Dragon Inn 3 collaborates with The Salvation Choir on new single

'See It Your Way' out now
Dragon Inn 3 Trade Secrets Collage By Alex Dhanani

Dragon Inn 3. // collage by Alex Dhanani

Kansas City-based indie pop/synth band Dragon Inn 3 released their debut album, Double Line, in 2018, and their sophomore album, Trade Secrets, is out on American Laundromat Records on Friday, April 28.

This Tuesday, the band released the album’s second single, “See It Your Way,” which sees Dragon Inn 3 collaborate with Congolese rumba band, The Salvation Choir. It’s an instantly-hooky blend of ’80s synth-wave and massive vocals—something which should come as no surprise to anyone fortunate enough to have caught The Salvation Choir performing live in and around Kansas City.

It’s a fascinating combination, so we reached out to Dragon Inn 3’s bandleader, Phil Dickey (who you might remember as the co-founder of Springfield’s ’00s indie phenoms, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin), to talk all about it. We began by asking what the band’s been up to since Double Line.

Tradesecretsalbumcover“Just hanging out,” jokes Dickey before admitting that it took the band “a really long time” to get Trade Secrets done and that they’ve been working on some of these songs for nearly a decade. It was another collaboration that kickstarted the band working on music again.

“In 2020—the beginning of the lockdown—we collaborated with Pedro the Lion and American Football for a Polyvinyl compilation,” Dickey says. “That collaboration turned out really well and got the wheels rolling to actually keep working on music and finish an album.”

Right after Dragon Inn 3 did that collaboration, Dickey and his family moved to a new house in the Historic Northeast neighborhood of Kansas City. They became next-door neighbors with the core family members and leaders of The Salvation Choir.

“They would be blasting music out of their house, and I just thought they were listening to cool Congolese music,” says Dickey. “I didn’t realize it was actually them playing it. I told them I played music, and I think they looked at me and probably didn’t believe I was actually in bands and stuff.”

Eventually, Dickey’s neighbors were outside once while he had his guitar, so the bandleader hollered at them: “Hey, let’s all play. Bring your drums out and your guitars, and let’s just play.”

It was 2020 and lockdown, and there was nothing else to do, so Dickey and The Salvation Choir started playing in the front yard, with a few of them coming over and immediately launching into an original song with a three-part harmony.

“I ran and got my wife,” Dickey says. “I was like, ‘Come outside. This is the best music I’ve ever heard in my life.’”

From there on, it became a cross-cultural exchange, with members of The Salvation Choir playing Dickey Congolese rumba artists that he’d never heard before and his family playing their neighbors “Hey Jude” for the first time. Since then, the Choir members moved from the house next door to Dickey, but they still practice down the street from him and his family. The bandleader walks down there every week with his kid and watches them practice, so it’s kind of inevitable that there’d be some kind of collaboration.

While The Salvation Choir can number from 24 to 30 members, Dickey didn’t cram the entire group into a studio for “See It Your Way.”

“They came over here and recorded some, and then I went over to their houses and recorded a few members at a couple of different locations,” Dickey says. “It would’ve been cool to get the whole choir on, but logistically…“

You can hear him shrug over the phone, and that’s all that needs to be said. To properly capture the full Salvation Choir, you’d need a theater for that, but by using a good number of the group’s members, Dragon Inn 3 were able to get the effect they wanted for “See It Your Way,” which was originally just a choir effect with a lot of people singing in unison.

“But when I played it for them, one of the singers [Bora Wilondja, daughter of choir master John Wilondja] started riffing on it and on the melody and some of the lyrics, and she came up with a whole new part for the song,” Dickey says with no small amount of amazement. “I felt like that made the song even stronger.”

As we wrap up our call, Dickey throws in one further collaboration: “We got stuck on the chorus, and I asked a band from Springfield that Boris Yeltsin used to play with called Sweetwater Abilene if we could use the lyrics from a chorus of their song for our song.”

Layers upon layers, folks.

You can catch Phil Dickey and his wife, Grace, at Blip Roasters on Thursday, May 4.

Categories: Music