From The Horse's Mouth: Dominic Angelella and "Ritz" Reynolds of DRGN King on Paragraph Nights


DRGN King, a duo from Philadelphia that features singer/songwriter Dominic Angelella and producer/writer “Ritz” Reynolds (who wrote with The Roots, produced Wale, remixed La Roux, etc.) signed with indie label Bar None Records and will release their debut album, Paragraph Nights, in January 2013. The label will release the band’s debut single “Holy Ghost” on October 23 as part of a limited edition seven inch featuring the exclusive vinyl b-side “Son of Wolfman” (featuring Philly rapper Peedi Crakk) – both songs will also be available digitally.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the duo to ask them questions about their debut.  Here’s what Dom and Ritz told us…
When did you begin writing the material for Paragraph Nights
Dom: Brent “Ritz” Reynolds and I met in the fall of 2009. we met because he was an up and coming producer who had just worked on The Roots’ album Rising Down and I was a guitarist who’d been playing with lots of different bands in our home city of Philadelphia. I went over to his studio to play guitar on some tracks he was working on and ended up writing with him. “Caught Down” (from Paragraph Nights) was one of the first songs we ever wrote together. The songs on our new record are the culmination of writing from 2009-2011.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome?
Dom: The whole album was a pretty involved process. some songs were intensely rewritten and had all these different versions. The most difficult song was probably “Altamont Sunrise.” We were getting really excited when we were making the song and recording it. It just became more and more and more epic. It wasn’t necessarily difficult, we just didn’t want to stop working on it. We kept wanting to refine sounds and add weird stuff to it. Eventually we had to stop ourselves.
Ritz: Every song on the album had its own unique path.  When we first started working together, there was no plan or intended direction whatsoever.  That goes the same for many of these songs.  As we revised multiple versions- adding synths, recutting vocals, layering live drums, etc., we kind of gradually laid the pieces, which ultimately became a finished album.
It was also a huge learning process I think for both Dom and I.  I had never done a project that would be considered somewhat “rock” per se, so we kind of just made up what we sounded like along the way.  We had to go through many stages to get to a place where I feel we had a unique vision for the album, regardless if it was an uptempo song with synths on it, or an epic acoustic psychedelic ballad.
Which of the songs on Paragraph Nights is most different from your original concept for the song?
Ritz: “Caught Down,” which as Dom mentioned is the first idea we ever made together, sounds pretty different than the original demo.  It was a moody, David Avelrod-y beat with programmed drums and a fake digital beatles bassline (or something), that turned into the rowdy, fuzzed out jam that’s on our record.
Dom: “Barbarians” started out as a simple one minute idea where we tried to filter Beck through some weird Nine Inch Nails thing. Then our friend Julie Slick came and played wild bass on it and our drummer Joe Baldacci added the whole end section with the synthesizer stabs. It became a completely different thing.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on Paragraph Nights?
Dom: We had all of our friends on the record. The original idea was to make Drgn King a completely collaborative project, much like me and Ritz’s original musical relationship. As it went on, we drafted some of these collaborators into our band and some went to do other stuff. Julie Slick played bass on a majority of the album. Frances Quinlan of Hop Along sung and co-wrote a song. These guys from a weird band called Toddler Kat helped us out on a song. We’ve got a lot of extraneous awesome Philadelphia musicians on the record. Peedi Crakk rapped and Eric Slick (drummer of Dr. Dog) played on a song called “Son Of Wolfman” that’s a B-side to the record.
Who produced the record?  What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Dom: The record is produced entirely by Ritz. He’s the reason the band is what it is. I’ve always been incredibly drawn to his production style. It’s so dense and vast, with a really good ear for space thats still there no matter how many wild things fly in and out of every song. To me, Brent’s production defines the record, and you can hear it in every song.
Ritz: I changed the face of the record, Dammit!!  To be honest though, it was a long process that was influenced by a lot of things, including Dom, who helped assist on a lot of mix/ overall production decisions.  We’re both pretty nit-picky about all aspects, so it was a constant re-arrangement of many ideas.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
Dom: In a lot of ways, Paragraph Nights is sort of a love letter to the city we live in. A lot of songs were written with the city in mind, the weird nightlife and the sort of directionless nature of some younger people here. Maybe young people everywhere. A lot of people go out at night and get obliterated because they’re looking for something that they can’t really explain. We wanted each song to tell its own story but still work together as a whole.
Ritz: I just wanted to make an interesting sounding album that crossed a vast terrain of influences, but that still had a strong backbone in traditional songwriting.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Dom: We’ve been playing this whole record live for some time now. People seem to like “Holy Ghost.” that’s one of the songs that came together the quickest. I wrote the idea walking to the studio, brought it to Ritz, and after a night of labor, the song was done.
Ritz: Our live show is constantly evolving and reactions seem to change a lot depending on the show, but people always like our last song of the night, “Looking At You” (also the last song on the album).  And although its not always in the setlist, “Son of Wolfman” (our Peedi Crakk b-side) gets an interesting response every time.