from that feeling. But when you’re trapped alone with your most cynical thoughts, they play tricks on you.
DELI: And here’s the funny thing about dopamine is that even thought it’s a neurotransmitter known to produce a euphoric “natural high” that can be triggered by anything from a vigorous jog to vigorous nookie to, well, vigorous amounts of cake, it’s also a prime culprit in provoking the opposite of pleasure because, well, euphoria makes a person wanna come back for more and if mommy doesn’t get her medicine it can lead to all kinds of emotional issues (e.g., anxiety, insomnia, addiction, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.) and this is what’s know as “ironic” (pleasure = pain) so talk about yr mind playing tricks on ya…
KO/DD: Zach [drummer Zach Rescignano] and I started workshopping and playing music together out of necessity. We were stuck at home unable to practice with our various bands or get any kind of catharsis or release through performing. It started as just that, an expression, and we slowly realized that we had something really special going.
These songs had moments of aching fragility and cutting bleakness unlike either of us were exploring in our other projects. We knew we wanted to bring someone else in who was sensitive to that. I thought of Dylan [bassist Dylan LaPointe] because of his dynamic range with his other band, Tetchy. He was the perfect fit front he get-go, helping us tease out these nuances in the music. The three of us collaborated a great deal in the arrangement and development of these songs. I may have written them, but our collective fingerprints are all over them.
DELI: Like all neurotransmitters, which are basically chemical messengers, the whole point of dopamine is to “get the balance right” (take it from me, I’m a doctor!) so when those little buggers aren’t working right you get a chemical imbalance in the brain which is what happens when your grey matter has either excessive or insufficient chemical transmitters. Likewise, assembling a new band is all about getting the balance right which is exactly what Katie describes above.
And here’s a little more info about the musical ingredients: Zach is the drummer for a band called Awful Din who self-describes as being “for fans of Lemuria, Saves The Day, Sebadoh, Remo Drive, The Get Up Kids, Prince Daddy & The Hyena” so we’re talking indie/alt rock with dashes of emo, pop-punk, and post-hardcore. (plus, Zach is a live sound engineer about town!) And as mentioned above, Dylan lends his snaky bass guitar lines to Tetchy—a band that self-describes as “very very loud and very very quiet” and of course you already know all about them already because you’ve memorized my review of their single “Backyard” from last December. (another Deli premiere!)
And as for Katie, well, she plays in a band under the pithy moniker of Bats Bats Bats Ghost Ghost Ghost (formerly Mean Siders) whose live performances are like a torrid, mind-altering ritual along the lines of a snake-handling ceremony without the snake, performed by three very, very lapsed nuns and I’m looking forward to when these ladies put out a record cuz I’d love to debut that one too. And as if that’s not enough, Ms. Ortiz also keeps herself busy with her band booking/promotional collective Booked By Grandma alongside her partner Shannon Minor who’s also in B3G3.
Got it? Phew! So anyways put all these ingredients together and you’ve got the musical soufflé known as Debbie Dopamine.
KO/DD: My mind is this unstable and magical place that I return to sequester myself in again and again. There’s something liberating (even relieving) about giving into its pull, but once I’m there, I’m terrified that I’ll never get out again. Because that’s what it tells me: this is the real you. That’s what the video is about. You might feel that it’s safest to stay inside, only to find that all your most persistent monsters are inside your own candy-colored mind.
As regards the rather cool music video for “Eat Cake” (dir. Jeanette D. Moses) I’ve just give a capsule listing of elements to expect if you haven’t watched it yet (warning: spoilers ahead!): whimsical domestic confinement anxiety, rolling across the floor, fainting couch, bunny ears, straight-jacket sleeves and a prescription pill-bottle crown (kinda surprised no googly eyes tho!) all culminating in a fun-looking house party show timed to the song’s climax as Katie sings: “If I’m going under that just fine / it’s my birthright I’m a water sign.” So from one water sign to another…The Deli says check it out! (Jason Lee)
photo by Cori Schimko