The Dirty Little Betty's
The Dirty Little Betty’s
By Tonya Little
Oklahoma City ~ Every once in a blue moon you come across music and musicians that carry a certain kind of mesmerizing energy and vibe that just pull you in and make you want more. That’s what The Dirty Little Betty’s do. A relatively new band on the scene, it is made up of; Clinton Avery Tharp on vocals and guitar (and occasionally the banjo when they swap around instruments), Sam Hochenaur on banjo, harmonies and guitar, Andy Adams on bass and harmonica, David Bruster on upright bass, pedal steel and guitar, and Scotty Buxton on drums. Many of these names you may have seen in other bands and music projects, because they have all played in various settings around the Oklahoma area. Including Buxton, who was the original drummer for the Red Dirt Rangers. I’ve gotten to see them perform twice in the last couple of weeks, as well as sit down and chat with them about their music and band.
They actually set up an entire “scene” when they perform at their shows. They bring random props and giant signs. There’s a very large stuffed tiger, an old vintage doll, a random head with a hat on it, and a rotary phone among other items.
“We like to bring props, just because. I feel like all growing up I always just wanted to be an entertainer you know. I mean like honestly I don’t mind jokes at my own expense to make other people laugh. I feel like in another life I would have been a jester,” explained Tharp.
Tharp is definitely an entertainer. During the show, he stopped between songs to read a spoken word piece he had saved on his phone, which was both nonsensical and brilliant all at the same time. He has a definite flair for the dramatic, but also incorporated with style and humor as well.
“We’re bringing the theater back to the bars,” laughed Hochenaur.
“Yeah, I want to write a slopera; a sloppy opera. That’s kind of what our song Freaky Ballerina is. We just want to explore whatever we can really. I don’t want to be in just one genre or something. I just want to keep moving in a bunch of different areas,” said Tharp.
I think there will be some people who aren’t sure if they should take these guys seriously, with their thift store clad ensemble and ridiculous conversations, but all you have to do is watch them perform and hear their music to realize that these guys are the real deal. The lyrics in their songs are layered with meaning, but offer humor with slightly dark and beguiling undertones. The instrumentals are fantastic as well. Their sounds offer a mix of everything thrown together; a bit of folk, a dash of Americana, a smattering of bluegrass, a layer of red dirty country, and a whole lot of fun. It’s a greasy mosaic of sounds and styles, and I really dig it. Like the founders of the Red Dirt Movement back in the 70’s and 80’s, these guys are mixing and melding genres and refuse to play by “the rules” of the music game. You can see the artistic and creative drive behind it all, which just adds yet another layer to their music.
“It’s stinky, kind of vulgar. I don’t know sometimes there’s a sense of like… I feel like we use a lot of poetic elements in it. I feel like the lyrics matter in it. I don’t feel like it’s just a bunch of fluff, although it is a bunch of filth sometimes,” replied Tharp when asked to describe their music.
“Sometimes it’s just a bunch of nonsense,” interjected Hochenaur.
“Yeah but it’s thought out, that’s when it’s got poetic elements,” explained Tharp.
Most of the guys in the band had already been friends for years, and played together in various other musical projects when they stumbled upon this band.
“Sam and I wrote a song together on David Bruster’s back porch, it’s on our BandCamp site, called Back Porch. We were on the back porch singing, we had been up all night drinkin’ and whatnot, all the bells were ringing. After that we were like, are we a band? And then Sam calls me one day and says ‘I got the name’,” said Tharp. “There’s this one song where we say dirty little betty and he said ‘The Dirty Little Betty’s’ and I said I f***ing love it. So we became The Dirty Little Betty’s, about a year ago. We’ve just been writing and sort of in the recording process since then.”
The band has only been in existence for the last year, but they already have about 13 songs ready to go, and are in the process of recording an album.
“A muse like Sam is awesome, because I feel myself getting caught up trying to maybe get too deep and Sam’s like super shallow. No I’m just kidding, Sam will pull out the most random sh*t out of his ass, like the other day we started writing our song called Freaky Ballerina,” said Tharp. “We started working on it a little bit, and he’s like practicing plies, and I didn’t even know what at plie was. It’s kind of like a curtsey, right?”
“I went to Catholic school and had to take ballet, as a class. I know my positions,” replied Hochenaur with a hand on each of his suspenders in mock pride.
You never really know what topics might come up chatting with these guys. You can’t help but be constantly entertained when you are in their company. Tharp is such a distinctive character, full of quirky zeal and charisma, and the rest of the guys aren’t far behind either. The conversations definitely took some crazy turns here and there, including the topic of backyard carnivals (also another song of theirs) and the many different and bizarre carnival games that could be done when they do actually host a backyard carnival, which is something they hope to coordinate soon.
The guys have been laying down tracks at a studio in Oklahoma City, but still have a while before they get it all wrapped up and ready for release. Until then they have two songs available on Bandcamp at www.thedirtylittlebettys.bandcamp.com.
The song Back Porch is a toe tapping bluegrassy song, the kind that builds up quickly and makes you want to bounce with the beat almost immediately. Tharp’s voice is mellow and smooth, and the lyrics paint a vivid picture yet also a very simple one. The song shines through both in its genuine simplicity and in its depth instrumentally with the spirited sounds of the harmonica and banjo layered throughout.
The second song that they have available on Bandcamp is called Magical Mystics which slows the sounds way down to begin with and offers an almost eerie, psychedelic rock vibe woven in. Tharp’s woeful singing in it even reminds me a bit of Jim Morrison and The Doors in ways. The song picks up speed for a frantic pace for just a few moments before slowing back down, with the added metallic clanking of chains in the mix, giving it an even darker almost gothic energy. I think that the vast differences between these two songs are just a testament to the range and abilities of these guys to not be singled into one box.
You can check out The Dirty Little Betty’s on Facebook and Twitter, where you can find more about the band and details about upcoming shows. You definitely are going to want to check them out.