When Dorys Bello and Eli Oviedo started making music together, they never imagined a vinyl record of their recordings would be released, but today marks the release of their debut LP Dorys & Eli. They became friends over music when they were both 19 and later spontaneously stumbled across their musical chemistry at 23 years of age, 10 years ago. They called themselves Dracula just because Bello was reading Bram Stoker’s book. To them it was a joke. Then people began asking them to perform at events. Only recently did they start getting paid for gigs. Then, Sweat Records Records came calling with a record deal.
“A friend played me Dorys’ lo-fi bedroom pop project Soft Monster 12-plus years ago, and it stayed in my rotation,” says Sweat Records Records founder Lauren Reskin, who also owns the Miami record shop Sweat Records. “Dracula have now been around for a while, and I was always mesmerized every time I saw them live. My dad is a lifelong professional musician, so I have a good sense for true musical intuition and they both have it. As the planning process began for the label I knew Dracula would be the first band we approached, and luckily the timing and desires on both sides aligned.”
Over the 10 years of Dracula’s existence the duo has released their mellow, ethereal folk music on tapes in small, homemade batches. Though this release will also see a cassette (this time, a mass manufactured one), they’ve always wished to see their music on vinyl. “That’s been our dream,” says singer Bello. “We’ve wanted a vinyl record.”
So far, they have yet to see the finished product, but they did note that they’ve had the chance to hold a test pressing, which they called “very exciting.” Bello notes, “The first 200 copies are gonna come in a special color.”
Singer/guitarist Oviedo adds, “A special burgundy, crimson color, so kinda nice. Exciting.”
The majority of the art on the album is by Stephanie Benhaim, according to the duo. Oviedo says, “She’s originally from Miami. I think she’s living in Portland now.” Then there are contributions by Renata Rojo, another Miami native who has also moved (currently in Philadelphia, Oviedo says he believes). “She collaborated with Stephanie. Renata did some of the text, and Renata has done some of the designs for a T-shirt that we put out, also for the artwork for the single for ‘Como La Flor,’ the Selena cover that we made.”
You can tell the duo has benefited from a relationship with a savvy longtime Miami business person like Reskin. “’Como la Flor’ is on … what is that called? Spotify?” says Oviedo.
Equally bemused, Bello adds, “Spotify? And iTunes?”
Along with the earlier single, the album is now also on Spotify, which you can stream below:
These analog people coping with a digital world credit Reskin, who friends call Lolo, for upping their profile and catching them up with the times. “Lolo puts stuff out there. Not us,” says Bello with a laugh. “We have a Twitter. We had no idea. I’ve never used Twitter in my life, but Lolo is like, chk, chk, chk,” she adds imitating the sound of typing on a keyboard. “Facebook. We don’t have Facebook, but we have a Facebook page, which we didn’t know either,” she continues.
That elevated profile that Reskin helped push got the duo’s Selena cover, “Como La Flor,” airplay on NPR Alt Latino, as noted in our previous story on the duo (Dracula discuss unique stage presence and new chapter in recognition — a III Points profile). “It’s all Lolo,” says Oviedo.
“I never listen to podcasts, so I’m not in the know about that stuff,” admits Bello.
Technology is also a bit of an Achilles heel for the duo. They admit even their home recordings didn’t always come out right. Blank tapes and poor sound quality were an issue with their early self-made cassettes. This time, they went to the recording studio of DJ Le Spam (Andrew Yeomanson), City of Progress, located in North Miami. Yeomanson, a longtime presence on Miami’s music scene, recorded and mixed the album, and both Bello and Oviedo were comfortable leaving it in his capable hands.
Oviedo says, “We made the recordings with Andrew Yeomanson, DJ Spam, and then we just went back to teaching Chinese and washing dishes,” he adds referencing their day jobs [Bello teaches Chinese students English via the internet and Oviedo works at the pizza parlor at Gramps]. “And then, all of a sudden, you get a message, ‘Hey, you got a write-up on NPR Alt Latino.’”
Though the promotional and technical side may be a mystery to the duo, it hardly translates to their ethereal, chill balladeer style, a mix of classical, folk and alternative music. They both consider themselves fans of The Beach Boys, Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg and plenty of ‘60s pop rock in general, yet they also express an affinity for Blur and Radiohead.
Oviedo particularly counts his father, Manuel de Jesús Oviedo, as his main influence. He notes, growing up in a religious household, “We’d do a lot of baptismals on the beach. Then my dad would always be the one playing an acoustic guitar singing these songs, these like very old things, and he would always laugh because I loved them. He’s like, ‘These are so old!’ But people would kind of ask for them because they’re traditional, and the older people would like them because they’re familiar with them, but I just always liked them because they just felt so otherworldly.”
One song on the record is a medley of two traditional pieces whose author remains unknown, “Te Exaltaré/Las Diez Vírgenes” or “I’ll Exalt You/The Ten Virgins.” Explains Oviedo, “It’s Psalm 121 in song form. It’s like the parable of the 10 virgins that’s turned into a song.”
Oviedo admits his father, who has played with the duo in the past and is also on the record, gets a kick out of his son playing some of these religious songs in a setting where people might be imbibing in libations. “It’s strange to have a religious song in a bar setting,” he says. “Just like when you bring people to church … My dad thinks its funny that I play those songs because it’s just like these are songs that I learned from my father that he learned from church. It’s really old [traditional] stuff that no one knows who did them.”
Of course, Dracula do more than traditional and religious songs. They have some odd covers, like the Selena song and also “もののけ姫” (the Princess Mononoke theme song). To make these songs their own, stripped down to a single guitar and two harmonizing vocals, they rearrange them and focus on the harmonies. They both say it’s easy and natural for them to work it out. “It’s like the most easy going experience,” says Oviedo. “We’ve never had any problems musically.”
As for the Princess Mononoke theme song, Bello says, “I memorized the phonetic.”
Says Oviedo, “It’s easier, actually, because it’s a syllabic language. It’s just like these little modules.”
“It’s easier for a lot of people who speak Spanish, though,” says Bello about speaking Japanese.
“Yeah,” adds Oviedo, “it’s a lot of the same type of vowel sounds that are made.”
The guitarist says he once studied Japanese. “That was my major in college,” he notes, “so I already had an affinity for the language. That made it a little bit easier. I just like learning songs in different languages.”
Now that their vinyl record is out, their next dream is to tour Japan with possibly more Japanese songs for their sets. “We want to play in Japan,” Bello notes with a laugh. “I’ve been studying to learn [Japanese]. I’ve always wanted to learn a third language and a lot of people learn languages themselves from watching TV and movies, and I think it would add to the repertoire, and I think it would also open some doors to go play in Japan. Even though they love western songs, we can throw in a few Japanese songs and pay our respects.”
Dracula perform tonight, Friday April 19, at their record release show at Floyd Miami. They will be joined by Manuel de Jesús Oviedo for this special performance. For ticket packages, visit Eventbrite.