BirmingFAM Festival Preview: Dree Leer

This weekend, the first annual BirmingFAM Festival will go down at TrimTab Brewing Company with a incredible assortment of local bands, vendors, and fun to be had by all. Tickets can be bought here for the festival, which is happening September 11 & 12, and you can use the code MUSICBHAM to get 20% off of your purchase!

Dree Leer is the trio made up of Birmingham rock royalty Jackie Lo, Mikey D, and Mandy Graffeo. Their debut album Throw Hands was released in April of 2021 and combines everything you loved about the 90s into a compact, fierce, LP. With Jackie’s powerful lyrics exploding amidst the thunderous noise of Mikey’s drums, and the lockstep movements of Jackie’s guitar and Mandy’s bass, Throw Hands is one of the most well-crafted albums to come out of Birmingham in recent memory. I chatted with Jackie about the upcoming festival and the experience of making Throw Hands:

With your involvement in so many other areas of the Birmingham music scene, what inspired you to start Dree Leer? How did the band come together?
I found myself writing songs that didn’t fit with any projects I’d been working on so thought it was the perfect reason to start a new project. I knew I wanted to play guitar and felt like the material lent itself to be perfect for a 3-piece rock band. So, I reached out to my friend Mandy Graffeo, knowing she played guitar but asked if she was down to play bass and do backup vocals. Mikey D joined us later and became the huge boom-bastic drum sound we needed.

Throw Hands combines a ton of influences in its runtime — what artists were you listening to while you were crafting these songs?
I find my headspace when I’m writing music puts me back in my bedroom as a teenager listening to music that was new and exciting and my own. Bands like Mudhoney, L7, Veruca Salt, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, and Nirvana definitely were some of my favorites back then and still today. We’ve had reviews compare it to Melvins and the Muffs which I love as well!

What was it like to record the bulk of Throw Hands in the pandemic?
We luckily had recorded the drums before the pandemic which was the only part we didn’t want to record at home. Jason Hamric, my partner, recorded everything else at our home studio which gave us incredible freedom. Mandy only lives a few blocks away so she was able to come over and do bass tracks a few at a time. It gave me plenty of time and freedom to do guitars and vocals when inspiration struck. Since no one knew how long the lockdown was going to happen and when venues would open back up, we didn’t feel rushed or too busy with events and obligations that were now cancelled. All of our deadlines we were able to put on ourselves and having a project to keep myself busy during the pandemic was really a welcome distraction.

What is the writing process for Dree Leer like?
It starts with me and a guitar and my voice recorder on my phone. I have so many ideas that I collect and it could be a snippet of a melody, words that come to me in a dream, to full songs that I want to try out. I send the demos to the rest of the band when I think it’s ready and we bang it out at practice to see how it feels and works until it becomes what you hear live at a show.

What local artists have your ear right now?
This is tough to narrow down since there are so many great Birmingham artists, so I’ll narrow it down to a few of my favorite releases from this year. Waxflight had a beautiful album that came out at the beginning of the year. The Blips have a killer album out this year and Results of Adults too. Janet Simpson is one of my oldest Birmingham friends and her album that came out this year is beautiful as well.

What has been your favorite live experience with Dree Leer so far?
I think my favorite show has got to be the album release show this year. Not only was it the first show back to Saturn, but it was our first show in over year too and the first one since the album had released. It was a lot of people’s first live show back too so the energy was amazing and special. Panties were thrown on the stage, and there was a lot of laughing and dancing and fun all night. It’s definitely a show I’ll never forget.