Whether it’s the lyrics, the artist or the catchy beat that draws people in, music is one element of life that is unifying and not divisive (until someone grabs the aux cord in your car).
But for UNC student band Dissimilar South, their music isn’t just catchy beats and rhyming words; it’s the raw story of their lives put to music.
At 303 Country Club Road from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, the banjo, cello, cajon, harmonica, mandolin and guitar are just a few of the instruments you might hear accompanying the four-part harmony of Blake Dodge, Hannah Hodge, Maddie Fisher and Rebecca Chaisson in Dissimilar South.
The all-female band, who started playing together around a year and a half ago, has covered topical issues like HB2, sexual assault, the Orlando shooting and the inauguration of President Donald Trump in their original songs.
Band member and UNC junior Blake Dodge described their sound as “meaty, heartbreaking southern-folk.”
With three of the four band members identifying as gay or queer, their sound and identity is what sets them apart, especially when playing southern folk music — a genre that is typically dominated by men. This is something that songwriter Dodge keeps in mind during her creative process.
“Blake has a capacity to capture voices and stories that are not her own,” Hodge said.
Their talent for storytelling has translated into building a fan base — the band has over 580 likes on Facebook.
“Their songs are really honest and sometimes sad and really raw,” Leah Whitehead, a junior and a fan of the band, said.
Sophomore Sunny Osment said she identifies as a groupie.
“They are very genuine to their stories and themselves,” she said. “They realize their identities are so attached to politics that it doesn’t seem political — (it’s) just them telling their stories.”
At first, the band took every gig they were offered around campus, from performing at an honors gala to other campus wide events. In spring 2016, their hard work paid off as they opened for Hot Club of Cowtown at Motorco in Durham, which Osment said really helped the band find their sound.
But Dissimilar South has never confined themselves to four walls and a sound system. The first real concert they put on for themselves was a backyard concert.
They checked out sound equipment from the Undergraduate Library and went into the evening expecting about 30 people. To their surprise, over 100 people showed up to support the band.
“We treated every gig as an opportunity to grow as musicians together,” Hodge said.
As time passes, the group is transitioning from being college students who made a band to a band that happens to be made up of college students.
Unfortunately, no transition is without its growing pains — one of the band members is going abroad soon. But luckily, the growth is worth it.
Since the outdoor concert, the band has been able to purchase their own equipment and are consistently practicing and looking to create more music together.
The group grew into their name, Dissimilar South, collectively.
“It’s not easy to say, it’s not easy to spell, it’s not easy to remember, but what it lacks there it makes up for in that it is a perfect descriptor,” Dodge said.