Tyler Broderick only recently got off of a seven-month tour. Some of that was spent playing in his friend’s punk band Dogbreth. For part of it, his band Diners got to open for AJJ. The rest of the time Broderick played solo DIY punk shows under the Diners moniker.
Diners isn’t punk, though. Broderick’s music is mellow, full of jazzy guitar chords, and dreamy melodies. In fact his latest album, Three, is even quieter than anything he’s previously released. Lead single “Fifteen on a Skateboard” is a nostalgia-drenched ’70s AM pop ballad.
“I feel like the DIY musicians I know that play a lot of fifth chords, or jazzy pop, they don’t take to Diners because there’s already someone in their music scene doing it,” Broderick says. “The punk community, they take to Diners really well. So it’s kind of confusing. It’s funny to me.”
When I saw the band a few years ago in a dive bar, opening for one of the loudest punk bands I’d ever seen, I was amazed at how quiet Diners played. They were a four-piece band, practically muting their guitars, and played the songs slightly slower than on their recently released record, Always Room.
Broderick admits that on the two-month section of the tour supporting AJJ, the band beefed up their songs, and even played them a bit faster than normal, due primarily to the energy of the show. Playing with AJJ was a bit of a dream come true. Both hail from Phoenix. AJJ used to be on Asian Man Records. Diners’ latest album is on Asian Man.
“AJJ were hometown heroes. They were breaking through to other music communities and touring constantly. I have pride being an Arizona band because of them,” Broderick says. “With us doing the AJJ dates, it was like, all right, we’re a professional band for these two months. But it was super rewarding to come back to the DIY world where I normally exist.”
Since he’s been on the road doing solo shows so long, he’s developed a special solo set well beyond the guy-with-a-guitar act. He opens and closes the show with some karaoke-style songs (during which he projects the lyrics on a screen behind him). The rest of the set, he plays songs on the guitar, while random home movies from his cell phone play on the screen. He’s even worked out little choreographed dance moves to go with the tunes. He calls it the “Diners variety show.”
The seven-month tour was originally supposed to be a year long, but got cut short for personal reasons. Broderick is glad to be back in Phoenix for a little while so he can work on new material.
To try and spark creative ideas, Broderick has been writing on the piano, then transcribing the songs to the guitar. It’s a far cry from when he started taking guitar lessons as a teenager to learn how to play AC/DC and Van Halen licks. His guitar teacher, a Pink Floyd fanatic, eventually started teaching him jazzy chords and some basic music theory. Broderick took right to it. But it wasn’t until he started Diners in 2012 that he was able to start writing music using these type of chord progressions.
“If my 16-year-old-self caught wind of what I’m currently listening to, I’m sure he’d be pretty bummed out. One of my most listened to albums of last year was the Nutcracker Suite,” Broderick says.
Lately, Broderick has taken to ’70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson who incorporated a whimsical, musical-theater element to their songs. But Broderick also likes that they were active, working songwriters in L.A., while producing their own pop songs on the side. In August, he’s hoping to follow in their footsteps and move to L.A., where he can hopefully get work scoring TV and films while continuing to exist as Diners. His moody, dreamy music would be perfect for films.
“It’s a silly idea. I kind of romanticize these songwriters that do work like that, but they also write pop music,” Broderick says.
It’s this dreamy element that makes his music unique. The music doesn’t just sound like he’s lost in thought; he even sings about thinking and contemplating. “Fifteen on a Skateboard” and “In My Hometown” set the nostalgic tone for the remainder of the record.
“A lot of the lyrics are about ideas that I have, rather than actual things that exist in the real world. Even though I talk about things in my hometown, it’s not about those things. It’s about the memory of those things,” Broderick says.
Like his songwriting, Broderick feels at home drifting without too much of a plan. He extended the tour as he went along to “avoid paying rent.” Some of his new songs might end up being more rock, others even more mellow. He’s not really sure what to expect when he moves to L.A.
“I try not to think so much about direction,” Broderick says, “and just follow my nose wherever it goes.”
INFO: 6:30 p.m., May 10, SubRosa, 703 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $5-$7. 426-5242