Talking With Dinner And A Suit

Dinner And A Suit bassist Anthony “Max” Genca talks with Pollstar about touring, making records and building the band’s brand in the post-Napster era.

Founded in 2008 by Genca and his cousins Jonathan Capeci (vocals/guitar) and Joey Beretta (vocals/guitar), the rock band Dinner And A Suit takes its name from the Great Depression era when their great-grandmother was a seamstress and their great-grandfather would often invite someone down on his luck to come to their house for a home-cooked meal.  Not only would those guests often leave the house with full stomachs, but many of them received new suits tailored by the great-grandmother.

Currently on tour supporting South Africa’s The Parlotones, Genca described how Dinner And A Suit always insisted on playing original music, even during their early years gigging at Philadelphia bars and clubs. Genca also talked about the band’s use of social media platforms to promote itself and how recording Dinner And A Suit’s first album – 2012’s Since Our Departure – was “a very weird process.”

Photo: Brad Clawson

The band moved from New Jersey to Nashville, a city where the music industry is in full force.  What has surprised you most about the business of making music?

As far as the two different locations, Philly was great for us for a while. We grew up in South Jersey but we mostly played out in Philly because there weren’t too many places to play in New Jersey.  It’s surprising … a lot of the scene in Philly that we found was cover bands.  You can get gigs anywhere as a cover band but as original music it’s very hard to get good shows and people to come out.  That’s one of the reasons why we moved to Nashville was to take it a little more seriously.  We had some connections and Nashville has been outstanding for us. 

There’s every different type of music in Nashville, which surprised me as well. You’d think you’d just go there and listen to country but they got rock, metal, punk, alternative, everything.

But just about ever act has played covers at one time or another if only to get a gig.  Did Dinner And A Suit play any covers?

We didn’t really do it.  We stuck to original music.  We throw a cover in every once in a while in our set.  We do a little bit of John Mayer sometimes.  Coldplay, Death Cab For Cutie …  We did Lights when she first came out. … We didn’t really do cover gigs.  We stuck to our original music gigs.

Dinner And A Suit has had a few drummers. Are you tired of hearing all the Spinal Tap jokes about drummers?

[laughs] Naw.  Right now we have Drew [Scheuer] and he’s been wonderful for us.  He’s everything we needed.  We have gone through our fair share of drummers, at least five or six of them, now.  No one ever seems to stick but we’re really hoping Drew is in it for the long haul.

The rest of you are all family – cousins – so when you bring in a drummer, he’s not, “of the blood,” so to speak.  He’s a newcomer in a family situation.  That’s got to be tough for anyone.

We made Drew feel like family from the get-go.  He’s been really great and it hasn’t been very difficult at all.  We’re all easy going, we’re all friends and we kind of lucked out that we all get along very well.

Being a young band, I’m guessing you and your bandmates still have to sell the band to people not familiar with your music. To them, how do you describe Dinner And A Suit?

I guess the genre we would say is pop/rock with some alternative feel to it.  Generally, we just try to let them hear for themselves.  Send them to our social media [sites], let them listen and decide for themselves what they think we are.  We play music that we love, that we enjoy … that’s about it.

Dinner And A Suit is a post-Napster band in that it was birthed in a world where traditional methods of making and distributing music didn’t necessarily apply and people often think music should be free. Are you heavily invested in social media to get the word out?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. We’re on every social media [platform] – Twitter, Instagram, all that.  YouTube, everything.  Facebook, you name it.  It’s been great for us.

We started out on YouTube.  It was, like, our real push on social media.  What Jon and Joe would do is put up covers every once in a while to kind of keep it interesting … before we were writing.  That really helped. We’d see subscribers and people buying our iTunes daily.  Once Instagram and Twitter came, we’d go on there and follow people, random people, and send them to our site.  We’d find that it helps.  They’d follow us back, enjoy it, and buy our albums.

We make it an effort to respond to every single person who sends us something on any type of social media website. Just make that connection and hopefully, when they come to a show, we can connect further then.

How is the tour with The Parlotones going?

It’s been awesome.  They’re the nicest guys, ever.  We’ve gotten great responses from the crowds.  It’s been a blessing to be on tour with these guys.

The Parlotones occupy a somewhat unusual position in that they’re monstrously big in their home country, selling out stadiums in South Africa yet they’re just another club band when they tour the states.

Yeah.  It’s really interesting.  We talked to them about that a little bit. They enjoy the challenge of coming over here and kind of starting over and having to gain fans at every show and win them over.  They enjoy it and we enjoy watching them every night.

Generally speaking, what’s life on the road like when you’re touring as direct support?  Do you get a sound check?

Sometimes.  Usually it’s just a line check.  Obviously The Parlotones get there first, they load in and they do a sound check and then we’ll back line it.  If there’s a local [band opening], they go ahead and put their stuff up there and they’ll get a sound check because there’s enough time for one more.  In between when the local and we play, we go up there and make sure all our lines are checked.  Every once if there isn’t a local, we’ll get the sound check.

Photo: Cait Adkins

How is the band traveling on this tour?

We’re traveling in a 15-passenger van and a trailer, sleeping in parking lots. … We usually end up crashing at a Walmart.

Does the experience of supporting a headliner make you and the band a bit more humble when Dinner And A Suit headlines?

Oh, yeah.  We tend to be humble guys to begin with. 

How old were you and your cousins when you began getting serious about music?

When we were in New Jersey, we kind of did it as a hobby. We liked it and we enjoyed it. We practiced all the time and played in Joe’s basement.  That was … 2008.  Five years ago. I was 22.  The guys were 19.

So you were all out of high school and this isn’t the story of a few teenage music students wanting to make it a career?

Joe and Jon technically started together in college. They went to a private college in Valley Forge, Pa.  That’s where it all began and they picked me up along the way and we eventually met Drew.

Photo: Cait Adkins
Jonathan Capeci and Anthony Genca

Where do you think you and your cousins would have ended up if the band didn’t happen?

I have no idea.  I don’t think any of us know.  I know Jon was going to school for English and Joe was going to school for business but I don’t think any of us could sit at a desk or anything.

What was your day job at that time?

I had a ton of jobs.  I was working at a grocery store, at a production company, landscaping, window washing – anything to make money.  Nothing permanent.  I don’t think I worked at the same job for more than a year.

How does the band create the music?

I think it definitely starts with someone bringing an idea to the table, whether it be a melody, a hook, lyric, a verse line or something like that.  Usually we kind of jam on it for a while and put our parts in. Lately Joe’s got a Pro Tools rig in his house in Nashville.  [He] puts in generic parts for bass and drums, brings it to the band and we’ll put our own parts in.  Sometimes we’ll just jam and Boom!  There’s a song.  That’s when it’s easy.

Are there ever times when someone just names a subject and then the band tries to work up a song about that subject?

I think on this album that we have out now – Since Our Departure – we did that a little bit. … It was a very weird process.  We only had three songs written when we went into the studio. So we recorded those three songs, and while we were recording, we wrote three more.  Then, while we were recording the three new ones, we wrote three more.  In the middle of that, we went into a room that was in the studio that had a grease board and wrote down some ideas, some thoughts that we wanted on this album.  We were like, “Let’s lyrically have some songs that explain this and this…’

What songs emerged from that?

I think “Where We Started” was kind of like that, a song about second chances.  “It’s Not Over” is a song about hope.  We kind of wrote that when the band was going through a time of doubt. It’s an anthem song, but it’s a song about [how] it’s not over. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you’re here for a purpose.

Because Dinner And A Suit is a young band with an EP and one album, do you find the live shows to be little more demanding because now you have a recorded version of your music to live up to?

Not necessarily.  We like to put it in the loop, intros and stuff like that to make the live set very interesting.  We wouldn’t [want you] to come to our show and it’s just like pressing “play” on a CD. 

It’s interesting when you come out of the studio because you kind of have to relearn the songs.  Because you’re in there so long and there’s just so much going on.  Drums and bass are the very first things you do.  You’re in the studio for a month, a month and a half and you’re like, “I have to play what I just did.”  So you’ve got to listen to the songs again to relearn what you just did.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve heard so far?

Don’t lose hope.  We’re trying to push our record to radio right now and keep touring and stuff like that.  Sometimes you just get discouraged.  Some nights are bad nights and some days are rough days.  But keep your focus on the future, don’t get discouraged and keep plugging away.

Photo: Brad Clawson
“We play music that we love, that we enjoy.”

Dinner And A Suit’s upcoming shows supporting The Parlotones include North Myrtle Beach, S.C., at House Of Blues April 26; Birmingham, Ala., at The Nick April 27; Austin, Texas, at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q / Waller Creek Amphitheatre April 29; and Dallas at House Of Blues April 30.

Shows in May include Albuquerque, N.M., at Launchpad May 2; Scottsdale, Ariz., at Pub Rock May 3; Las Vegas at Vinyl @ Hard Rock Hotel May 5; San Diego at The Griffin May 6 and West Hollywood at The Roxy Theatre May 7.

The band will headline a gig at the University Of California, Riverside May 8.  For more information about Dinner And A Suit, please visit the group’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube page and Tumblr blog.