Dashboard Mary Still Going Strong
It has been 16 years since Dashboard Mary took their first step on stage. They played to a packed house at a smoky bar in Scranton, thinking nothing could beat this feeling and nothing could ever change. Rob Roman and Joe DelRosso are still a staple of the NEPA music scene, but it seems everything else has changed.
JumpStart!: How did you get involved in music?
Rob Roman: I was ten years old and I saw Bryan Adams’, “Cuts Like A Knife.” I went to my mom and told her I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. About a year later, I was learning on my own. I was obsessed. Once the guitar came into my life, it was all music.
Joe DelRosso: I was ten years old when I started playing the guitar and since then I have always been involved in music.
JS: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public? RR: It was jammed packed.
JD: It was smoky.
Both: And we thought every show was going to be like that.
JD: And they were for about five years.
JS: How did you guys come up with your name? JD: Our original drummer, Jim Peters, came up with the name.
RR: Yeah, he named us and left. He came up with it because car dashes used to be made out of metal. People used to be able to put religious relics on their dashes, so people sometimes think we are a religious band. Others think it is something sexual, like a Mary in the back seat, but really it means whatever you want it to mean.
It is a catchy name and it’s us.
JS: How did you guys meet?
JD: Peters introduced us when he started the original band. We just clicked from the start.
RR: We have had six drummers and five singers since then.
JD: But me and Rob have and are constants. But when we have our full Dashboard Mary band, we have Ryan Fenton on drums, I play bass, and Lena Ramano is our lead singer.
JS: What is the process like for writing your music and picking your songs? RR: We don’t really have a set list. We do look at the crowd and read the room. There is a basic list in front of us, but we have been together for so long now we know when to keep it soft or do the heavy stuff.
JD: We don’t write music together. We come to each other with a fully prepared song and then each help a little with the song.
RR: It’s like, here’s what I wrote, give me a bass line. We just understand each other.
JS: How have you changed as a musicians over the years? JD: We started with covers by Godsmack, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Staind. We were a really heavy band. Now, we have done a complete turn around. We are more like Matchbox 20.
RR: We can play anything from Van Halen to Nirvana. We have a wide variety being able to play every end of the spectrum, but our set list has drastically changed.
JD: When we have Lena on vocals we can do anything from Blondie to Miranda Lambert.
JS: What are some of your favorite memories as a musician? JD: The after parties. We would be up till the birds were chirping. Every musician would know to come over after their gigs. Everyone was good friends and knew everyone.
RR: When we played CBGB in New York City, a year after 9/11. It was a benefit show and somehow, out of 500 bands, we were one of the 50 they picked to play. We played four original songs. It was just amazing to have our feet on that stage. I can remember walking around New York City with my guitar case and seeing a poster on a pole that we didn’t hang there, and that was promoting us. That was exciting.
JS: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
JD: Every band used to play till 2 a.m. Now your set is 8 to midnight, or 7 to 10 p.m. Every bar its “last song by midnight.” Times changed, as always, but it could come back. MTV killed the radio, and the radio came back.
RR: When we first started we didn’t know what song to play next and what club to call first. People used to want to go out and hear bands. Now it’s all dance music and DJs and we have to compete with the games on TV or darts or pool.
JD: When started, everything was electric, so we were different with the acoustic guitar mixed with the electric guitar. (Rob plays electric guitar, he likes to have the notes ring out and have the power of the sound behind it. Joe plays the acoustic.) Nobody else was mixing those sounds. We can do songs in full with both, able to play all the chords. We keep rhythm with the acoustic and play with the electric.
RR: We would go to bars where people were waiting for us. We still get a good crowd today, but it was different.
JS: Who has influenced you over the years? JD: As cliche as it sounds, The Beatles. They are everyone’s biggest influence. They just were great singers and song writers. Also, Bruce Springsteen, I mean, he’s The Boss.
RR: Without a doubt, Mötley Crue and Matchbox 20.
JS: What is the biggest challenge? JD: The original end of it, getting our own songs exposed. We wish people would want to hear original music. Everyone has good music out there in this area.
RR: We are just waiting for that wave to come in. Twenty years ago, 20-somethings would ask, “Who’s playing tonight?” They wanted to go out and see bands. Fast forward, the youth today aren’t asking that question. They are happy with the jukebox and darts.
JS: What are your future goals for the band?
RR: I will play guitar till the day I die. I will be in a wedding band just to play guitar. But we are working on two CDs. One country and one alternate rock. All originals.
JD: We are trying to get those out there. We just filmed a video for our new song “Castaways.”
RR: We would love people to check that out and hear our originals. It was shot in Dewey Beach so it’s lots of beach scenes and me wanting to be Jimmy Buffet.
Members: Duo: Rob Roman and Joe DelRosso
Quartet: Roman (electric), DelRossa (bass), Lena Romano (singer) and Ryan Fenton (drummer)
Genre: Covers and originals Buy music: Amazon and iTunes
Upcoming Shows: Oct. 7 at Levels in Scranton (acoustic), Oct. 8 at Posh in Scranton (acoustic) and Oct. 14 at Honky Tonk in Dumore (full band).