In our favorite books and movies, the outcasts not only make the best characters, they also make the best friends. You yearn to be a member of the Losers’ Club in It, because the love between them feels real and eternal. This can happen I.R.L. too.
In fact, it did in the case of Rose Dorn.
The trio of “Valley Kids who dug weird alternative music and weren’t like everyone else” ultimately found a place among one another. The union between Scarlet Knight, Jamie Coster, and Joey Dalla Betta instantly enchants, already landing the group a deal with Bar/None Records and acclaim from the likes of The Le Sigh within two years of their 2017 formation.
Now, they fashion a totem to their bond from elements of bedroom rock, twangy desert gaze, and melancholic California pop on their 2019 full-length debut, Days You Were Leaving. By composing all of the songs as a trio, the friendship and music wind up depending upon each other, making for a beautiful union on and off stage.
“The power of friendship is very meaningful for us,” affirms Scarlet. “We’ve all played with other musicians, and it’s never really felt the same. There’s always been this crazy connection between the three of us. We clicked musically, but we also felt like we’d known each other for years. We were all outsider kids in school who went through the same coming-of-age thing. When I think of a band, this is how I think it should be.”
Joey notes, “It was like finding family.”
As the story goes, the “family” came together under a deadline. Los Angeles DIY venue The Smell offered Scarlet an opening spot for a night in March 2017. Graciously, she accepted, but the then high school sophomore suddenly found herself in need of a band. Through a mutual acquaintance, she met longtime childhood pals Jamie and Joey. A wealth of sonic inspirations bonded them. All three grew up on Elliott Smith and had recently developed passions for “East Coast Bandcamp Bands” a la Orchid Tapes and Double Double Whammy.
So, the three-piece hit a practice room.
“It was cosmic how natural the musical chemistry felt,” explains Jamie. “There was a vulnerability and comfort level that enabled a different type of expression. It was very special.”
The first gig went over swell. Soon after, they teamed up with engineer Phil Hartunian [Follies] in the studio to record the 2017 Speak Later EP. Right out of the gate, The Le Sigh crowned it “a combo of all your favorite things.” Between a string of gigs and the 2018 follow-up Call Her, Rose Dorn returned to the studio to record what would become Days You Were Leaving with Hartunian once again at the helm as engineer. The group siphoned delicate pop through the framework of a ten-track narrative bolstered by their literary sensibilities. These ten songs examine a nebulous yet transformative period of life where things change whether you you like it or not.
“We wanted to present an experience more than a collection of songs,” states Joey. “The record’s about endings and beginnings, of looking simultaneously backward and forward.”
The first single “Shaking” hinges on a fuzzy guitar riff before slipping into a weighty groove just beneath a sudden vocal transition from Jamie to Scarlet. The push-and-pull feels as undeniable as it does unpredictable.
“We liked the idea of presenting a sad song in a fun and upbeat way,” Jamie explains.
Elsewhere, the dusty delivery and hymn-like cadence of “Champ” ebbs and flows between twangy clean guitar and admissions such as, “I can’t feel this way anymore.” Named after an art school Scarlet transferred to, it evokes “the outcast feeling of changing schools for a guy who then pretends he doesn’t know you,” she sighs.
Whether it be the seven-minute plus sunrise dirge of “Big Thunder” or the harmonica swell of closer “Wish,” the music twists and turns through instrumental bliss offset by cinematic nostalgia and the sort of high school longing that feels strangely sweet in hindsight.
In many ways, one image sums up Rose Dorn. The hand-drawn album artwork features the bandmates’ childhood stuffed animals—Joey’s bunny named “Bunny,” Scarlet’s horse named “Horsey,” and Jamie’s Zebra named “Zebu”—snuggled next to each other.
“The only reason this project feels so special is because of how close we are,” Joey leaves off. “Of course we have similar or complementary musical roots, but those would just make us a band. This is something else.”