Photo: John Griffith

Felix Bartlett

Freelance Photographer, Journalist and Print Editor based in London. Usually found in the pit capturing snaps for CLUNK

Joe Sutkowski aka Dirt Buyer announces his forthcoming album Dirt Buyer II out October 20 via Bayonet Records. Along with the album announce, he shares his second single ‘Fentanyl’ paired with a music video shot at Baby’s All Right.

What it means to be alive also means coming to terms with mortality itself, and Sutkowski wrote album centerpiece ‘Fentanyl’ about an experience walking to his day job one day and being confronted by a fatal overdose he had to call an ambulance for, before reporting to work and having to carry on with his day. Join us as we chat to Joe about his latest single and his journey in crafting his latest album.

It’s been 2 years since your self titled release. Can you fill us in on what you’ve been up to since then.

Dirt was on the up and up right as the world was about to end. Once we went into lockdown, we pretty much lost all momentum. For a long while after, my relationship with Dirt Buyer as a project was complicated. During that summer, I wrote and recorded a solo record with my friend Hayden Ticehurst at Studio G in Greenpoint. I released it under my own name through Danger Collective Records and started gigging on it once regulations became less intense. Pretty quickly, my solo project just became Dirt Buyer again and the rest is history. I decided that the album we’d recorded in February of 2020 deserved a proper release and the folks at Bayonet graciously took it in and have been running a kick-ass campaign so far. Other than that, I’ve just been trying to write as many bangers as possible for the next record that I’m starting to make.

With your new album ‘Dirt Buyer II‘ coming out can you tell us how it differs to your earlier work? 

The first release I made with Ruben who used to play drums. We just wrote as many emo songs as we could until there was an album’s-worth of material. It was never supposed to be a real band; we made the album as a passion project, so there wasn’t necessarily any real vision that I was aware of at the time. What I didn’t realize then was that I was figuring out my own style of songwriting. The first record is very raw and angry and touches on a lot of feelings and emotions that I was doing my best to process during that time. I think Dirt Buyer II is more sure of what it is in an intentional way. At this point, I know how I like to write music, and am much more comfortable and intentional with the subject matter being what it is. I think that the songs on Dirt II are more mature or more “adult” or whatever, compared to the first release.

You touch on some raw emotions and themes across your discography – can you tell me some of the inspiration and themes you’ve explored in this new album? 

I always pull from personal experience; be it something that happened to me a long time ago, or a way that I’m feeling in this current moment. Dirt Buyer II was heavily inspired by the fantastical imagery of Sparklehorse lyrics and the streamlined poeticism of Leonard Cohen works. I was born in New Jersey and grew up in the woods, so imagery of greenery, trees, and bugs come up a lot as well. This record was focused mainly on heartbreak and learning to navigate an existence in which I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I think it’s about being okay with feeling things that are difficult to feel and conquering the ugly parts of yourself that you don’t want to see.

Can you tell us about the recording process for this new album? 

We recorded the album over a week(ish) upstate in a house in White Sulphur Springs. We set up all of our gear in the living room and Hayden was engineering from the kitchen. It was really fast and easy. I recorded the vocals for ‘Tears My Heart In Two‘ outside on the deck. It was strange hearing my voice echo over the trees for miles as I yelled the song.

You’ve released a slew of singles for the new record. Can you tell me more about the track ‘Fentanyl’. 

Fentanyl‘ is about a time I was walking to have breakfast with my friend before work. It was raining and I was going down a street that I hadn’t been down before. As I passed the public playground, this guy ran out through the gate and then up to me. He said “my friend is overdosing, can I use your phone to call 911?” I said “yeah, of course,” and handed him my phone. The fire department and some EMTs showed up in an ambulance. I don’t really want to get into the gorey details of this, but the overdose victim definitely didn’t make it. I was standing there as they wheeled him out to the ambulance and once they threw him in the back, everybody just left without saying anything to me. It was myself and this guy whose friend had just been taken away. I didn’t know what to say to him so i wished him and his friend well and asked he take care of himself.

Out of the tracks on the new album are there any that stand out in particular to you? 

I always really liked the imagery in the lyrics of the intro. It feels like a dream sequence. “All the animals are dancin’ in sync, to the beat of old Americana in an ice rink.” 

Can you explain the artwork? I see you’ve gone back to a similar style to your 2019 album ‘Of Wisdom & Folly

My friend Tyler designed the album art for both records. For Of Wisdom & Folly, they took film photos of me lighting off fireworks at my mom’s house in New Jersey. You can see my red backpack in the bottom left corner; it was filled to the brim with bottle rockets and other fireworks. The photo on the Dirt II album cover is one that was taken by Tyler’s friend. They let us use it which is super cool. I think they took it upstate, but I honestly don’t remember. I felt it really fit the vibe of the album.

Looking back at earlier albums can you share how this project started? 

My friend Ruben and I wanted to start a fake record label where all the bands were just us. We were trying to cover a lot of ground and play a lot of different styles of music. Dirt Buyer was gonna be our emo band. One day when we were playing together, I played the riff that later became Josephine and then stopped. He convinced me that we needed to record it and after we did, we started focusing more heavily on making music in that style. Like I said, Dirt Buyer was never supposed to be a real band, but it just kinda stuck. 

Looking ahead can you share what your plans are as a band are for the rest of the year? 

I’m planning on making a new record in November and hopefully touring this new record come the new year. The record release show is gonna be at Baby’s All Right on October 23. I’m super excited to keep writing songs and I’m gonna keep showing up for myself and doing my dang best!

‘Dirt Buyer II’ is due out on October 20 via Bayonet Records. Watch the video for Gathering Logs below:

Let us know what you think!