Words by Tommy Johnson
Back in March 2017, the showrunners at the Los Angeles-based DIY venue The Smell offered a spot for Scarlet Knight to perform. Being gifted a glorious opportunity, one thing stood out: Knight needed some bandmates to join her. Through the inner workings with a mutual acquaintance, Knight got linked up with Jamie Coster, and Joey Dalla Betta. The bonding period was instantaneous; an endless admiration for singer/songwriter Elliott Smith’s lo-fi indie charm and bands such as Orchid Tapes and Double Double Whammy. Two years into their trio’s commencement of Rose Dorn, Bar/None Records signed them up to the team.
Having dropped two stunning EPs before the late 2019 full length release Days You Were Leaving, Rose Dorn ultimately captured the likes of many; a handful of end of year lists added the album as one of the best. Components of bedroom rock, melancholic pop, and twangy guitars showcases once again emphasizes the sheer beauty of Rose Dorn’s music.
Speaking with Knight in the late fall, she said that the threesome has just gotten back from being on road temporarily. Knight informed me that prior to leaving, she experienced a small panic attack; hearing horror stories of the unfortunate circumstances that emerge seeped into her mind. The night before didn’t help matters when the band were crippled with an issue with their touring van. “We were like, ‘What the hell are we going to do?’” said Knight. “We were going to all squeeze in Joey’s Subaru. We got real last minute one of those racks from Dick’s Sporting Goods. I was so stressed. How was I going to squeeze in a car for ten hours?” Luckily for the group, the car repair center called the next day informing everyone that the van was fixed and ready to go.
OffShelf: Being on the road for the first time, how did you feel about the audiences belting out your tunes? It looks and sounds like something special is present with this band.
Scarlet Knight: It was super cool! I didn’t think people in Idaho knew any of our songs. We all feel in the band that there’s something special. We talk about it all the time…I hear about bands that don’t talk to each other between practices, one person is doing all the work. That’s not at all who we are.
OS: Going back, what got you into wanting to play music?
SK: My dad taught me how to play guitar when I was nine. I remember being pretty good at it so he would eventually let me open for him at this English bar we lived close to every Thursday night.
OS: You were allowed to go a bar at that age and play in bars?!
SK: [laughs] Here I was, this nine year old girl like playing Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift covers on my guitar to drunk guys talking. There’s videos up online that highlight me.
That’s how it all started. I started writing my own songs and realized there’s another world of music out there.
OS: Were you pretty locked into the DIY scene growing up?
SK: Yeah…I was super blown away when I saw shows. I would watch and say, “I really want to do that.”
OS: What were some of the bands that you got into?
SK: In the early, early days, I was into the Burger Records bands then moved forward to some other bands. I felt that making music was distracting me from going to a lot of shows.
OS: When you got together Jamie and Joey, did you know immediately that there was a connection? Or did it take some time to blossom?
SK: Honestly I think I did know just because I knew we all liked the same band that I knew nobody at the time was interested in; I thought that it was so cool. I was super excited about getting new friends also; in my school, most of my friends were a little older but I felt that meeting Jamie and Joey, I related to them a little more.
On the other hand, I was kinda drunk so I didn’t know if it was something that were just saying to each other at the party. The next day, I got their numbers and FaceTimed them. The vibe was still there.
OS: When the set was finished at The Smell, what was the feeling like? You, Jamie, and Joey must have been amped.
SK: We had two months before the show to make up a set so we were practicing a lot and getting to know each other. The show was pretty good for a first showing. Even with fact that we were able to play at The Smell at the time was good; we immediately got another show offer booked that night at another DIY spot. We thought, “Okay we need to start recording.”
OS: In terms of writing the songs for the EPs and Days You Were Leaving, is it a collaborative effort?
SK: On Days… we each wrote an equal amount; each one of us came to practices with about three songs each and one song we wrote together. That’s what I think makes it really cool and makes it show different forms of writing. In the first EP, we rehearsed each of the three songs that featured one of us. We still were able write our own parts to each of the songs.
OS: Did you take a little more time with Days… than you did with the two EPs?
SK: It took almost two years [laughs]. With the recording costs, it took us about a year. Mixing and mastering-we were all perfectionists. If we didn’t like the mix, we would do it all again. When it came to down to sending to Bar None, Mark [Lipsitz] wanted to mix and master with one of his guys, Jon Marshall Smith. It was such a good move; it felt like doing the whole process again, it was with someone who knew what they were doing.
OS: You say that it was good move, but was there any apprehension about handing over the mixes to Jon?
SK: We had creative control during the mixing. Smith did some fun things that we didn’t expect; he did Jamie’s voice a little radio-like which was cool.
OS: Lyrically, I got the sense that they were deeply personable. Was that by design?
SK: We weren’t doing any intentional… we always write sensitive, personal lyrics that somehow comes together. We didn’t notice it till everyone started listening to the album and saying something about the theme. I do want people to connect to our music… I know when I listen to music, I try to connect deeper and I become obsessed. There’s something special about that in the grand scheme of things.