Luke Dick From Republican Hair Straddles Country and Rock and Pop and Politics

Casey Pierce
On, the artist, creator and musician spells it out simply. “If I had to boil it all down to one thing," he says, "I’d call myself a storyteller."

Luke Dick knows what you’re thinking.

That name? In this political climate?

The moniker of his band — Republican Hair — might seem like some kind of liberal hippie provocation in this knee-jerk age of snowflake triggering, but the 39-year-old singer-songwriter would like to soothe your potentially aggrieved sensibilities.

“[The name] turned out to be such a different piece of rhetoric than what I imagined it to be to begin with,” he said recently by phone, from his Nashville home. “I just roll with it. Music is music, at the end of the day. If you’ve got a band called Diarrhea Planet that can do all right, you’re fine. … I don’t think anybody thought Radiohead was about people’s radios on their fucking heads.”

"I don’t think anybody thought Radiohead was about people’s radios on their fucking heads.” – Luke Dick

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The music in question provides another layer of fascination: Republican Hair might conjure the acoustic image of grimy, agitated punk, bashed out at ear-bleeding volumes, but here, the one-time philosophy professor tosses another curve ball.

The sounds found within Republican Hair’s catalog to date — last year’s EP The Prince & the Duke, and the 2016 long-player High and Tight — draw inspiration from Day-Glo synths and nervous, angular art-rock of the early 1980s.

Indeed, the funky strut of “Miss Prince” evokes listening to David Byrne huffing paint as a mash-up of Thriller and Sandinista! blares in the background. (Or, to quote Republican Hair’s Facebook page: “This is the sound of the sun exploding while you’re drinking a cherry Icee. My Vonnegut ate your Adam Ant.”)

The sly fusion of past and present becomes even more disorienting when taking Dick’s day job into account: An award-winning songwriter who logs time on Nashville’s famed Music Row.

The Oklahoma native has helped author a slew of tracks, earning national acclaim from the likes of NPR and Rolling Stone along the way, for most of country music’s A-list, including Miranda Lambert (“Pink Sunglasses”), Dierks Bentley (“Roses and a Time Machine”), Kacey Musgraves (“Velvet Elvis”) and Eric Church (“Kill a Word”), among many others.

He’s also putting the finishing touches on a documentary, Red Dog, about his mother and, as the project’s Kickstarter page describes it, “the most popular topless bar in Oklahoma City during the 1970s.”

The film, co-directed with Dallas filmmaker Casey Pinkston, will make the festival rounds next year. Dick is creating the documentary’s soundtrack, in collaboration with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney.

In whatever creative pursuit Dick immerses himself, the artistry lies in the spark of inventiveness.

“Inspiration, to me, is concept- and sound-driven,” Dick says. “That’s the name of the game, more than hype, more than what kind of pants you’re wearing, more than anything — it’s make a song that you love, that you wanna play for people, and that’s not just a bunch of fucking gobbledygook.”

Republican Hair’s latest salvo, “Fuck a Bomb,” is another sneakily addictive brain-bender, and the opening gambit in what Dick describes as “more stuff slated for release in the … early fall.”

The single, laced with soundbites from the likes of John F. Kennedy, straddles the fence between country and rock — the lyrics deftly celebrate the virtues of making music, not war — and finds Dick, again, blurring boundaries between pop and politics.

“Once I’m out on the road playing … [politics] is sort of the last thing that you should think about or worry about anyway,” Dick says. “Do I have political opinions? Of course I have political opinions. Everybody has a political opinion.”

What is certain, however, is Dick’s affection for Dallas, and the role it played in his musical maturation.

“Dallas, to me, is always the big brother city to where I come from, Oklahoma City,” he says. “The Dallas scene, when I was growing up, was huge. It was the first place I’d ever been to, as a young player in a band, where there was an energy to the city and people ready to go out and see a show, and the clubs there took pride in creating a space to have a great show in.

“I don’t know if I could call it a homecoming, but it is sort of a homecoming. I still get this weird, tingly feeling when I roll up on Dallas, y’know?”

Republican Hair plays Thursday, Sept. 27 at Three Links. Tickets are $12.