The Alphabetical Order: Arlington’s Thoroughly Modern Milieu

The Alphabetical Order photophoto courtesy The Alphabetical Order

Like most bands from the Arlington area, The Alphabetical Order doesn’t lend itself to any simple description. Their songs mesh atmospheric, bluesy, and angular guitars, their lyrics range from cryptic to self-loathing to ironic, and they’ve written songs with titles like “Krakow Krakow” and “A Constant State of Disconnect.” Given those descriptions superficially, TAO could either be prejudged incredibly pretentious or very dumb. Fortunately, they are neither of those things.

This is not to say, however, that the quartet, under the leadership of singer/guitarist Gavin Dunaway, does not toy with those preconceived notions. It’s all exceedingly funny to him and his band mates, considering how he and bassist Kate Rears met three years ago playing in a Goth band called Conscious Structure. “I had this friend from high school who’d always been big into Goth and Industrial music, and he asked me to play with him around the time that I graduated from college,” said Dunaway, “It reached a point where it just wasn’t fun anymore, and Kate and I kind of decided we just wanted to do our own thing.” Surveying their eclectic musical backgrounds, it made sense. “I seriously think the only kind of band I’ve never played in is a ska band,” Dunaway added, noting how his experience playing in a couple of blues bands largely informs the melodic structure behind The Alphabetical Order’s songs. “If you listen to any song, [whichever guitar lead] is atmospheric, that’s usually me, anything bluesy is most likely Gavin” said guitarist Gabe Fry, fiddling with his Rickenbacker 360 after practice. Fry rounded out the group approximately a year ago, introduced to Dunaway by their original drummer Ben D.

The band had been getting shows regularly for the previous six months since they’d first formed in the Spring of 2004. Since then, the quartet, now with new drummer Chris McKinney, have forged a sound that, according to Rears, continues to get “darker, dirtier, and weirder,” and, to that effect, has grown immensely. “We’ve been trying to incorporate more of the Korg into our music,” said Dunaway, proudly tinkering with the synthesizer in the band’s practice space in an Arlington neighborhood. His love of Pink Floyd has been informing TAO’s music in equal parts as Sunny Day Real Estate and Hum. Fry’s key influences, which include Radiohead, Built to Spill, and Jeff Buckley among others, are also significant to the dynamic. “We’re definitely not afraid of going a bit prog-gish,” added Dunaway.

Songs like ‚ÄúSelf Hatred,‚Äù which he described offhandedly as ‚Äú7¬? minutes of bliss,‚Äù undeniably reflect that tendency. This and five other tracks of varying length and technique form their debut release through District Records, The Unimpeachable EP. The album, recorded by Chad Clark at the much-heralded Silver Sonya and Inner Ear Studios, has been getting a fair amount of airplay on local college stations, including Catholic University‚Äôs WCUA, and a number of internet radio outlets.

Their local fan base has been growing steadily, and they even drew a sizable cluster of word-of-mouth fans in Philadelphia. “We’ve been spoiled; we’ve been filling a lot of rooms lately,” said Dunaway.

The Alphabetical Order don’t have any solid plans for the near future, other than to continue playing as many shows as possible, and gather weekly to focus their rapidly expanding sound. “I’m not a barbaric bass player,” said Rears of her contribution, despite the band’s generally intense songs, “I like to incorporate a jazzier technique, including arpeggios, [which is normally] possible with our style.”

Naturally, their practices are accompanied by pizza, beer, and a countless number of verbal exchanges that serve their collective twisted but good-natured sense of humor. “We were playing a show last month,” Rears mentioned, “This guy told me that I was one of the best bassists he’d heard in a while…Later on, I ran into him again, he’d been drinking all night, and he was like ‘You’re the greatest bassist ever in the world!’…I guess the moral of the story is, people should drink more.”

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