Watching them perform, you might think Dyado: cousins Louisa Stancioff and Matt Lohan, were raised from zygotes in some Red House Records incubator, and forced to play music together at cruelly young ages, like some folk Jackson Five. Then, you look at them onstage and realize they’re having fun, sneaking dumb looks and setting each other off, like real cousins. Turns out neither knew the other existed until they were both around 20, and met at a family gathering one summer in Maine, where Louisa grew up and Matt worked on schooners.
They began Dyado as a trio with their friend Emily Ramsey, and released an EP in 2016. Emily no longer tours with the cousins but plays with the band when she can and lends her gorgeous third-part harmony to their forthcoming record Dreamcountry.
They’ve recently welcomed Matt’s childhood friend Dylan French on drums. Dylan’s enthusiasm for playing music makes Louisa and Matt look like shrugging punks. He’ll drive six hours out of his way for a show, and get out of the car twitching and ecstatic just to be six hours closer to getting to play. He’s a great drummer besides – his huge respect for the songs informs a subtle latticework of rhythm that works into and between the cousins’ sweet melodies and dynamic shifts, always supporting the changes.
Louisa and Matt are of that ilk who sing and handle instruments with an infuriating effortlessness. As a generosity to those of us who struggle to play instruments and sing recognizable melodies, they both occasionally contort their faces in faux fits of agony mid-syllable to make it look harder than it really is. Matt’s guitar playing is at once offhand, precise, and inspired, and Louisa’s voice is unswervingly true-toned, warm, lilting. Both write great songs. Both play fiddle, and both would rather stay up playing fiddle tunes and singing than sleep.
I met them in the backyard of a commune in Portland, Oregon. They’re nothing if not flexible, if music is the reason. We performed to a modest audience perched on hay bales and were paid with salad and homemade cookies. We were all pretty happy about it. They’ll perform in a stranger’s living room, or unannounced to a bar of locals. They’ll play at farm parties, beaches, on giant theatre stages, or at weird venues on the edge of the woods, and always they play with the same verve and dedication, and always they catch people’s ears.
They catch people’s eye, too, trucking around in a neon-blue Ford Focus with a cow skull wired to the front grill, the car packed with weeks-worth of gear for camping and playing music. Onstage, it’s a pleasure to see Matt relax into himself when a song starts, or watch Louisa switch seamlessly from breathless, red-faced laughter into a heartbreaker of a song. Self-described shitheads, they’re not precious about music – they’re scrubby, passionate, realistic. They put in the time, they make the long drives and sleep on the ground, and when you hear or see them play it’s obvious that the only people pushing them to be this good are themselves. – Izaak Opatz.