‘Life Is Ruff,’ but Dollar Signs are forever

By Carson Risser

April 12, 2017

How many punk albums open with a chorus of “I can’t go out tonight, I’m too tired” (“House of Leaves (Me Alone)”)? The new EP from Charlotte’s Dollar Signs, Life Is Ruff, is jaded but always earnest. Life is rough, but we just gotta keep moving on, preferably with some guitar solos.

“We’ve been doing this a while and wanted to put out a five-song collection that…encompasses what we are as a band,” said singer Erik Button. “If you’ve never heard us before, you could listen to this record and hopefully be like, ‘Oh, I get it.’”

Left to right: Luke Gunn, Tommy McPhail, Erik Button, Dylan Wachman Photo Cred: Craig Zirpolo

Dollar Signs’ last release was 2015’s full-length Yikes. Songs like “Hi, Anxiety” and “Try Hard” (“Now I only love things ironically ‘cause I’m afraid of being taken seriously”) represent Dollar Signs’ integrity, messy and honest. Since then, the band has added even more members.

“Our band changes a lot,” said Button. “We were a two-piece folk punk band and now we’re a five-piece pop-punk-ish band.” Tommy McPhail of Richmond’s The Weak Days and LA-based multi-instrumentalist Luke Gunn currently join Dollar Signs on tour.

The music video for “Punk on the Weekend” features bassist Dylan Wachman biting Button on the neck after an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style scream. Button starts seeing visions of Wachman doing adult things, like vacuuming.

The video is one of many, as Dollar Signs will be releasing a 360-degree virtual reality video made with Mike Steinberg this coming week, and plan on making videos for each Life Is Ruff track with other local filmmakers.

Music video for “Punk On The Weekend” by Dollar Signs

Although Dollar Signs is a Charlotte-based band (the Visulite Theatre is featured in the “Punk on the Weekend” video), Button said he’s often seen them as “an internet band,” because their online releases have crossed state lines. “We started out not really playing shows and only releasing stuff on Bandcamp,” said Button. “That’s why people will come and sing along to our stuff in Boston even though I’ve never been there. It’s weird and great.”

Even though Bandcamp releases go far, local bands form local communities. Button names Mall Goth, Aloha Broha, and Normal Dennis as just a few artists Dollar Signs plays with. Plus, there are the Charlotte venues, like the World Famous Milestone Club.

“We probably wouldn’t be a band without the support from the people that work there [Milestone],” said Button. “They always let us throw wrestling-themed shows or slumber parties and trash their club with confetti, because they really are there to support the bands in town.”

Left to right: (Top) Tommy McPhail, Erik Button, Luke Gunn. (Bottom) Dylan Wachman, Arion Chamberloin

If you go see Dollar Signs in Charlotte, whether it’s at the Milestone, the Evening Muse, the Station, or Snug Harbor, you might hear “Dollar Signs Forever,” which closes Life Is Ruff. After the acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and horns of “I Came I Saw,” “Dollar Signs Forever” jumps back into fast electric chords with a vengeance. It’s a song about growing older and realizing, despite everything, you haven’t changed.

It’s a lucky paradox of life when we confess our loneliness and alienation to each other, we build community, whether it’s in the Queen City or Boston. Dollar Signs gets that. That’s why the wide-eyed punk and the one who’s seen it all join their voices with Button: “When I got older I didn’t get wiser/I just got a little harder to talk to.”

Dollar Signs forever.

Listen to Life is Ruff by Dollar Signs:

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