Decked out in a Mr. Spock costume complete with pointy ears, Dale Jones sits in a vegan restaurant in Oak Cliff and expresses concern about not being accepted by the Dallas music scene.
"A lot of people in Dallas don't like my music," says the leader of New Science Projects, Denton's blues/punk collection of hygienically challenged uber nerds. "It's not their kind of thing. They don't like it. They don't want it. It doesn't have any keyboards. It's not electronic. It's not very danceable."
Seems Jones had just left a Star Trek convention earlier in the day. That explains his outfit, but not his anxiety.
"My music is not flashy. I think things in Dallas are more upscale, maybe not financially, but emotionally," Jones says.
Understanding the world of Dale Jones is not an easy task. And it's safe to say that the guy likes it that way. At 24, Jones is as enigmatic as they come. Part super geek, part depressed punk, Jones is rarely coherent but never boring. His history reads like a manual on how not to be conventionally successful. Dropping out of school at 15 and experimenting with various illegal substances found the young Jones in a beleaguered state.
"Basically, I didn't think school was something I wanted to do at the time," Jones says.
"I was struggling with a lot of things. I spent a lot of time alone. I was hanging around people that I shouldn't have been hanging around with. I ended up in a lot of trouble."
Music provided the way out of that trouble and over the course of seven albums, Jones has delivered a consistently powerful and goofball assortment of punk and power pop.
Hard On is the latest release Jones has made under the New Science Projects banner. Initially, it was just Jones alone, madly strumming his acoustic guitar in any coffee shop that would let him. Once Jones realized that his songs needed more depth, he recruited a band and released Bikini Salute in 2011.
Much more engaging, coherent and dynamic, the songs on Bikini Salute were uniformly great. Hard On, despite its offhand title, ups the ante even further, showcasing actual melody and restraint. Songs like "Banana," "Second Wifer" and "Dancing With the Stars" mix the feel of old-school British punk with Jones' chaotic take on country and blues. Noisy and joyfully unpolished, Jones' best songs are always tethered to some notion of sanity.
"It is shock and awe together," Jones says describing the new effort. "Like the Iraq war. That's a good way to describe it."
Both albums show a local unique band clearly hitting its prime, so much so that it is quite understandable that Jones is disappointed in the band's reception in Dallas. In Denton, Jones has seen a consistent level of support, but the turnout in Dallas remains a mystery.
"I think there is an attitude towards my music because it's something more confrontational," Jones says. Yet there are many confrontational bands in Big D; just check out The Phuss or Power Trip for clarification. Perhaps it's Jones' admittedly bizarre stage behavior. Oftentimes caked in paint, Jones' activities on stage border on mental illness. An observer at a recent performance thought Jones suffered from Asperger's Syndrome. Jones claims it's all basically a way to fend off anxiety.
"If I played on stage in my own personality, I would be entirely too nervous to pull it off," Jones explains. "That's not to say that it is entirely an act, because there is a consciousness behind it. Most of the time on stage, I am not thinking about it at all. Maybe if I were myself, I would be and that would be a bad idea."
Taken together, Jones' music and stage persona is actually a wonder to behold. His songs can be caterwauling messes that are barely held together by the gloriously rudimentary drumming of Scarlett Wright. Other times, the band's nerdy take on power pop shines through as Jones' hummable melodies take center stage. Through it all, Jones babbles on like a kid with the wrong ADHD medication.
"I definitely feel liberated by performing the way that I do," Jones says. "When you are on stage, it's different. When you have everyone's attention, you lose the anxiety. It's almost like being a performer justifies existing."
Despite his obvious talent, Jones doesn't show much confidence in his music.
"I have a really bad habit of thinking that everything I do is really terrible," Jones says. "And both my parents just hate my music. They think it is the worst music ever made. My mom has asked me to enunciate more clearly, although I don't think she would be pleased to know what I was actually saying. I hope that she doesn't find out what the album is called."
Even most bands' dream of being totally supported through their music is foreign to Jones.
"That is not possible," Jones says. "Maybe that's possible for other people, but not for me. I have never thought of music as a career option."
If Jones weren't making music, he insists he would be just as content doing something else, something far away from any microphone or stage.
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"I imagine myself in the future surrounded by files and digging through Xeroxed papers or information in foreign languages," Jones says. "Hopefully, I will have a sustained career."
"I would like to get a Ph.D.," Jones adds. "Otherwise, there is a gas station on every corner. Maybe a gas station doesn't pay very well, but if I keep my costs low, I could have a pretty OK life."
Hoping for a pretty OK life may be as optimistic as Jones can get. But his pragmatic approach, like his music, is pretty damn refreshing. Too bad the good vibes don't often last very long. Live long and prosper be damned.
"I am just this real asshole," Jones says. "I continue and probably will continue to be an asshole. It's part of my reality. I can't deal with people. I don't like fun. I don't really hang out."