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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Dichro

The Pittsburgh-based dark wave band Dichro may have invented an entirely new musical genre with their song “Mercy.” They call it goth-grass, and while it’s a bit dark, the song was inspired by a cute rescue kitty!

Charmaine and Peter from Dichro recently spoke with WYEP's Joey Spehar.

Dichro are:

Charmaine Freemonk: vocals, keyboards, electric ukulele
Peter Guellard: programming, bass, upright bass, keyboards, sampling, additional guitars
Tracey Whorton: drums
Dirk Miller: electric guitars
Adrian Adioetomo: resonator guitar, electric guitars

What’s your musical history up to this point?    

Charmaine: We formed as a sort of online project during the pandemic, to do a unique cover of "Man Of Constant Sorrow" — a project which Peter conceptualized and executed with the musical input of myself, Dirk Miller, Tracey Whorton, and Megan Williams. Shortly thereafter, I was inspired to write the first draft of "One Lane Bridge," which I sent to Peter to put his magic production touch on. When I got the track back, it really felt like we were onto something as a writing team, and we decided to reach out to Tracey and Dirk to see if they were interested in forming a band and writing more.

So, we kept writing and eventually rehearsing the music together. Later, Megan re-joined us on violin for multiple live acoustic performances of Dichro songs. As far as individual members go, we all have our histories — for myself, I have been writing lyrics and music as long as I could remember, with a solo stint in the Pittsburgh area as a singer-songwriter who played classical/rock/theatrical piano, and currently when I gig solo I play the acoustic or electric uke.

There’s quite a bit more: I’ve sat in with and jammed with a lot of local and non-local bands on keys and vocals, but those are the highlights.

Peter: Before I became the producer and bass player for Dichro, I played with the Pittsburgh industrial legends Venus In Furs, as well as a trip-hop band called UnaDeLuna. Earlier, I fronted Mace, a Pittsburgh industrial/techno ensemble, and spent a year touring with The Electric Hellfire Club an industrial band from Kenosha, Wisconsin signed to Cleopatra Records. As you can see, I have remained loyal to a type of music based heavily on electronics.

How do you describe your sound? 

Charmaine: Dichro overall is dark wave — but we have elements of Prog rock, punk, pop, some say metal, psychedelic… the tunes are all very melody-driven with unique beats and rhythmic patterns for each. Vocally and lyrically, I range from very melodramatic/ethereal to rock/rap. It’s a lot of fun.

"Mercy," which listeners will be hearing this week, is a standalone on the album, in a style we are calling "GothGrass." Pete has a great explanation of that and how it came about — starting with our first collaboration on "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Peter: Charmaine astutely describes Dichro as “an eclectic genre mixer.” The three constants in our music are the minor keys we favor for songwriting, dark sound, and the use of electronics. As a live band, evolving from a four-piece to a five-piece ensemble, we rely heavily on guitar sounds blended with robust elements of goth, industrial, and trip-hop. The term “goth-grass” emerged after we completed shooting “Mercy,” our first single from the upcoming album. This concept originated during the pre-band online jam for “Man of Constant Sorrow” which we did during the pandemic. The idea of taking an old Americana tune and immersing it in a hot, industrial-electro blend was conceived then.

This year, we have continued this approach with the song “Mercy” and its accompanying music video. As your listeners likely know, filming a music video requires the band to lip-sync to a track. The track we used was the initial version of “Mercy,” recorded exclusively with electronic and electric instruments. However, the video concept necessitated that we play a 100-year-old drum kit, upright bass, banjo, and resonator guitar. During the editing process, something felt amiss, prompting me to re-cut the bass track using an acoustic upright bass and incorporate resonator guitar overlays. This transformation fundamentally altered the song’s sound, and those who heard it unanimously agreed that we had discovered a fresh new sound: Americana fused with electronica.

Concurrent with this development, we welcomed a new musician into our fold: Adrian Adioetomo, an exceptionally talented guitarist from Indonesia who has mastered the greasy, dark tones of delta blues. I think, integrating these elements has rendered Dichro’s sound quite unique.


Tell us more about the song "Mercy." What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?  

Charmaine: The song itself was inspired by time spent with my rescue kitty, Jillian. I care about and connect deeply with my animals, and like many paw parents, I wonder from time to time if I am doing enough for them. I was having some spiritual communion time with Jillian one day and asked her this, and she settled into a close cuddle, put her head on my chest and I felt her tell me that as long as I am loving her and staying focused on the good we can do and be, that that is enough for her. She was an old, old soul and an amazing cat. I translated this experience into the line “If you can’t do me no right, please don’t do me no harm - keep your eyes locked tight on the light and help my bones stay warm.”

The rest of the song concept and is me fleshing out the messaging, adding some other philosophical and metaphysical ideas in there such as the line “believe what you want what you see what you know and receive this love…” which is about the laws of attraction and manifestation. The other end of it all is my personal cry for mercy from those who would judge someone for having a more open-ended interpretation of spiritual concepts and religious practices. I was raised to be Methodist Christian and a good deal of pressure was put on me in my youth to believe and practice a certain way but I had always questioned the doctrine and various interpretations of it. I seek to show people you can be spiritual without a strong affiliation to any one religion.

Dichro is an interesting name for a band. How did it come about?

Charmaine: “Dichro” is short for “Dichroic Glass” which is a theme we leaned heavily on with the album “Stained Glass” which is coming out. And if you are familiar with dichroic glass, it is a beautiful glass media that you see in many applications from jewelry to vases and other sculptures and vessels. When you first look at it, it’s typically got a couple of different colors apparent but when you examine it closer, pick it up and turn it around in your hand, you can see these little flecks of minerals shining and sparkling and the colors shift and change. I feel that that is what our music is like, also. You can enjoy it as a whole, but if you get closer and peer more into it, it can become something else, and something else yet again. I also love the shining little flecks against the color in dichroic glass — it’s like the bits of light in the darkness that keep us going.

Peter: It is quite amusing to us that there is a plethora of pronunciations.

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What was the first album that really changed your life?   

Charmaine: First one that changed my life? I think that Chumbawamba’s "Tubthumber" was a real eye-opener for me. They’re highly underrated in the U.S. but they’re an amazing folk-punk outfit who were singing about human rights and government corruption and the song “Mary Mary” in particular was a major anthem for me in high school. I always looked up to people who overcame their inner turmoil to do something in the world — make an impact, help others feel not so alone… "Spiritual Machines" by Our Lady Peace was also highly influential for me.

Peter: It was definitely Nine Inch Nails’ “Pretty Hate Machine.” In 1990, while still living in my native Poland, I encountered this entirely new and unique sound for the first time. After immigrating to the USA, I knew very few local musicians with whom I could form a band, so I bought a Roland W-30 music workstation. This was before the Pro Tools and computers and allowed me to compose and produce entire songs by myself, much like Trent Reznor. He has been my greatest inspiration in music production, exemplifying a live band that delivers a super energetic show, relying not only on guitars but also on extensive use of electronics.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

Charmaine: Hemlock for Socrates are sooo fun; fancy on stage and different with great vocalists and a well-curated stage show. Wojo is a singer-songwriter who has a very intelligent lyrical style with melody-driven writing and catchy hooks and rhythms — upbeat melancholia at its finest. Melt are phenomenal and fun; they’re punk/rock loud and crunchy but with thoughtful lyrics and a great stage show and concept. As a Martian, I approve. Also big fan of Dream the Heavy, and Greywalker over here. There is really a ton of talent in this town... I could go on!

Peter: Like Charmaine, I enjoy listening to Hemlock for Socrates, though I recently saw Tiny Wars opening for The Clarks, and I must say, their performance left a strong impression on me.

Any other super interesting things about you we should know?   

Charmaine: First, very important is that we are signed to Distortion Productions and we are ecstatic to be releasing our first album “Stained Glass” on this label. On Aug. 23 at Club Cafe with Murder For Girls and Black Rose Burning, that all goes down!

Unrelated to the band, I am on Netflix, episode 2 of their series “Cat People” — I am also a cat rescuer, trainer, and toured with the group Rock Cats Rescue for several years. I ran the animal talent agency for a while, also. And on that note, we have a major fundraising project coming up in conjunction with the album’s release where we will be releasing one acoustic track each month starting in September, via BandCamp on Bandcamp Friday, when all of the proceeds go to the artists. We will pass on 100% of those earnings to a different Pgh-local animal welfare organization each month. I might be biting off more than I can chew saying this, but I would love to make it a monthly thing regardless. We’ll see how far we can take it.

Peter: We have established long-term goals for the band and are planning a European tour in 2025. The highlight of this tour will be our performance at the Castle Party Festival, the largest goth/industrial festival in Eastern Europe, held on the grounds of a 14th-century Gothic castle. It is an absolutely remarkable venue for darker music. Having signed a two-record deal with Distortion, we will be writing another set of songs. I am particularly excited about this, given the musical experience we have gained since writing our first album.

In addition to my work with the band, I am a music and video producer with several music video projects lined up for the near future. I also produce remixes under the name Psychotribe, (previously Saint'N) for other artists, have a bunch of them released even on major labels like EMI, and just very recently, in June, one of my remixes was released in Europe by NUN Electro, a well-known Polish EDM band.

Check out Dichro at their album release show at Club Café on August 23rd.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.