With band leader Daria Dzurik at the helm, the Hip Drops are forging a reputation for playing the kind of music that keeps people dancing. Word is spreading about the New Orleans based band through the Southeast US and beyond, with every performance and new recording these innovative young musicians deliver.
People in the music business love to say they’ve seen and heard the next big thing. While no one’s attaching that label to Daria and the Hip Drops just yet, they’ve already been described by legendary songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, as one of his favourite new bands – high praise indeed, especially since they’re still a relatively young musical entity. Add to that the fact they’re able to stand out while operating in the crowded New Orleans scene, and it’s fair to assume their growing reputation is deserved. That’s not to say it’s come easily. As band leader Daria herself says, she and the other members of Hip Drops have all put in over and above the prescribed 10,000 hours to master their craft, and with two albums to their name so far – Calliope and Hipnotic – the hard work continues.
So where does the name come from and what does it say about their style of music? “We started in a way that’s backwards from most groups,” says Daria, explaining that she came to new Orleans in 2010 determined to record an album. Once that was done, she looked for a band to play all the songs live, “I recruited a handful of friends to our first show and we’ve continued to grow from there.”
The band’s name Hip Drops was inspired by a song and dance by a funk group in the 60s. “Simply put, I’m a big fan of old New Orleans R&B – and I love that song by the Explosions!” enthused Daria. Their brand of music has been described as a bit like Lily Allen with an unexpected blend of No Doubt and Regina Spektor, combining elements of indie rock, funk, reggae, pop, and calypso.
The latter certainly rings a bell with Daria who says she was drawn to a mix of indie pop and rock with Caribbean influences thanks to her time spent playing in steel bands in high school and college (before that she played the piano at home from the age of four), combining pan and vocals, and also listening to a lot of soca, calypso and reggae: “Those vibes come out naturally now when I’m song writing and composing.” Being based in New Orleans is another factor in terms of musical influences, explains Daria, “There is a lot of talent and creativity in New Orleans and a fusion of genres coming from the Caribbean, mixing with American roots, blues and funk music. We try to blend that into our recordings and performances.”
Creating the Hip Drops sound
The band plays a range of instruments to produce their increasingly distinctive sound. For small venues, Daria and bassist Graham Robinson play steel pans and bass guitar, and utilise loop pedals and samples. Most of the time, however, the band plays as a four piece, with drums, bass, guitar, and steel pans. Trumpet and trombone are sometimes added when they perform at larger festivals. It’s not just about having interesting instruments, however, as everyone in the band is a multi-tasker. The finished product is a solid foundation that, “tends to sound sort of masculine”, with the high pitched (feminine) sounds from Daria’s voice and drums, which are more melodic over the heavy and bold rhythms.
Hip Drops first announced themselves with the album Calliope in 2010 and as Daria explains, the process was a steep learning curve: “The biggest challenge in recording Calliope was in editing. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in perfecting your work, especially when you think you have the time. I spent hours trying to modify a five second vocal harmony which would go unnoticed by the average listener. The hardest thing was moving forward and not getting sucked into fixing every second into perfection.”
Fast forward to 2015 and the band’s next album Hipnotic with a strong Afro beat, Calypso, Caribbean, indie, reggae, and pop influences, was recorded in New Orleans and was one of the highlights of a busy year that saw the band opening for Dumstaphunk, Grammy winner Jon Cleary, and Quintron and Miss Pussycat. They also released a new music video for a track on the album called Sun Goddess, and then in October, the same year, during an interview in Paris, Jimmy Buffet sang their praises.
Composing and inspiration
Despite having two albums under her belt, Daria still finds composing challenging: “Sometimes I take months before I can write something new. One way I’ve tried to combat that is through putting the emphasis on different musical elements, so sometimes the melody is what comes naturally and base the writing around. But I think it’s a good idea to switch things up and instead of letting the melody lead where the song goes, focusing on a harmonic progression can kick-start your brain to think differently. Recently, I’ve been working more on a song, based around a rhythmic movement – so studying dance moves and coming up with a rhythm and hook based around that.”
In terms of inspiration, Daria cites an eclectic mix, including Amy Winehouse, Gwen Stefani, and Ella Fitzgerald for vocal styling, and Paul Simon, George Clinton, Frederick Hibbert, David Byre, Bob Marley, and Allen Toussaint for song writing and production. As a lady band leader/singer/musician (her own description), she says she appreciates Janelle Monae and Santigold: “I love the blending of genres they meld together – funk, Caribbean, rhythm and blues. Music and art in a pop based aesthetic without it being whitewashed and over-produced like most pop music on the radio. It’s empowering to see them perform.”
As for their own performances, how do they ensure they keep the audience engaged while coping with nerves on the night? Daria confides: “We all lock in to having a solid groove that keeps people dancing – we have enough lyrical and unique melodic content to keep people’s interest. As the bandleader, I get anxious about factors out of my control, if the sound will run smooth, as a lot of people don’t know how to mic steel pans properly; the weather if we’re playing outside – I don’t want to get struck by lightning! And just making sure everyone gets to the venue on time.”
The professional life
Daria is quick to dismiss the notion some people have that it’s non-stop partying out there: “For some bands, yes, but for me it’s lots of work. When I do get time to chill, I’m usually too exhausted to do anything.” She also avoids another common pitfall for musicians – eating junk food while on the road – preferring, “real food”, and listing sushi as her favourite.
As well as recording and performing, Daria is interested in teaching music and has undertaken a handful of master classes, but admits that balancing the music with all her other obligations is hard: “I don’t think I’ve figured out the answer yet – mostly, just don’t sleep a lot.” In the meantime, she says that her hopes for the future are for the band to keep on creating and sharing worthy art.
Finally, does she have some advice for anyone wanting to make a career in the music business? “Give it 140% all the time, advocate for yourself and plan on having either an excess of two of the following: time, energy, or money!”