Featured Music: Wednesday, March 31, 2005
All dressed up and lots of places to go: Rockin’ synth-pop spreaders Black Tie Dynasty
Black Tie Dynasty
With The Chemistry Set, Sat,
at the Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Av, Dallas. 214-826-1885.
Purple Reign

Black Tie Dynasty reaches back to the Greed Decade to create some innovative contempo-indie rock.


I just got turned on to Echo and The Bunnymen. Ian McCulloch is my hero right now.”
This paean to the Bunnymen and their frontman, coming in 2005, sounds strange enough to anyone who experienced first-hand frosted spiky hair, John Hughes movies, and Men Without Hats videos. But when the person waxing enthusiastic over those 1980s-vintage purveyors of electro-orchestral introspection is 25-year-old Corey Watson, the effect is downright disorienting.
Watson, singer and guitarist for Fort Worth’s Black Tie Dynasty, was all of three years old when the Bunnymen began to make their stateside impact, but he admits he’s been filling in the gaps of his Greed Decade education lately. He’s doing it mostly in reaction to major press that his band has been receiving lately from all over the world, much of it talking about how Black Tie Dynasty resembles the Bunnymen and other similar groups. With Black Tie’s big, extraterrestrial synthesizer sound, courtesy of keyboardist Brian McQuorcodale, and Watson’s emphatic, Euro-heartthrob vocals (somewhere between McCulloch’s and Simon LeBon’s), fans and journalists are throwing all kinds of ’80s parallels Black Tie’s way. The Fort Worthians, obviously, want to know what the hell everyone’s talking about.
“My brother had one Cure album when I was growing up,” said 26-year-old McQuorcodale, who began classical piano lessons in grade school. “I liked it, but I wasn’t sitting around listening to Joy Division or The Psychedelic Furs.”
Watson said: “People come up to us after we play and say, ‘You remind me of Book of Love and The Cocteau Twins.’ I never heard these groups before.”
Watson and McQuorcodale should be prepared to handle all kinds of questions about their influences, because they seem to have reached an early career tipping point. In addition to performing at a recent well-attended SXSW gig and recently completing tours of the West Coast and Midwest with their mentors, the Denton-based [daryl], Black Tie Dynasty has just released its debut on local Idol Records. The six-song EP titled This Stays Between Us was produced by Brian McDonald, Mike Lamm, and the band (rounded out by Blake McWhorter on bass and Eddie Thomas on drums). The tunes were written in a completely collaborative process: Watson pens the lyrics, and he says the harmonic spine of a song “can come out of anywhere” — Brian’s keys or the rhythmic drive of Blake and Eddie.
The musicians have, in fact, a sizable bank of compositions that stretches back to their previous incarnation. Just two years ago, Black Tie Dynasty was called Moxie, whose signature sound was based on Watson and McQuorcodale’s straight-ahead indie-guitar approach. Moxie even released a full-length album. But McQuorcodale says that, since he dropped piano to learn guitar as a teen-ager — something that most male adolescents who want to play in rock bands think they have to do — he had always yearned to return what he calls the “soulful” sound of the piano.
Watson doesn’t know if writing songs is easier with a keyboard than a guitar, but he says that “when Brian picks something out on the synth, it just sounds bigger and more emotional. I know it pulls more out of me as far as lyrics go.”
Black Tie Dynasty’s experience earlier this month in the Austin music festival is a textbook example of how corporations are trolling local scenes through the internet underground, looking for ways to enter the ground floor of a young band’s nascent success. Apple Computers approached the group to do a tie-in promotional for its iPod product. That promotion came in the form of 200 plastic “credit cards” with the band’s name and image as well as a PIN number so potential fans could download “Crime Scene” (the first tune off This Stays Between Us) from iTunes, the company’s e-music store.
The iPod promotion and SXSW have netted Black Tie the phone numbers of a couple of major-label A&R guys — who do return calls. At the moment, though, the band is intently focused on its next few baby steps, preparing to record and release its first full-length later this year, also on Idol Records.
Whether you tag Black Tie Dynasty as a particularly inspired ’80s nostalgia act or a group of eager archeologists updating a once-popular but now foreign-sounding vibe, the musical landscape does feel right for their ascendance. Las Vegas’ synth punks The Killers may have just beat Black Tie to the national charts, but there’s still an oversaturation of American Idol-style histrionics and testosterone-addled hip-hop in today’s youth market. The guys in Black Tie Dynasty are all dressed up and ready to revive a unique kind of cool: the gloomy sci-fi ballad that seems to love isolation as much as it yearns for romantic connection. Indeed, Cory Watson and Company usually try to “class it up” a bit with blazers and ties onstage. He even gives his eyelashes a few swoops with a mascara brush for dramatic effect. “But,” he added quickly. “I don’t wear it around the house.”

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