The Dexter Lake Club Band defies the cheesy wedding band stereotype. Many of its members have serious indie rock cred, having played and recorded with the likes of Willie Nelson and The Walkmen, while others are classically trained musicians. Here Bassist Jamie Krents explains their trajectory from commercial gigs to playing weddings, and their advice for couples who want a rocking wedding.
Your band was featured in the New York Times last year. Has that changed your business at all?
Yes, absolutely, it still seems like it must have been a very slow week in the news (luckily for us!). We were fairly busy before but it resulted in tons of calls from all sorts of people (including some awkward reality show offers) and, most importantly, helped a ton of couples who didn’t want a cheesy wedding band find us.
You’re known for being the “cool” wedding band–breaking the stereotype of cheesiness that many wedding bands get labeled with. How do you live up to that reputation?
It’s great that someone would call any wedding band cool, but we have always basically focused on the same thing, which is playing good music and avoiding the songs that are just painfully overdone or corny. There’s no reason that you have to pull out “YMCA” or butcher “Hey Ya,” just because you’re playing at a wedding. Essentially we try to help people make the band and music at their wedding really memorable and unique, and we genuinely like the music we play so we never feel like we’re cheesing out.
Tell us a bit about the diverse backgrounds of your musicians.
It’s a bit all over the place but, between us, members of the band have played and recorded with Willie Nelson, the Cars, French Kicks, the Walkmen, and the NY Philharmonic. Most of us met at Oberlin College, but some of the guys we met playing in various bands here in NYC. It’s a good mix of guys who went to school for music and can play jazz credibly during a cocktail hour and then some guys who spent years touring the country in bands playing indie rock.
How do you go about composing a set list for a wedding? How much input do you want from the bride and groom?
We want basically as much input as they can give us. We send people our set list and ask them to list their favorites/must-plays and also the songs they hate (we didn’t write them, so we don’t take that personally). It’s the best way for us to make sure that the music is reflective of their tastes and personalities. That said, we always make recommendations or speak up if we think they’re skipping a great song. We have certain songs that we know work best earlier or later in the night, but we also like to be able to call an audible and not be bound to a set list so that we can try to read the crowd.
What’s your go-to “get everyone on the dance floor” tune? Best final song of the night? And your favorite song to play?
People really seem to gravitate to the floor when we play “American Girl” by Tom Petty. We love ending the night with “Born to Run” or, as obvious as it may seem “Don’t Stop Believing”. My personal favorites change pretty often, but right now I love playing “Surrender” by Cheap Trick and I secretly like “Build Me Up Buttercup” too since it’s my mom’s favorite song of all time.
How do you accommodate the multitude of musical styles that “wedding songs” seem to span (i.e. ’80s rock, brand new pop, old school rock, etc.)
We have two singers, so that allows us to tackle a pretty diverse group of songs, but most importantly we know what we can’t do well and, luckily, nobody would hire us to play Beyoncé and Pink anyway.
What are the benefits of choosing a band over a DJ for a wedding?
I used to think that there was no comparison and that a band was the only way to get a really high energy performance at your event, but we played a show at a college with Girl Talk a few months ago and he proved me totally wrong. So, if you can get Girl Talk to DJ at your wedding, no need to hire us! Other than that, I’d personally go with a band.
What’s the oddest song request you’ve ever gotten?
We had a father of the bride ask us to play “Maneater” by Hall & Oates for the father-daughter dance, and we weren’t exactly sure what sort of message he was trying to send to the groom.
What’s one mistake in choosing music that you’d like to see couples avoid?
It’s important to pick songs that will work in the context of a dance party at your wedding, rather than choosing songs you might love listening to in your car or on your iPod. I can’t say I go home and listen to “Come on Eileen” too much, but it never fails to pack the dance floor when we play it at weddings.
Can you give us a sample mini-set list? How much does it change for each wedding?
Our set list varies pretty wildly from event to event, especially since we always learn a few special request songs for every couple we work with, but we always seem to play a bunch of Rolling Stones songs, some Beatles, Sam Cooke and then end up getting to Journey and Prince by the end of the night. We don’t have a template set list that we just pull out for every gig.
Anything else you think is helpful for couples in the throes of planning?
I suggest avoiding over-scheduling things at your wedding. Nobody enjoys dancing to three songs, sitting down, dancing to two more songs, then listening to a toast etc. Better to let people dance longer and build up some momentum. I also recommend avoiding bands that utilize any choreography or those that play anything by Gloria Estefan or Miami Sound Machine.