The Eastern Promise of Dexters

If it is folly to mistake the echo of a London pub for the voice of the kingdom (to paraphrase Jonathan Swift), then it's correct to state that such voices are often the first to articulate the iniquities of life on this island.

If it is folly to mistake the echo of a London pub for the voice of the kingdom (to paraphrase Jonathan Swift), then it's correct to state that such voices are often the first to articulate the iniquities of life on this island.

Denizens of the capital are fine tuned to changes in the cultural wind, and no more so than professional musicians like Dexters, a five-piece band hailing from the wilds of East London. With the sun sunk away in the west and a gibbous moon turning Holloway rooves silver, the five band members relax over a jar after a day of rehearsals.

Clustered around a table, they mirror each other's movements and finish each other's sentences; it's what comes from spending a lot of time together. "We are the anti-what's happening now band," says frontman and lyricist Tom Rowlett. "Right now, those making the headlines are singers who have a team of songwriters behind them. The charts are full of this, or else its girl bands. So we don't tick these boxes. We tick the great band and handsome lead singer boxes. Oh, and we're not media-trained."

Thankfully. Come the return of the sardonic musician (and the conventional business model) and the industry may yet return to rude health.

Formed back in 2011, Dexters have since developed into a tight unit and just at the right time, having recently signed to independent label Acid Jazz Records. "There's a relaxed vibe at Acid Jazz. They let you get on with it," says Rowlett. "We're a more raw, rock'n'roll band than Acid Jazz have signed in the past, so perhaps they wanted a change of scenery."

The label paid for the recording of their debut album, Shimmer Gold, with two singles already released ahead of the album to whet the appetite of the indie crowd. "We'd need a gimmick to attract the attention of the big labels," says Rowlett, "like wearing silly hats. But we're doing the right thing by building our fan base."

Rowlett is as clueless as the next man when it comes to discussing the mainstream. "It's become a nonsense industry. The big labels are playing it safe because they're uninspired. The industry at large is being run by some fat cat somewhere who hasn't got a clue about anything. It seems the music is the last thing on his mind."

Musically, the band's sound is informed by The Clash, The La's and The Strokes with colouring distinctly similar to that of The Libertines, Toots and The Maytals and the Rolling Stones. "If it's got a guitar, we probably like it," he says.

Is Rowlett the band's guvnor? "Yeah, I'm the one with the whip. But seriously, I write the songs and each band member brings his own influence. Everyone puts their stamp on things."

With London sinking under the weight of its own idiocy, groups of young men with guitars in hand are rising out of the mulch, determined to succeed in a society in fast decline. Dexters is there in the vanguard, keeping company with the likes of The Courteeners, The Merrylees and The Struts.

"There'll always be idiots who'll buy rubbish," says Rowlett, "but I have faith that there are enough people who are switched on to make it worthwhile for us to continue doing what we're doing. You have to have faith in the public, that it'll eventually see sense and reject what's being offered by the big labels."

The band has plans to tour in March and April in the UK and then across Europe. "Our live show is our selling point. After every gig, it's the right thing to meet the crowd. People pay money to see us, so it's right and proper that we pay them respect."

Contemporaries like Bombay Bicycle Club, Black Lips, Miles Kane and The Orwells also get the nod from Rowlett. "My Dad used to play the harmonica in blues bands around the East End, in spit and sawdust pubs. I used to follow him about and sit on the side of the stage, watching him with a bottle of coke in one hand and a packet of crisps in the other."

There, perhaps, is the secret to it all: a parent with a love of music, and in Rowlett's case, his dad lighting the way for him at an early age. "We're a traditionally-minded band in that we own instruments and a Transit van. Have instruments, will travel."

And the band's name? "We're named after a club bouncer I fell into conversation with a few years ago," he says, grinning. "I told him that if I ever started up a band, I'd name it after him."

Dexters have toured the length and breadth of the UK in order to make their reputation. It's hard graft and the old-fashioned way to make it, but also the most enjoyable. "It'd be nice to have a few quid in the back pocket, but it's not why we tour. Yes, it's harder to make it these days, but if you're good enough, you will. And we are." The rest is another chapter of music history in the making.

Shimmer Gold will be released on Acid Jazz Records on 17 March

Follow the chaps @DEXTERS_band

Photograph of Dexter (l-r: Chris Heggie, Tom Rowlett, Chris Mardon, Ben Debo & Jamie Harris) courtesy of Claire Walley/Dawbell


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