When Ruth Smith and Derek Kutzer began making music together as Blackstone Rangers in 2011, they didn’t know what kind to make. Today, the now-trio — with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Bornhorst — still, proudly, doesn’t know.
“We haven’t honed in on our sound, and I don’t think that we should, honestly,” Smith said. “I’m fine not having a certain genre. I like so much music, I don’t want to sound like anything, anyway.”
And they don’t. The Dallas three-piece has its influences, but there’s only the essence of Cocteau Twins or some abstraction of Bob Dylan to be found in the mishmash of The Jesus and Mary Chain shoegaze ballads, chilly Chromatics ditties and jangly Sleater-Kinney anthems, all shot out of an ’80s synth-glitter cannon.
If there’s anything tying it all together, it’s volume (see: loud). But that proved to be problematic at the group’s debut gig.
“It was a fucking disaster. It was so bad,” Smith said. “We play really loud music, and the place we played wasn’t really equipped for us. We messed up their messed-up speakers even more.”
Blackstone Rangers since have become a DFW favorite, being named Dallas Observer’s Best New Act of 2012 on the heels of their debut EP, Into the Sea, which was released digitally and via cassette tape last summer.
“The whole thing is totally us: the recording, the artwork, everything. We wanted our hands to be on every piece of it,” Smith said. “It was a really good first EP. It was broad, but appropriately so.”
Blackstone Rangers are on the cusp of expanding well beyond their Southern comfort zone, however. Thursday’s gig at Opolis caps a Midwestern tour that soon will be followed by an East Coast run.
Between dates, the group will be polishing off another set of recorded material —
maybe an EP, maybe a full-length — due mid-summer, using the nights
playing to strangers as an opportunity to refine and improve the new
“I really like playing in front of completely new people, especially people I’ve never met before. I like getting a fair judge of our music,” Smith said. “You can make true criticisms of yourself and figure out what worked and what didn’t. I like getting an honest opinion on the music so you can figure out what to do better.”