The Dirty Hooks Mix Guitar Riffs With the Wild West

Some musicians can't wait to leave Las Vegas, but this band embraces its roots

It’s Sin City’s grit and grime that shines in The Dirty Hooks’ story-filled lyrics. The alt-rock/blues trio can be compared to bands like The Kills, The Dead Weather and Band of Skulls, each with their shared female/male vocals.

Jenine Cali (drums/vocals), Anthony Ratto (guitar) and Bobby McCall (vocals/baritone guitar), formed the band four-and-a-half years ago, but have been individually involved in the local scene since 2000. Their first (and only) album thus far, Electric Grit, was released in 2012 and received widespread local praise.

“A lot of people don’t want to be a Vegas band… We love being from Vegas. That’s who we are.”

Recently the band began work on a new album, but were delayed when their studio–constructed themselves in McCall’s old house–was lost in foreclosure. Now, with their studio rebuilt, they’re back on their way. Cali and Ratto took a break from recording and playing to talk about the new album and the changing local music scene.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the local scene since you started out?

Ratto: Well, I’d say Downtown; that’s the big obvious one. The venues, everything is developed [and] there’s more people paying attention now. Back in the day there was a scene, but it was all underground [with] musicians and friends from high school and college. That’s what it was, a big house party. The Killers and bands like that shined a light though for everybody.

Do you think those bands give a good representation of Las Vegas’ music scene?

Cali: I’m going to say no, because this is a very punk and metal town. That’s what it was when I was going to the Huntridge [Theater]. It was punk rock shows every week. [The Killers] played a few shows and then they got out of here. They played in Vegas for a couple years and started going to L.A. I think that’s kind of what they did because it’s a weird scene out here.

Do you have a favorite venue in the Downtown area?

Cali: I’m really liking the Bunkhouse, and its new stage. I’ve played the old stage and it’s night and day, but the sound is great.

You guys don’t play that many shows…

Cali: You don’t want to burn people out. Granted we could play every weekend, but the numbers don’t work out. You want to have a good show, every show.

Ratto: You want people to go and plan for it, not just be like, “Well I know they’re playing next week, I’ll go to that one.” Bands are supposed to be on tour. If Metallica played every night here you’d be, like, “Uh, I’ll catch um next week. I’m gonna go to the casino.”

How does living in Las Vegas influence your music?

Cali: A lot of our songs are about the desert, money [and] the fake people. A lot of our songs are about being on the run.

Like the Wild West?

Cali: That’s kind of a theme for our band. We love that whole southwestern kind of thing.

I wish that were how Las Vegas sound was represented.

Cali: But a lot of people don’t want to be a Vegas band. We love it. We love being from Vegas. That’s who we are. We grew up here.

So when can people expect to hear your new album?

Ratto: We’re thinking maybe 2020. No, this year hopefully.

Cali: We still have to get it all mixed. We want to put out a really good record. You can’t really put a time frame on that. I think everybody is going to like it, and we have a few things up our sleeves.


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