When solo artist Timothy Heller messaged acquaintance Jared Ryan Maldonado on Facebook, it began a musical and personal journey that would change both of their lives forever.
“I had heard his solo music so I messaged him and told him I liked his music and that we should write together sometime,” Heller said.
Maldonado, although in another band at the time, agreed and they began writing in early 2012. It didn’t take long for them to realize their potential. Soon Portland-based duo Dresses was born.
“We spent all of that year writing and recording whenever we could,” Maldonado said.
At this time, they were also uploading acoustic covers before releasing their own song, “Blew My Mind.”
Although they have been compared to the likes of Tegan and Sara and Of Monsters and Men, Heller’s quirky vocals mixed with Maldonado’s vocals and upbeat instrumentals give Dresses a sound so unique even they can’t define it.
“It’s hard for me to say a genre because all of the songs sound kind of different,” Heller said. “Our sound is tied together by our vocals and harmonies.”
Having such a broad range of music may cause issues for some, but not for Dresses. Instead, the duo sees it as freedom and use that to its advantage.
“At first we were worried that there wasn’t just one genre because they all sound different but now we embrace it,” Maldonado said. “We can write any style that we want to.”
While Dresses certainly has a sound all its own, they still look for inspiration in other artists or even within themselves.
“It’s hard for me to write a song that isn’t coming from what I’m feeling at the time. I’m usually very influenced by what I’m going through at the time,” Heller said. “I get influenced by music too, mostly solo girl bands. I like listening to other females and getting inspired by what they do.”
She credits women such as Lorde and the band Haim for her inspiration.
For Maldonado, he tries to focus on the music that he and Heller create together.
“I like bands like Vampire Weekend or Local Natives,” Maldonado said. “I get inspired when all of the members of the band create the songs together. Even though there’s just two of us, that’s what I’m trying to get; that collaborative effort.”
As for the collaborative effort in Dresses, that comes after Heller and Maldonado have written their own lyrics.
“Lyrically, we write separately and then bring it together,” Maldonado said. “We’re still kind of messing with that.”
The undeniable chemistry Heller and Maldonado have as Dresses makes it no surprise that they are a couple in real life. They credit their personal relationship to having a positive influence while making music.
“We’re really close so it’s easy to share things and bounce ideas off each other,” Heller said.
The compatibility Heller and Maldonado have both musically and personally has certainly worked in their favor. In 2013, Dresses were signed as an artist on SideOneDummy Records. They also completed and debuted their first album “Sun Shy” in October of this year. The next step was to take their music out on the road, something both Heller and Maldonado were especially excited for.
“Performing is really important because I can get across the words I wrote in an emotional way that people can connect to on stage,” Heller said.
Though they had been on the road before, playing just a few shows at a time, they embarked on their first tour with artists Limousines and Mona this fall.
“This is our first time on tour and seeing the people that listen to our music. That’s really inspiring,” Heller said. “Every now and then, we have people come see the show specifically for us and it’s so cool,”
Maldonado is just as eager for this experience.
“It’s cool because I toured with my first band before but I finally get to do it with my own music. I’m doing the same thing every night but now with my own project that I put effort and work into,” he said. “It’s really rewarding.”
Success is coming fast for Dresses and they have no plans of slowing down.
“When we have time after touring, I know we just want to write new songs and we’re recording a couple covers,” Maldonado said.
Dresses will also be opening up for band Phoenix in their hometown of Portland.
“It’s at my favorite venue where I saw my first show so it’s somewhere I always wanted to play,” Maldonado added.
Dresses just stopped by Philly’s own MilkBoy on Nov. 9.
Siobhan Redding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.