For several years now, the Dipsomaniacs have watched their career progress on a rather slow, manageable plane. Each year found the Trenton based band playing bigger shows and each new record receiving more recognition than the previous one. It's a path that has definitely built a fanbase throughout the area, but one that practically ensured that the band would never be an overnight success.
That is until now. The plan for the band is changing quickly because the Dipsomaniacs, or Dipsos as their fans call them, were the recent winners of the Little Steven Rockin' Garage competition for Philadelphia. To do so, they first had to beat out hundreds of bands just to make the list of 20 who took the stage at the Pontiac Grille for the competition. The Dipsos played on May 14th. After being announced as one of the four finalists, they had to come back the next night to battle yet again. Only this time, they left not only as the winner, but with $6,000 worth of Gibson equipment in their van and a date at the Finals on July 22nd at Irving Plaza in New York City.
"It was a long weekend," said Mick Chorbo. "When we got picked for the finals on Friday night, we were unexpectedly enthusiatic and emotionally into it. There was a lot of high fiving and all that. And then Saturday, we were just exhausted. Just kind of surprised really because I had convinced myself we wouldn't win. That's just the way I handle things - figure the worst will happen."
The weekend found the members of the Dipsomaniacs often in front of cameras, interviewed for a documentary being made about the competition. They were interviewed before their first set on Friday, after the set, and had an extended interview early on Saturday.
The constant rehashing of the band's history revealed how the band was named. A dipsomaniac is defined as "one who has an irrepressible desire for alcoholic drinks." According to Chorbo, the name originally came from the band's drummer, Tom O'Grady. Tom and Mick had been in bands together since they were 13 and Dipsomaniacs was on one of Tom's lists of band names for one of their old bands they had in high school.
"He found it in the dictionary," said Chorbo. "And when you're 17 and you find a word that means drunks, but nobody knows it, it seems pretty cool. When you're over 30 and you're still stuck with that name, it might not mean the same thing, but we're just stuck with it."
Their name may not represent their current lifestyle or philosophies, but it is a nod to two of their favorite bands and biggest influences - the Who and the Replacements. The band's sound is often compared to the Replacements and Chorbo admits to being a big fan of the songwriting from Paul Westerberg.
"Part of what I try to get from the Replacements is the honesty in the songwriting," explains Chorbo. "Despite all of the stuff they write about the 'Mats, the songs are really good. They really do stand up."
Although the band is known for a great live show - they've even had reviews which basically said the Dipsomaniacs would blow the Who away - Chorbo actually prefers the studio over the stage.
"Me personally, I like the recording process," he said. "But I've kind of polled the band and each guy gets off on a different aspect of it. I like the whole recording process; writing the songs, bringing them to the band, arranging them, recording them, and then releasing them."
The band has released four CDs since 1996 with the last effort being Freakin Eureka in 2003. The CDs were released on Facedown Records, a label run by Chorbo. In addition to his own band, the label features other area artists like Bastards Of Melody, Blank Pages, J Horndog, and Taggart.
The Dipsos are currently wrapping up a collection of rarities containing b-sides, live tracks, and songs that have previously shown up on compiliations around the world. The goal is to have the CD, tentatively called Sodds &?Odds, out later this year. They have limited their appearances during the summer in order to finish the CD and work on a new full-length release for 2005.
Chorbo says that all of the members of the band were born in Saint Francis Hospital in Trenton and they still consider themselves very much a Trenton band. They regularly do shows at the Sidestage and have played the Conduit several times as well. In addition to Trenton, the band has played many shows in Philadelphia, New York and New Brunswick.
The changes in the Trenton music scene seem to have soured Chorbo on the immediate area a bit. "Every time it's going somewhere, it takes a step back," he explained. "It actually takes two steps back. I don't know... If you had talked to me maybe four months ago, I'd probably have felt differently but I don't see much of an opportunity in the area. I see some people trying, but I just don't see the interest. I feel like it's kind of a losing battle. Hamilton Township, the suburbs of Trenton, is huge. There's three high schools, Rider University and Trenton State. I just don't understand what everybody does."
With the exposure the band is bound to get this July for the Little Steven Rockin' Garage finals, they may soon add to the list of Trenton Makes and the World Takes. Be sure to catch them while you still can.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.