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Guitarist John Barnicle and bassist/vocalist Mark DeRosa were hanging out and haphazardly playing songs together during the sweltering Chicago summer of 1995. Before they knew it, the first of what would become the hard-hitting post-punk sonic style of Dummy was written. With a sound influenced by Helmet, the Jesus Lizard, and Jawbox — and that hinted at bands like the Buzzcocks and the Stranglers — the two soon began looking for a drummer to solidify their lineup. They initially had some issues finding such a person, but Dummy were eventually made into a trio with the addition of Scott Kinsey.
Practicing and playing around town, the guys jumped to the studio the next summer to record. The resulting five-song Underwhelm EP was issued in 1997 as a cassette-only release, and featured Pegboy drummer Joe Haggerty on two of its tracks. The full-length Dank appeared in spring 1999, appending all of the then out of print Underwhelm as bonus tracks. Somewhere along the way Jimmy O'Connor, formerly of Jack the Lad and Chicago's the Tarts, replaced Kinsey behind the drum kit. The band's sophomore offering, Hang 'Em High, was recorded in 2002 and released in April of 2003. Again, as with their previous efforts, Brendan Burke was found in the production seat. Mostly gigging in and around Chicago, Dummy shared bills over the years with acts like the Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, Rollins Band, and the Turbo A.C.'s.