While the convention is that the cover band is the last stop on a musician’s journey, it’s actually where Dave Valentine and Tom Losito—who make up the indie rock/pop duo, the dt’s—got their starts. Long before the release of the dt’s first EP, You With Me, in February, Valentine (guitar) and Losito (bass) were playing the Union County bar scene.
“Tom was in a cover band and they would play at this bar called McLynn’s, and I would love to see them go out and rip,” says Valentine. “It would inspire me to practice. They didn’t play cliché covers; they would play really cool b-sides by artists. I felt guilty, because I had my own cover band and I would be inspired and go to my band and I would be like, ‘We gotta cover this song because it’s so badass,’ and they would bust my chops.”
While it was the cover scene that brought the two together, it also set the stage for them to branch out into their own music: “I feel like it’s the opposite for most people, like you start with original music and then go into the cover scene,” Losito says. “We both realize that it’s more fulfilling doing our own music.”
Before Losito and Valentine started the dt’s, they were a part of Union County-based indie pop band The Vaughns. Both Losito and Valentine left the band in 2020 due to creative and logistical differences.
“It was good timing,” says Losito about splitting from the Vaughns. “Dave and I had a lot of stuff saved that we didn’t even really bring by each other. We didn’t plan to start our own thing, but we have been such good friends that we started collaborating.”
“We didn’t leave them with the intention of starting our own thing,” recalls Valentine. “It was just something that happened and I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly.”
But splitting up is never easy, and Valentine took it hard for a bit. That is until he booked a solo gig at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, an experience that the Springfield native calls “cathartic,” and when Losito asked to play alongside him, served as the de-facto start of the dt’s.
“I was just upset with the whole Vaughns situation, and I knew our friend Brian books shows at the Wonder Bar,” Valentine says. “I asked him to book me a show because I felt like I had something to say and something to share. It worked out well, and Tom asked to play with me as well.”
Unrestrained by creative differences, the dt’s got to work on their first EP, You With Me. The dt’s were able to find a happy medium between their alt-rock influences and (as if you couldn’t tell from their Instagram or TikTok pages) their love of modern pop artists like Harry Styles and Charlie Puth.
“We like a lot of older pop and rock,” says Losito. “We also like a lot of newer Top 40 stuff, and we are trying to find our own sound by mixing those two together. It’s fun.”
The influences of old and new are evident on “Need You (Forever)”: “I wanted to go for a Beatles type of vibe,” says Valentine. “At the end I wanted the song to be this explosion of harmonies, and we added close to 30 background tracks, and we were inspired by a Charlie Puth song.”
Meanwhile, “Tina” is a song that shows the versatility of the dt’s and displays one of Valentine’s underrated abilities: his clapping skills.
“I don’t why, but I have an unnecessarily loud clap,” says Valentine. “So I was like let’s do this, and let me use my real hands. I got two different sounds from the claps.”
“We got pretty creative with that song in terms of the clapping,” adds Losito. “I don’t know how many clapping tracks we did. We clapped in different areas and in different tones. Dave is a magical clapper, it’s wild. The song itself is a love song, so it’s pretty self-explanatory.”
While wrestling with influences, the duo also had to learn how to record and produce their own music.
“It was definitely challenging, but also a lot of fun as well,” explains Losito. “We got used to using ProTools, and I feel like we are strong in it now. I didn’t know how to put together tracks three years ago and now we can do it ourselves. We were also focused on mic placement and room placement as well. “
Another song that the dt’s included in their new EP is “White T-Shirt,” a song that they had in their back pocket for a couple years.
“We have been jamming on that song since 2019,” says Losito. “It was slower and had synths in the song; overall it was kind of spacey. It was a song that I was ready to scrap until I showed it to Dave. Dave was like, ‘Why don’t we bring up the tempo, add guitars, add some harmonies and give it a little bit of a boost?’ ‘White T-Shirt’ has a ’90s-type rock sound kind of influence to it.”
The dt’s are also inspired by modern technology as well. Valentine, has a sizable following on TikTok and loves using the app—“Dave’s a king at TikTok,” says Losito.
“I remember when TikTok first came out, and I heard that there were a lot of musicians there,” says Valentine. “We like to take our music seriously, but not take ourselves seriously. We love making that type of content and hopefully we can reach new people.”
The duo has bigger plans for TikTok and they want to use the platform to promote their upcoming new music.
“With our new music we really want to promote it with TikTok just because we see how organic it is,” says Valentine. “We have been working on this one song we are really excited about, and I can’t wait to get it out there to people.”