On the Web: Midtown Dickens

Saturday, May 12, 9 p.m.
305 South
305 S. Dillard St., Durham
919-682-2594, www.305southantimall.com

Kym Register and Catherine Edgertonaka, Midtown Dickens when guitars, banjos, accordions, ukuleles and other implements of musical jocularity are in handseem to be having more fun than everybody else. A lively exchange with the Independent Weekly offered plenty of insight into why that might be the case. (One theory is that it has something to do with thanking people….)

Independent Weekly: The first question every time: How did you two start making music together?

Kym and Catherine: We’ve often wondered that ourselves…. Parking decks proved to have good acoustics and we both loved music, so we’d hang out in them for hours staying out of and getting into various forms of trouble with a guitar and harmonica.

IW: Where did the name Midtown Dickens come from? If it’s a specific reference to Charles, then my literary ignorance is showing.

K&C: It’s a reference, but not to any particular story. Just to the book Hard Times, which we found on the street in Oakland, Calif. The book had mystical powers and told our fortunes on a regular basis. We won many pool games because of that book. (Thanks, Chuck.)

IW: You seem to be having a lot of fun. What are the secrets to keeping it fun?

K&C: Well, Rick. You know what they always say about fun and friends. Having fun is like having friends. And that’s how it goes. We put friendship first and music second. And we create alter egos to deal with the business side of things. (Thanks, Pam and Tina.)

IW: I read where you bonded over a mutual appreciation of Janis Joplin. Have you ever heard Bettye LaVette or Erma Franklin’s version of “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”? If so, how do you think they compare to Janis’ versions?

K&C: Well, no. So we’ll just make something up. Bettye’s lacking a little in the vocal range. And I know you’ve heard about Erma’s latest musical debacle. Nothin’ really beats Janis for some soul searching cathartic high school road trips. (Thanks, Janis.)

IW: Catherine, I know of your father’s interest and background in music (among other artistic pursuits), and, Kym, I read where your grandfather performed on the Grand Ol’ Opry. What role do those things play in your relationships with music?

C: Growing up with creative parents gave me the chance to take art seriously. I grew up surrounded by music and so I just figured it was one of the things that you doya know, play.

K: My granddad gave me my first guitar, which happened to be his first one too. Even though we weren’t that close, having someone give you their first anything is inspirational. (Thanks, fam.)

IW: Your MySpace page describes the band as Indie/Folk/Jungle. If you could add two more parts to that description (and I guess you certainly could if you wanted), what would those words be?

K&C: We like the words Rock and Roll.

IW: Can you tell us about the big showor, to use its proper name: “Midtown Dicken’s Get Down Showdown,” complete with the subtitle “Making things way way way longer than they need to be since 1982”? Please tell us about some of the bands, and what’s bringing all of you together?

K&C: There’s something really awesome that’s starting to happen in the Triangle. People all over are taking their art seriously, and the best part is that they’re doing it together. We wanted to set up a show with all of our friends, so we asked a ton of people to play. We didn’t expect them all to say yes, but since everyone is so rad, they did. It’s going to be an amazing circus of a day, with music from all over the map. And, um, Kimya Dawson is headlining!! Ah! (Thanks, Triangle music.)

IW: OK, the perfect radio station is going to play a three-song set with one of your songs in the middle. Which song of yours would you want it to be, and what two songs by other artists would you want to precede and follow your song? And, of course, why? (Sorry for making this kind of sound like an essay question.)

K&C: Crap! Good question. We’d want to make it up on the spot, with Ricky Martin’s backup band. We’d want to be preceded by an absurdly long medley comprised of the 307 Knox peeps, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, Cake, Modest Mouse, Calvin Johnson, Dinosaur Junior, Wyclef and a Mariachi band. Why? Because we love them all. We’d be followed by any song off One Foot in the Grave by Beck. (Thanks, WXDU.)

IW: When you go on a job interview, you often get asked what your five-year goals are. Forget that: What are Midtown Dickens’ five-day goals? Five-week? Five-month?

K&C: Goals? (Thanks, college.)

Rick Cornell

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