Local quartet Shoot the Mariner once performed live atop Cuesta Ridge under a canopy in a giant rainstorm. As frontman Daryl Dingman describes it, “The concert was extremely dangerous, but great fun.”
By Dawn Janke
Not all Shoot the Mariner shows teeter on the edge of safety, but by all accounts they are fun. And, they’re loud. In fact, when the band hosted their album release party at Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe in September of 2015, local police officers showed up because of the noise. “They let us finish one more song and then shut us down,” says guitarist Liam Hedriana.
Hedriana met bassist Matt Hahn in a music theory class at Cal Poly in 2011, and shortly thereafter the two became roommates and started playing music together. Hahn says in those days their “sound was always mellow, like coffee shop indie pop music.” Dingman entered the mix two years later and demanded that they start a new band. He explains, “I was very excited about the sound we were generating.”
At that time, the band wore wigs and played house shows with Dan Harrington and Dingman switching back and forth between drums and lead vocals. Harrington moved to Seattle in the summer of 2014, and Hedriana took off to Guatemala. For a minute, the guys thought the band was done.
Cue current drummer Dan Potts. Potts began his first year at Cal Poly that fall. He explains, “I was in five different bands simultaneously during high school, and I met [college radio station] KCPR people, so I applied for a DJ position as soon as I started at Poly. Daryl trained me at the station, and I started rehearsing with the band five weeks later.”
With Potts on drums, Dingman made a permanent move to front Shoot the Mariner, and the band focused on songwriting. In May of 2015, they recorded the six-song album “Undergrounds” at San Luis Obispo’s Speak Studios with Eric Mattson from the local hip hop/funk band Wordsauce, and since then they have released three additional recordings, one of which was captured on an iPhone.
Shoot the Mariner has been performing around San Luis Obispo for almost three years now and describes it as a great music town. Hedriana says, “Only a handful of places exist where you can still do the DIY music thing, and SLO is one of them. The scene is small and tightknit, and it’s a wonderful place to grow into your sound.” Dingman adds, “SLO has this homey vibe that reminds me of the Midwest, and the music that we play is notorious for having come out of that region—very polite places that generate aggressive sounds.”
When Shoot the Mariner performed at the Lost State Records Showcase at Frog and Peach in February of 2016, their sound caught the ear of Central Coast musician Patrick Hayes, whom the band credits for their success. Hedriana says, “We’re a dark horse type of band, and for a while it seemed like we didn’t get invited to gigs because we’re on the punkier side of things, but after hearing us perform, Pat reviewed us for [the music website] ninebullets.net. It was the first time anyone wrote anything about us, and it felt really good.”
Hedriana now resides in the Bay Area, and the band finds creative ways to make it work. “We can’t really practice, but our chemistry makes up for the limitations resultant of the distance,” says Hedriana. “Every time I come to SLO, we try to hammer out new ideas.” Hahn adds, “Dingman writes a skeleton of a song and teaches it to Dan and me, and then Liam chimes in and puts his stamp on it when he gets to town.”
On the heels of their second California tour, Shoot the Mariner’s current focus is on recording another album. Hedriana says, “We learned a lot on tour: played empty rooms, found out what works and what doesn’t work.” Hahn adds, “Our plan for the rest of the year is to write more songs and compile what we can. Then, we’re going back into the studio in December to record a full-length album.” “We’re aiming for an album release next year,” Potts finishes the thought.
Hedriana says most recently, the band’s songs have somewhat shifted into “prog” territory—“progressive, in that the songs are more linear and less formulaic.” He adds, “Daryl’s voice has the growl of [Modest Mouse’s] Isaac Brock, and the instrumentation is all over the map.” Dingman continues, “The idea behind our songwriting is that the songs will feed themselves. The more linear and egalitarian they are, the better they sound.”
Like the lyrical ballad to which their band name alludes, Shoot the Mariner’s linear sound weaves together personal experience and dramatic narrative. “A lot of our songs are like a grand human quest,” says Dingman. For him, the band’s sound is representative of the existential angst Coleridge conveys in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
In the poem, a mariner is cursed after senselessly shooting an albatross and finds peace only after telling his tale. Dingman, Hedriana, Hahn, and Potts see the mariner as symbolizing all of us. Dingman explains, “The mariner is a traveler who does what humans are supposed to do—believe in themselves, forge forward, defy all odds, and sail to the ends of the earth. Shooting the mariner would be tragic, but that’s exactly what occurs within the trappings of society: the most innate parts of our beings risk annihilation, and we’ve got to work against that.”
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