Phil Dickey: Dragon Inn 3

Phil Dickey.

Phil Dickey.


Many of us have come to know and love Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin over the band’s 18 years (and counting) of making music and touring, but over the past few years the guys have slowly taken a step back from the mainstream indie radar, and Phil Dickey has shifted his focus from record sales and tours to family and Dragon Inn 3.  

Dragon Inn 3 was born as an accompanying piece to a school assignment. Phil’s friend and SSLYBY video producer Brook Linder was working on a movie to finish his college degree, and asked Phil for help in creating the soundtrack. In 2012, the guys released the band’s first EP.

“I guess I thought it was cheesy at first but once we started making that type of music I realized that it’s actually not always cheesy and that I actually really like it,” says Phil. “All this stuff that I thought was cheesy was actually pretty good.”

Today, Dragon Inn 3’s vocals are led by Phil’s wife and sister, because “the last thing the world needed was a band with two white guys.” And though SSLYBY featured some of their friends, it always resembled a boys club.

Instead of focusing on booking shows and touring, the group aims to make songs that go well with visuals, and they’re accomplishing that pretty well. Dragon Inn 3’s sound is reminiscent of an 80s movie, or an 80’s inspired movie full of dark scenes and neon lights, a love story unfolding in a carnival. For me, it speaks of ferris wheels, motorcycles, sky scrapers. It’s different from the more poppy SSLYBY, whose hits include Sink/Let It Sway and Harrison Ford.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

As for SSLYBY, the band is still playing shows and making music, though it’s much harder with Phil having moved away from Springfield, MO. For their own mental health, the guys also realized it’s better for them to step away from the spotlight. 

“We’re still playing shows and booking stuff, but whenever we make albums I go crazy. Even with my best intentions and my best coping tools, I still go crazy.”

“You have to do the next thing up, and if you don’t connect the dots or if you don’t get a big show or sell more records, you somehow fail. I think it was better for me to step away from that mindset for a while. I always lose the plot when I focus on the band getting bigger. But I still want to record more SSLYBY songs someday. Will and I have been talking about writing and recording some new demos this year."

On making music as a husband and father

For that reason, they’re not putting any pressure on themselves and the shows they play are for the most part in their hometown, where the band got their start.  Which is why now much of the work that goes in to Dragon Inn 3 is done in Phil’s home, recording vocals with his wife while their three year old son is asleep.

 “With my wife, when my kid would take a nap or go to bed, that’s when we could do the vocals. We recorded everything when he was asleep.”

When I asked Phil what he learned from having spent over half his life in a popular indie band and could pass along to his son, his message was pretty simple: Don’t be a jerk. Any problem he ever encountered could be traced back to having a chip on his shoulder or a lack of compassion. “And then things start falling apart.”

“We live down the street from some Syrian refugees. They all moved here a couple years ago before the travel ban. They didn’t know a word of English, and they moved to the middle of Missouri. I hope my son learns more from them. I hope he’s kind and not an asshole.”

Check out Dragon Inn 3’s video for their song Rocket Launcher, off of their album Double Line. Phil’s sister Sharon Bowie edited the video!

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Gosia Labno is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She holds a B.S. in Media and Cinema Studies and an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies. She is working on a collection of short stories chronicling the lives of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Follow.