Iron Vessel/Dylan James Smucker
Rock Revival Rogues
Rock quad Iron Vessel evokes both classic and original sounds with a dynamic as unique as their look
This particular article features an entire band rather than one Homie. Keeping in mind that one-on-one conversation is my strength, the following paragraphs are the result of simultaneously interviewing four male rock musicians in their mid to late 20s.
The interview occurred in late June, on a Saturday around 5:30pm. Saturday was the only day of the week between the four of them that they could all gather in one spot, due to their varying work schedules. As I arrived to HOME Headquarters, the sun glowed in orange and gold, low in the sky. My boyfriend tagged along with me for the interview, acting as my low-key bodyguard and innately occasionally engaged in the conversation.
Piece by piece the band arrived with their dinner in to-go containers and we gathered around the long, wooden coffee table in the lounge. Back in June, the coffee table sat parallel to the wall with hanging red and pink egg carton petals, and the brown and beige couch configured around the table facing one another. I perched myself on the (stage) left of the couch, my boyfriend chose to squat in a yellow, armless chair to my left, Dylan plopped on the right side of the plush brown couch beside me. Across from me, the other three members squeezed into the woven beige couch, with Caleb directly across from me, John in the middle, and Taylor occupied the end farthest from me.
Once assembled, they appeared to be in a black, wide-brimmed hat club, sporting the uniform of button down shirts, slim pants, and pointed leather boots. Eating salads while drinking beers, they were groomed in a mish-mash of long, hippie hair and hipster mustaches. Together, the band exuded a close and brotherly vibe: vocally playful with one another and communicating with an unspoken language. Two, in fact, are brothers.
The members are as follows:
DYLAN JAMES SMUCKER (lead vocals, guitar): The front man and email correspondence—I saw him the day before from afar at Musician’s Corner—he was walking around by himself and I was there as a volunteer (I never saw his face but I was certain I recognized his arm tattoos. When I asked, he confirmed it was indeed him that I saw). Music influences include: Zeppelin/Jimmy Page, and The Doors. By day he works freelance construction on properties. He prefers performing physical labor during warm seasons. When Fall comes around, he hibernates in a writing cave like a lyrical bear dreaming through the frigid season. For refreshment, his choice of bubbly poison is Sierra Nevada Torpedo.
CALEB SMUCKER (lead guitar): Dylan’s younger brother, and equally as heavily tattooed. Both he and Dylan grew up with a vocal performer father. Their dad owned several guitars that would lay around the house all the time; he taught Dylan how to play, and Dylan taught Caleb. By day Caleb wears a barista hat and creates latte art. In fact, he used to compete in latte competitions. Aside from his coffee love, his is favorite brew is Good People IPA.
TAYLOR PATTERSON (drums): The black sheep of the group, because he doesn’t strum strings and is the only one who thrives on Metallica. Both he and John reign from Franklin, having played in a pop-punk band together back in the day. Today, Taylor finds inspiration from Mars Volta, and during non-vampire hours he works as a farm manager/ranch manager, focusing on greener energy. Taylor likes to sip on Dale’s Pale Ale.
JOHN (vocals, bass): "The Irish guy," John had only been their bass player for six months—the bass player prior to him was a female who appeared to be very friendly with Dylan in old band photos. John admits he works as a Whole Foods minion for his day job. Specifically the foods department at the Cool Springs location, where rich and powerful people like the governor gather next door to eat pizza. As the Irish guy, John’s favorite beer is classic Guinness.
Since the conversation would frequently trail off the subject, maybe due to me asking them too many questions, the description above of the interview speaks as much about Iron Vessel as their answers to my questions do.
As a disclaimer, I did not take pictures or video footage—the descriptions are entirely from memory (so they may or may not be entirely accurate, but potentially biased).
The following Q&A I managed to salvage from my interview notes.
A: How long have you been in Nashville? Where did you grow up?
IRON VESSEL: As a band, we’ve been in Nashville for about 3 years, though half the band is from here. Caleb and Dylan moved here five years ago from Lancaster, PA, but formed the band 8 or 10 years ago back home. Once in Nashville, Taylor got involved right away, and John joined IV a few months ago. Now we’re in our final form. The reason we're here at HOME is because of Sam Jump, who we met at a protest.
A: What’s your music story?
TAYLOR: My cousin played drums, and she inspired me. At like 4 years old I asked for a drum set for Christmas and got a cheap MRS from an old music store over in 100 Oaks. Now the store is a Burlington. It had no cymbals, and I went to my three grandmothers’ houses on Christmas to get the whole set. They said to me, “We teamed up with Santa!”
JOHN: I started on drums and played to songs at a young age. I got a tiny pearl traveler set that had on dampening heads. I said to my parents, “this doesn’t sound right,” and they said, “we got the quiet ones so it wouldn’t be loud.” We switched them out later.
A: Is there a story behind the name “Iron Vessel”?
D: Kind of, it’s number 4 numerology stuff. January 4, four members, numerology of all the names. Plus, I liked the weighted sound of iron and wanted play some heavy rock and roll. For the symbol it would be IV (at this point Taylor blurted something along the lines of “look at her face, she has no idea what you’re talking about” referring to my facial expression as I typed Dylan’s response)
A: According to Bandsintown, you are currently on tour. Is that correct? (They had an Exit/In performance lined up for June 25)
DYLAN/CALEB: We haven’t played at Exit/In yet; we’re doing clubs still. Big bands will come through and play there, so we’ve wanted to play there since we moved. It was the first venue we was when we cam here; it’s just one you have to do.
A: Do you any pre-show/post-show rituals?
IV: We drink beers. Liquid courage, ya know? Listen to good music, talk about stuff
T: I listen to laidback r&b like D’Angelo and stuff. Ball Parks, Erykah Badu, Meshuggah when I'm tired, The Faceless
IV: (this is taken verbatim from my notes) “Try to hang out and kick it, Waffle House, Caleb lies down”
A: Who writes the lyrics usually? How does a song come about?
D: Caleb is writing some now. Usually I write solo, like a demo, and then the band changes it up and adds stuff, giving them the creative space to add and produce. We have a live studio album that we recorded in August, and we released it in January as an 8-song record. We did it in 5 days and just cranked it out. We recorded it the week of the solar eclipse at Gnome Studio, which is a cozy spot in a factory. We started at 11 or 12 in the morning and stayed until midnight. All the instrumentation was live, and we would re-track the vocals. Recording is about the magic, and getting the live feel which is about the energy. You have to transfer live energy of a show into a recording by looking at each other and watching each other play [in a non-creepy way].
C: You get some things [when you record live] that you didn’t expect that just happen, like doing reverb and warming up licks, and that tracked into the album. Don Bates produced our last record.
D: I also work with Don for solo stuff. I’ll be going on a solo tour in the Fall.
A: If you could open for any band ever, or could play at any venue, who and/or where would it be?
D/C: It would be the coolest thing opening for Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark, JR., or Rival Sons
D: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. They played with AC/DC on their farewell tour. For venues, I would love to play at The Ryman, or at Red Rocks, CO.
J: We’re going to CO in early July to see Umphrey’s McGee. They have a 3-night gig at Red Rocks.
Coincidentally, Iron Vessel have a gig the day this article comes out! Go see them play at The High Watt on August 20th! (I’m not sure how long the link will last)
Also, buy Iron Vessel's newest album!
Written and interviewed by Andra Ingram