- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

Before she launched a solo career in mid-2008, Columbia Heights resident May Tabol toured the country with Le Loup, one of Washington’s most heralded new bands. Le Loup’s sound sampled equally from electronica and arty indie rock, a bombastic combination made possible by the band’s seven members. Between each cathartic performance, however, the band endured long hours on the road. Miss Tabol whiled away the hours working on her own songs, which eschewed Le Loup’s bravado for an intimate, acoustic approach.

“When you’re touring,” she explains, “a lot of time is spent in the van, especially when there’s six to eight hours between cities. There’s no TV, which means you’re pretty free of distractions. That’s where the majority of my writing was done, and by the summer I was ready to do an EP.”

After returning to Washington, she parted ways with Le Loup and devoted herself to the homespun folk music that had emerged from those lengthy car trips. Members of other local bands, including Exit Clov and These United States, briefly joined the project, fleshing out the organic material with flourishes of dobro, bass, violin and brushed percussion. Miss Tabol christened her new band “Pree.”

“I took the name from a couple of different sources,” she explains. “It’s a verb, meaning ‘to prove’ or ‘to test,’ which I thought was an apt definition for what I wanted to accomplish. It’s also a reference to the song ‘A Baby for Pree’ by [experimental rock band] Neutral Milk Hotel.”

When Miss Tabol’s temporary band mates returned to their own groups, she formed a permanent lineup with the help of several friends. Pree quickly signed a record deal with the Kora Records, a local label whose roster includes Meredith Bragg, the Great Northwest and Aidan Baker.

Although she’s excited about her first EP, Miss Tabol says her band has taken the material in a new, interesting direction. “It’s definitely expanded a lot,” she says of the music. “Everyone has contributed to the creation of this sound that’s far beyond what we originally started out with. We’re working with delay effects and will be integrating some loop pedals, so things are progressing really well thus far.”

Miss Tabol is also pleased with the warm reception Pree has received from local audiences. It’s indicative of a growing community, she says — a community that both inspires and supports an array of musical genres.

“People have been very receptive. There’s definitely a market for indie-folk music, even though it’s kind of a departure from what D.C. is historically known for,” she says. “The community is growing on all fronts, not just in the size of the audiences. We have more music blogs that are based in the area, more people that are interested in filming shows, more bands and more people interested in hearing them. I think it involves the whole artistic community, and I can’t wait to see how things develop from here.”

Miss Tabol will return to the road with Pree for a brief springtime tour. The shows will support the band’s inaugural EP, “A Chopping Block,” whose release party is slated for the Black Cat on Thursday. Meredith Bragg and Riffs alums Birdlips are also slated to play the show, which begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8.

The Dig

Two years ago, the Dig offered their six-song EP for free via iTunes. More recently, the New York band packaged its newest material into a complimentary digital download, allowing curious listeners the chance to hear new music without spending a dime. Such open-minded tactics also fuel the band’s concerts, particularly a recent residency at Pianos in lower Manhattan.

“We made those shows free of charge,” says singer David Baldwin. “The idea was to get people to come in off the street after seeing our flyers. They didn’t have to pay a cover, so there was nothing to lose. It was a good way for us to simply get in front of people because as long as we can get people to see us, we seem to win them over.”

The Dig’s music finds a balance between indie rock’s muscle and pop’s melody, creating a sound that’s familiar but seldom predictable. Songs like “Penitentiary,” a poppy nugget of atmospheric keyboards and bouncing bass, is certainly worth a modest fee, but the Dig would rather focus on expanding its audience. Money, says Mr. Baldwin, comes later.

“We push our merchandise hard, and we go on tour whenever we can,” the singer explains. “Surprisingly, we’ve been able to earn a decent amount of money on the road. We can live a lot cheaper out here than when we’re in New York.”

The Dig launched its most recent tour at the Black Cat, followed by a number of shows down the Atlantic Seaboard and across the Midwest. Before returning to New York, however, the band will conclude its tour with one final performance at the Red and Black.

Catch the Dig at the Red and Black on Thursday. The B-Film Extras open the show, which begins at 9:30 to the tune of $6.

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