The band, composed of current UMBC students, is like a less jittery Dismemberment Plan with some of the jubilant energy of Animal Collective. The guitar gets pretty dirty but with plenty of reverb, softening even the most aggressive songs like EP opener "Is There Light?" The song contrasts driving rhythms with windy arpeggios, yelp-happy vocals, and jazzy bass.
The young band's journey sounds vaguely like a college student's love life, with underage drinking and casual hookups, separations and reunions. Drummer Zac Yelnosky and guitarist/singer Dan Windsor formed the band as roommates and quickly added bassist Ben Woodworth, who has already left and re-joined the band.
"We met [Woodworth] on a field trip to the Library of Congress," says Yelnosky. "Me and Dan have known each other forever, since I came to Maryland. Before that I lived in Pennsylvania, and before that I lived in England, I was born in England." The band is hanging out in a Station North pizza joint where the radio plays an array of nostalgic hits including Hanson, Ace of Base, and Green Day. "This soundtrack is awesome," Yelnosky says when Kris Kross comes on.
"[Yelnosky] was drunk on the bus afterwards and I was underage and sober, and we were talking about music," Woodworth recalls. "I was like, 'I play bass.' He was like, 'I do this stuff with my roommate and we need a bassist.'
"I was planning to study abroad before I met these guys," Woodworth says. "Then I met Zac and I started playing with them. 'Oh, by the way, my visa is going through, I'm about to go to France for the semester.' So the first show I played with Dungeon Kids was the house show the night before I left for France, there were tons of people there."
David Garcia stepped into the bass-shaped void and is the bassist featured on
Oh How It Hurts
, but it wasn't meant to be. "[Garcia] didn't mesh with us stylistically," Yelnosky explains. "We're going for a kind of like a straightforward pop thing, and he was coming from this weird prog level where he played the bass like a guitar, and it was just too much all the time. Ben plays things a lot more straightforward, a lot more to the point, and it works better for us. The band's a lot different now and I think it's for the better."
"Because I'm not on [
Oh How it Hurts
], I can listen to it a lot," Woodworth says. "I can listen to it in my car and I'm not a douchebag for listening to my own music."
"But we listen to it all the time," quips Yelnosky. "We're huge douchebags."
The band recorded the EP with Sean Mercer, of the band Us and Us Only, at Mobtown Studios. "I've known Sean since high school," Windsor says. "He's been recording whatever I've been doing and he's been putting up with me since I was 16. He's like my uncle or something, just getting mad at me all the time and shit."
"[Mercer] lived in our neighborhood," Windsor continues. "He lived three houses down from us and he would come in and torture us, he would come in the house at 10 a.m. and just kind of scare us."
"He was drunk always, pretty much always," Yelnosky adds. "I don't think I saw him sober the entire two years. He's a good guy."
The band just got back from a mini-tour with like-minded band Sun Club. Like Dungeon Kids, Sun Club stands out in the local music scene for marrying indie rock with straightforward pop music. "It's not like we're trying to break [new] ground, so to speak, except we're trying to define our genre," Woodworth says. "We're trying to invent post-pop."
"Sean recorded [Sun Club] at Mobtown a year ago," Windsor says. "We were having our first house show, and [Mercer] was like, 'Yo, listen to this record. These kids are insane.'"
"At the time they were like 17 years old," Yelnosky adds.
"They killed it, they were the highlight," Windsor continues. "Our basement, parts of our ceiling were on the floor because of Sun Club. We had about four, I guess, house shows after that and they played at everyone."
While the band is still proud of their EP, they are eager to record more, but don't expect a Dungeon Kids full-length any time soon.
"I feel like albums aren't really the thing anymore," says Windsor. "Lately haven't you noticed there's more small releases? I think it's cool in a way, there's more smaller releases coming out more frequently."
"I think the album is dead," Yelnosky adds. "People don't have the attention span anymore."
"I like the idea of EPs coming out constantly," Windsor says. "A band you like, you'll always get more of them. Maybe we should wait [and make a full-length], but at the same time I just get excited [to record]."
"We're all still kids," Yelnosky says. "We're children, Dungeon Kids, you know."
Dungeon Kids plays a sold-out microshow at Mobtown Studios on Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.