Thursday, May 26, 2022

Listen up: New band Ridgewood invigorates ILM’s music scene

Part three in a five-part series featuring new musicians in the greater Wilmington region

From left to right: Charlie Peters, Elliot Stanford, Matt Dauphin and Bennett Hair of Ridgewood. (Photo by The Port City Experiment LLC)

WILMINGTON – The concert season has officially arrived with more national acts touring through the area on a frequent basis. But Wilmington’s music scene goes deeper than just headliners. Local musicians add spirit and vivacity, many performing on a weekly basis, sometimes even for free.

Port City Daily is launching a five-part series that will introduce local sounds to concert-goers in support of new artists hitting the scene. “Listen Up” will feature five acts who have just begun playing local clubs and venues, performing a variety of styles from surf rock to soft rock, indie to garage pop, alongside classic and grunge rock. 

READ PART 1: New band Free Drinks energizes ILM’s music scene

READ PART 2: New band NARAH electrifies ILM’s music scene  

Third in line is the four-piece Ridgewood, a punk-rock act who first took to the Barzarre stage just over a year ago and will return this weekend. The band has been experimenting with a genre of music they have coined “burger rock.” 

“Our friends in Cancel and NARAH, two of our favorite local bands, came up with the [genre],” lead singer and guitarist Elliot Stanford said. “I think that encapsulates our style because most of us are just working, playing music, eating fast food and surfing as much as possible.”

Playing alongside Stanford is Matt Dauphin on bass, Bennett Hair on drums, and Charlie Peters on guitar. 

Influenced by popular rock groups such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, with sounds similar to punk-pop bands like Simple Plan and Lit, Ridgewood originally collaborated back in the spring of 2019 with drummer Pierce Rickman. The four students at UNCW separated in spring 2020 due to the pandemic, each returning to their hometowns. 

“I moved back to Wilmington into a house with Charlie on Ridgewood Heights Drive,” Stanford explained. 

During that time Rickman tore his ACL in a sports injury and decided not to move back to Wilmington.

“We were going to play our first show after spring break in 2020, but it never happened,” Peters stated. “I don’t know if any of us knew if anything was ever going to come back out of the band.”

Dauphin lived close by on Ridgewood Heights. “‘Ridgewood’ seemed to connect us all and serves as a homage to the place where we got our start,” Stanford said.

Peters had planned to join the Airforce during Covid due to the undetermined future of school – not knowing if classes were going to stay online permanently. Once the band started creating music, he decided against the military.

“We started jamming in Charlie’s super tiny bedroom, and I remember after the first time we all played together, I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is sick,’” Hair said. 

Stanford, Dauphin, and Peters met Hair through their UNCW fraternity Phi Gamma Delta (commonly known as FIJI) and asked him to step in as the new drummer in September 2020. Overcoming early obstacles from Covid and Rickman’s departure, the four have been honing their melodic, Midwestern power-punk sound, with hardcore, distorted guitar riffs and rapid tempo transitions. The band’s skate-punk influences are apparent, complete with suburban teenage angst.

Ridgewood has written 12 songs, recorded and released one 10-song album. The band puts all their energy, emotions and frustration into the music, with verbal confessionals ranging from soft and poetic to emo-punk. Amped up by their performance, concertgoers are quick to instigate mosh pits.

“We just want our audience to have fun, push each other around a little bit, and get an electric feel listening to our music,” Dauphin explained.

The band’s most streamed song, “End of the Year Bash,” was featured on their debut album “I’m Glad We’re Doing This.” It’s a nostalgic, early-2000’s punk vibe, beginning with a mellow guitar that quickly transitions into a heavier indie-rock sound. The song features carefree, unapologetic lyrics and “feelings that can follow a rough night, or string of nights, out,” Stanford explained, referring to a hangover.  

“I’m sorry / I’m not coming over / Until I’m ready / To get better,” he sings at the end of each chorus. 

Inspired by “End of the Year Bash” lyrics and summing up the band’s collective nonchalant attitude, the album cover for “I’m Glad We’re Doing This” showcases them having beers on the back lawn at Ridgewood Heights, seemingly without a worry in the world. 

Ridgewood’s “I’m Glad We’re Doing This” album cover (Courtesy photo)

“We went and took a picture with Elliott’s phone outside of us drinking and just hanging out because we felt like that really encapsulated our relationship with each other and the sound of the album,” Peters said.

Ridgewood debuted the album just over a month ago. Most songs run between 2 to 4 minutes long. “Jane” is the longest track on the record just over 4 minutes.

“I’ve always been a fan of short, quick songs because I have a short attention span,” Peters said. “I like to get in, get out, and move onto something new and fresh — leaving listeners wanting more rather than them skipping halfway through the song.”

Though “End of the Year Bash” centers on party culture, the band writes about topics such as feeling comfortable and secure around someone else (“Jane”). 

They also tackle finding better influences in “Bad Ideas” and dealing with the dissatisfaction of routine in “Calm and Collected.” The latter stemmed from the band’s experience with isolation during 2020.

“‘Calm and Collected’ is supposed to be, lyrically, a representation of that bored and angry state of just sitting in the same spot for too long, becoming frustrated and acting on any impulse, no matter how raunchy or violent, that comes to mind in that moment,” Stanford said.

The band recorded at local studio Loud Music Companywith producer Michael Cole in mid-December 2021. Loud Music Company is owned by Cole and his wife Tina Landon — both of whom have been in the music industry for decades.

“They recorded the entire record live on the spot — no overdubs, no punch-ins, just raw and dirty rock ‘n’ roll, the way it used to be done,” Cole explained. “They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel; they are simply playing great rock music in its true essence and spirit.”

Dubbing Ridgewood’s sound as “polished chaos,” Cole andLandon have recorded with other local bands such as Lowland Blues Band, Exploding Math Lab, The Girls, Marley Aliah and Lilly Triolo. 

“[Michael] had a lot of strong opinions on how we should record songs, like, where we should place our microphones, how we should record our particular sound, and post-recording advice,” Stanford explained. “It was a huge learning experience.”

The band worked through all 10 songs in one day. They split the recording of the album into two sessions — one for the first five songs, the second for the last five.

“We recorded everything in about six hours,” Stanford stated. “The album was recorded live without multiple vocal takes, so what you hear is pretty much what you get when you see us live.”

The marathon recording session was a feat for Stanford, considering one week prior he was in the hospital for three days. 

“[My] oxygen levels were at 70%, and I didn’t have pneumonia, my lungs weren’t filling up, the doctors didn’t know what was wrong,” Stanford said. “Then a week-and-a-half later, I’m carrying my amp to go record and couldn’t believe what I was doing.”

Cole and Landon plan to record with Ridgewood again in the fall for the band’s second album — with the goal to “push them a little bit further out of their comfort zone to get a little deeper into the process,” Cole stated.

The band confirmed they want to explore outside of their box. Peters compared their new, unreleased music to Nirvana’s “Bleach” album, with aspects of indie-pop a la Peach Pit.

“It’s fun to get weird and experiment – I never play bass the same way twice,” Dauphin said. “We want to get softer, heavier, and even somewhere in the middle.” 

“We want to get dumb, lyrically, but also super poetic, and explore new, crazy concepts,” Stanford said.

The band is aiming to release a second album by the end of the year. 

With over 1,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and more than 3,500 followers on Instagram, Ridgewood has proved that time is not a factor when you have a dream, a goal, and a shared love for hardcore music. “I’m Glad We’re Doing This” can be heard on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.

Ridgewood performs up to five shows a month throughout the state but will take over a local stage Saturday, Apr. 30, for a benefit concert at Barzarre starting at 3 p.m. All proceeds will be donated New Hanover County animal shelter. The band will perform alongside other local groups such as The 2000’s, Hyperloops, Free Drinks, Pleasure Island, Beach Tub and many more. Entry for 18-plus is $12, and 21-plus is $8. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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