As wistful children of the ’90s, Los Angeles-based outfit Ned and the Dirt vend a tasty, tuneful, unabashedly pop-friendly brand of post-grunge rock ‘n’ roll in the vein of erstwhile FM radio stalwarts like Live and the Goo Goo Dolls. It’s the kind of rock that everyone likes but no one likes to admit to, for fear of losing cred.
With the band’s new single “Toothache,” however — due out July 21 — Ned and the Dirt are, well, dirtying things up just a little, in a way that’s in keeping with the ’90s revivalist playbook.
“To me, ‘Toothache’ sounds a lot like a Ned and the Dirt version of a Nirvana song,” says NATD frontman Ned Durrett. “It has that kind of grit and crunch to it, like Nirvana or maybe an old Weezer tune. And to a great extent, that was a conscious decision.
“For me, the ’90s were my formative years in terms of listening to music; all of those sounds are very inspiring to me. I still listen to ‘Nevermind’ all the time. So Chris (Clark, NATD bassist) and I were sitting for a coffee not too long ago, bouncing ideas off one another. Asking, who are we as a band at this point in the game, and what do we want to sound like? And we decided to move toward a grittier, crunchier sound.”
Durrett actually founded NATD back home in his native South Carolina, but he says the band truly took off when he moved to Los Angeles some nine years ago. Durrett’s wife, an aspiring comedienne, quickly made new friends on the L.A. comedy circuit, and it was through her network that Durrett met Clark, now his longtime partner in crime.
“We took to each other so much; it just felt right,” Durrett says. “He went out on the road with me two weeks after we met. We were fast friends. Or really, more like fast family.”
They eventually met another kindred spirit in Atlanta ex-pat/music school graduate/drummer Joseph Freeman. The threesome bonded over the notion of “make really interesting music that’s kind of a throwback to the music we grew up listening to.”
NATD have released two full-length albums to date: 2014’s “Giants,” and the 2015 follow-up “Wild Pack: Haunt These Woods.” Both records are full-to-bursting with the hallmarks of ’90s alternative pop-rock — sharp dynamic contrasts; soaring, Vedder-esqe vocal melodies; jangly rhythm guitars that give way to potent power-chord crunch.
True to Durrett’s promise, the new single “Toothache” ups the ante on all of that. Like a musical version of Jolt Cola, its punchy chorus brings all of the tuneful sugar with twice the caffeinated crunch. Durrett says the song should serve as an announcement of sorts, the herald of a new record, and of NATD’s newer and more formidable sound.
“We’ve got a batch of new songs already locked and loaded, probably for release around the end of the year,” Durrett says. “I think we’ve gotten even more back to our roots, to stuff like the Lemonheads and the Pixies. This is going to be an even more in-your-face ’90s alt-rock-sounding record.”
Ned and the Dirt will play Preservation Pub Thursday, July 27 at 10 p.m.