By Emily May
Summer Dennis & Rhymes is a Washington DC-based funk/soul group that is comprised of singer Summer Dennis and guitarist Bill Moore. The two were previously in Bill’s band Rhythm Method before forming their current project and found in each other invaluable writing partners. Dennis began singing at the age of 2 and has been described as a classically trained “musical chameleon” who is able to sing all genres. Having grown up singing in church and taking music lessons, her love of writing and poetry led her to combine her words with the music in her head and she’s been writing songs ever since. With influences that range from Beyonce, Cardi B, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Vernon Reid, Rhianna and George Clinton, Moore and Dennis have a diverse range of musical influences that have helped to shape their sound as artists. The band has received critical praise and have appeared on Great Day Washington and Blog Talk Radio and have released one album, Faith and Proof. They have recently released the singles “Storm” and “The Party” and are preparing to release their latest single “Circles”. They will be releasing their new album Second Summer this fall, an album that fully represents their desire and growth as artists. With plans to keep performing and writing music, Summer Dennis & Rhymes hope to take their act to a worldwide stage. You can follow Summer Dennis & Rhymes and stay up-to-date on all album, band and tour news via the following links. Check out their video for “The Party” below.
iTunes/Apple Music- https://itunes.apple.
Summer-You started singing at the age of 2. Who were the singers you listened to that inspired you the most? What inspired your motto “Music is a feeling. Music is life. Music is redemption. Music is unifying”?
I would have to say that powerful woman vocalists inspired me the most: Whitney Houston, Minnie Ripperton, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, India Arie. I wrote that statement about music because of its constant role in my life. Whenever I’m down, I have music to lift me up. I’m kind of an introvert but I’ve noticed that my way of connecting with people on the most intimate level is sharing my gift with them, and I’ve realized that I can bring people together with my performances.
Summer and Bill- The two of you write the songs for the group, which are built on combinations of your musical contributions to each other’s ideas. What can you tell me about your method(s) of developing and complementing musical and vocal ideas into full songs?
Our songs come from quick ideas that we come up with our own. I might call Bill and be like “hey listen to this run” and then sing him one line and he can come up with a whole chord progression from just that. Bill likes to tell stories about his experiences and often times he will have a line he wrote about an experience, and from that I can make a melody and sing the idea. We enjoy working together and have created a safe space for each other where ideas are welcome and appreciated and can just flow without criticism.
Summer and Bill- The two of you played together in Bill’s former band Rhythm Method. What can you tell me about performing together in that band and what led you to form Summer Dennis & Rhymes? Are there any specific elements from Rhythm Method that are present in this band?
Rhythm Method was a huge lesson learned. That band taught me to sing in an ever changing environment. It also taught me how to be a part of the group, and be present in the music as a whole rather than just focusing on the vocals. The band was a high energy cover band and Bill committed to a residency that required 3- 45 min sets. It was a workout!!! But now I can sing for 2 hours straight no problem and I can lead a band. It was a great experience that I will always cherish.
Summer- You have said that you’ve always enjoyed writing poetry and have always been a writer. What led to your love of poetry and of writing in general? Who are some of your favorite poets and writers?
My mom used to give me a lot of books. I remember reading Maya Angelou often. She was so clear and articulate at all times, and unashamedly black. She could write so lucidly about the pain and beauty in the experience of being black and it was a therapy for me as a young black gymnast. I was a National level athlete at the age of 9 in a very racist sport and Maya Angelou’s poetry was something I clung to in my young mind dealing with adult issues that I never should’ve had to experience. Poetry and music was my true love and escape.
What is the DC music scene like currently and what do you love most about being a part of that scene? What can you tell me about the fight for DC’s homegrown artists to be seen and heard as they preserve the culture and legacy of the city’s many musical styles?
The DC music scene is basically a competition between a bunch of cover bands. I wouldn’t say that I’m really a part of it anymore. I perform in DC often but I don’t want to get stuck here. As far as preserving the musical culture of DC, it has much to do with Gogo music. Gogo will never die. Even the gentrifiers love It. I came up in Gogo Bands, performed with them from ages 18-27 and we do perform Gogo songs here and there. I love Gogo music and I will always hold it in my heart.
You will be releasing your new album Second Summer this fall. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album and how you feel it differs from your first album Faith & Proof? How do you feel that you have grown as a band with this album?
Second Summer is very different from the first album. The first album was produced by people who didn’t even want to do the project, and while It was a very good project, it didn’t fully represent our desires as artists. Second Summer is a project that came from confidence, collaboration, and respect. We went into this album knowing what we wanted, and we found awesome producers to capture the music we composed. Their names are Mone and Scoonie and they really listened to us carefully and sat with us for long hours to get each and every note out the way we wanted It. There are live instruments and Bill is playing all the guitar parts including the bass. I also really got to sit through every recording and production session and arrange everything the way I wanted it. I’m really really proud of this album and glad that we found people that would respect our craft.
What can you tell me about your new single “The Party” and the idea behind the video? Summer- What was it like to have members of your family be a part of the video? What inspired that idea?
The Party is such a fun song. The video was shot in this quirky warehouse that I love. It was supposed to capture a party atmosphere and required a lot of extras, so I just figured why not bring in the fam! My cousin Christian was murdered in January and he was just a fun guy. So for this video I wanted all my family members to be in the video having a great time and being “thankful for another day of living your life”. It was a fun experience although on set it was basically like herding a bunch of cats. We had all of the old band members there, my mom, my sister, my cousin Shayla, my cousin Andre, and my cousin Pierre. And the warehouse had all these weird decorations so everyone was just walking around distracted the whole time!!! I wanted to scream But it was really fun. I love my family so much.
Bill- You have said that you believe that every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it. What do you feel is unique about your guitar playing? What do you feel makes you different and how have you gone about developing that?
The guitar is one of a few classes of instruments that can work as a melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and percussion instrument all at the same time. I try to capture the full capability of the instrument in my playing. Technically, I have always felt that each player has to bring the full range of possibilities to their playing. There’s no lead or rhythm guitar playing to me, just guitar playing. Players need to play across all the strings and in all positions on the guitar and understand why one is better or worse than another. You have to care about improving because there is no musical finish line. Performance wise, my mentors taught me to identify and deliver what the guitar needs to do in a song THEN add what you can to help the song delivery and audience reception. I have worked to make my playing style full-voiced and musically supportive to the performance and continue to improve and refine my style as we go.
Summer- You have said that you are learning to let go and be yourself. You have been posting on your Instagram page about your personal trans-formative journey you are going through. What can you tell me about that journey?
You know, on paper I’ve had a great childhood and early adulthood, but there were some things I experienced that weren’t quite right. Being a child of an immigrant, and a black woman, I’ve just always experienced quiet cultural intolerance at every stage in my life. I have also had horrible abusive experiences with men. Things I just never resolved and things I thought I deserved that weren’t my fault. I am just now getting to the point where I can accept me for who I am, rather than beating myself over it. I mean there’s so many things I couldn’t accept… my sexuality, my body, my introversion, my beliefs… and now I’m so glad to say that being me is great! Accepting yourself is a journey and it’s a blessing to finally get to the happy part of that journey.
Summer- You recently were a judge at the Gold Grill Fest! What was that experience like and what were some highlights? How did the opportunity come about?
Well, I love to eat. Food is like my favorite thing ever and I got to eat some really cool food and hang with my cousins. It was awesome! My cousin Rodger and his frat friends threw it and they asked me to judge the competition because they know how I feel about food
What’s next for the band?
I’m really excited to be performing with Bill and my backup singers and taking this act worldwide. I know we can do it and we’re not gonna quit!