EMP’s Sound Off a battle for Tacoma band Dames

EMP’s Sound Off draws out the best in young music talent

craig.sailor@thenewstribune.comFebruary 7, 2014 

Alex Williams, from left, Adam Bredlau, Austin Milner, David Pierce and Wendell Levi Ratliff, or Dames as they’re more commonly known, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Sound Off semifinals at the EMP Museum in Seattle.


For 13 years, Seattle’s EMP Museum has been searching for the best young Northwest bands through its Sound Off battle of the bands competition.

Dames, a band made up of current and former students at Tacoma’s School of the Arts, will compete with 11 other bands in this year’s Sound Off semifinals.

Dames is competing against three other bands Saturday, the first of three semifinal rounds. One winner from each of three semifinals, along with one wild-card band, will compete in the March 1 finals in the museum’s SkyChurch.

The event is considered the Northwest’s premier 21-and-younger battle of the bands. More than 120 bands vied to make the semifinals, EMP’s Anita Woo said.

The winning band will perform at this year’s Bumbershoot festival over Labor Day weekend. All four finalist bands win gear, studio time, radio airplay and consultations with music industry professionals.

Past Sound Off competitions have featured The Lonely Forest, Dyme Def, The Globes, Kithkin, Schoolyard Heroes, Dave B, Sol, The Lonely H, Brite Futures, Tomten, and Land of Pines. This year’s competitors perform R&B, hip-hop, folk, electronic and rock.

Despite their name, Dames is an all-male band. Wendell Ratliff, 17, is the lead singer who plays guitar and writes the band’s indie pop songs.

Ratliff cites Vampire Weekend, Mac DeMarco, The Strokes and Phoenix as influences.

“We have fun with the music. I hope that we’re a clever band. We’re pretty dancy,” Ratliff said.

The other members of Dames are David Pierce, 17 (bass); Alex Williams, 18 (drums and background vocals); Austin Milner, 19 (keyboard and background vocals); and Adam Bredlau, 16 (lead guitar and background vocals).

Ratliff cites SOTA and its songwriting, music and choir classes for giving the band a boost. “I wouldn’t be a strong songwriter without SOTA,” he said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 craig.sailor@thenewstribune.com


What: 21-and-younger battle of the bands

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: EMP Museum, 325 Fifth Ave. N., at the Seattle Center

Tickets: $12, $8 students and EMP members

Information: empmuseum.org/soundoff, 206-770-2700

Take a listen: Hear Dames’ “Form of Control” at tinyurl.com/DamesSong

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