Author Summer Dawn Hortillosa

 Daniel Tribble and Tanya Meronk of DIYGFY

Armed with nothing but a snare, a high hat and a guitar, Jersey City duo DIYGFY can raise a rock ‘n’ roll rabble louder than you’d expect.

Downtown residents Tanya Meronk and Daniel Tribble bring plenty of spunk—their name is an acronym for “Do It Yourself, or Go F--- Yourself” (“Do It Yourself It's Good For You” to the kiddies)—and pop sensibility to their down-to-earth, carefree brand of rockabilly.

“I think what makes us stand out, though, is that we put on a good show,” says Meronk.

The 27-year-olds, who met in middle school, dated as teens and found love again as adults, have a connection that keeps them in sync, on and off the stage.

JCI spoke to Daniel Tribble about DIYGFY's music, philosophy and journey so far.

JCI How did you guys meet?

Daniel Tribble: We met in Arizona in middle school and started dating freshman year in high school. We stopped dating after sophomore year but remained contentious friends after that. We started hanging out again in college when Tanya returned from her East Coast school (SUNY Purchase) to visit the old crew in Arizona. After college I moved to the East Coast and we moved in together.

JCI Tell us more about your respective musical backgrounds. Do you guys have any training? What instruments do you play?

DT: Both of our families are musical. All the woman in Tanya's family sing. She grew up around a bunch of hicks who loved to harmonize to hymns and country songs. My family was a bit more uptight and classically trained. My parents didn’t give my sister and I any choice in the matter; we were required to sing and play multiple instruments from an early age. Private lessons and blah blah blah….

At school Tanya and I were in choir together where we sang madrigals, jazz standards, show tunes and various others. It was in choir that we really received our foundation for musical performance. It was also around this time that Tanya and I started exploring counter cultures and music from the beginning of recorded music to hyper modern stuff like Nine Inch Nails and Bjork.

Having set some context in place, Tanya plays drums and various percussive instruments and that’s her thing. I play guitar, drums, piano, trumpet, in order from best to worst.

JCI How did you guys start making music together?

DT: I've been a singer-songwriter for about a decade now and Tanya was always a firm supporter of my endeavors. Very early on she encouraged me to really believe in myself and my abilities. I used to send her demo CD's with my latest recordings, some solo, some with backing musicians, and she would always give honest feedback. Over the years she came to know ALL of my songs by heart and after we moved in together, we would get drunk and sing those songs together at the top of our lungs.

I've always kept a guitar and drums in the apartment to keep myself entertained and keep my skills fresh and after a few years in Jersey City I started coercing Tanya to play drums along with me. She very reluctantly began learning to play around four or five months ago and not so ironically this was around the same time we were evicted from our apartment at McGinley Square for noise complaints. But we turned that eviction into an opportunity to dive into the Downtown Jersey City art and music scene with full force. After that, things happened quickly…we recorded our current album over June and July and we were playing live shows around town by August.

We are actually heading back to the recording studio for the second time in six months. We should have an album available sometime after the winter holidays. The current album titled "Do It Yourself (it’s Good For You)" is available on Facebook and SoundCloud.

JCI Where did the name come from?

DT: The moniker, DIYGFY, can mean two things: the R-rated version is “Do It Yourself or Go F--- Yourself" and the G-rated version is "Do It Yourself It's Good For You." This concept is a direct response to my experience with musicians from all over the country. A lot of artists are so busy looking for that groundbreaking connection with a producer or songwriter that will elevate them. But what happens is artists stop polishing their tools, they stop learning new skills, because they think, "I only have to do one or two things and I'll let someone else take care of the rest." This is a fallacy. If you're not absolutely prepared to do everything yourself you're going to fall short, hence the “go f--- yourself.” You don't have to do everything — but it's important to know what you're talking about. Know what everything is and how it works and always be prepared to learn from an opportunity.

JCI How would you describe your sound?

DT: Our sound is a minimalist approach to a pop sensibility. The lyrical content is a little gritty but safe. We don't use distortion on the guitar anymore and we don't use a full drum kit—just a snare and a high hat and sometimes stomping on a bare wood floor. We make room for vocal harmonies but are not afraid to let the vocals get a little raw. It's kind of a Buddy Holly approach to a punk/country aesthetic with soul. If I had to pick a word or genre to describe it I would say Rockabilly, but we don't stick to that religiously—Tanya likes to call it “Hillbilly Stomp.”

JCI What subjects do you address or write about in your songs?

DT: Our songs are about a lot of different things. We cover the basics: love, loss, and life, but we try to keep it interesting all the while. One song takes place in an imaginary bohemian paradise that can only be found if you know where to look. Another discusses the abstract and intangible nature of love and how it's possible to love in so many different ways. All of our songs are sort of a nerd approach to country music with a deliberately modern twist.

JCI What makes you stand out from other groups? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a two-person band?

DT: First, we don't hinge on being loud. We still offer the typical rock and roll modus operandi but without the need for earplugs. Second, for a two-piece band we emanate energy. On and off stage, Tanya and I have great chemistry—we are often goofing around with each other and challenging one another at the same time. Arm wrestling mostly (Tanya usually ends up in a choke hold). We get bored very easily and if we look out at the crowd and they aren't feeling it, we will switch tempos or scrap certain songs all together. We realize the value of a live show and what needs to be accomplished in order for the audience to feel they’ve experienced something special. Whether we are watching a show or playing one—that energy is the most important part.

There’s spontaneity in the air. (The audience) can expect a fun, danceable experience fit for all ages—sort of a sarcastic sock hop. We are modern and the lyrics have teeth but it's still rock ‘n' roll.

As for the obvious disadvantages of being a two-piece outfit, e.g. no bass line or synth layers, we don't feel those are necessary to be effective. We currently operate with such efficiency as a two-piece that we are able to quite literally get up and go. We can play any time, any place at very short notice. We don't need much to have a great time.

DIYGFY will play at Rock Out for CASA, a benefit for Hudson County CASA, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for children in foster care on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 pm at Lamp Post Bar and Grill, 383 Second St. They go on at 10 pm.

The night will feature comedy, music and poetry by performers like Dancing Tony, Rachel Roman, DJ Mega Mission, Lana Rose Diaz, Drum and a Tantrum, Josh Wells, Spoken Sound, Saint Patrick and Meredith Rollman. Entrance is a suggested donation of $10, which includes two raffle tickets. For more information check out the Rock Out for CASA facebook event page.

Photo courtesy Tanya Meronk

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