Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, a colonial building located in the city’s center, is filled with over 3,000 osteological attractions, including skulls, full skeletons, 1,500 wet specimens acquired between the 19th and 21st centuries, fetuses, tumors, cysts, medical oddities, and instruments that could (and, historically, did) double as torture devices. It is here, on a cool December day, that I’m rounding the corner to meet James Goodson, the man behind the fuzzed-out Richmond act Dazy. I wasn’t sure if he, a musician beloved by emos, punks, and indie rockers, like some modern-day Lemmy, would be into this place—or if he would notice me frantically Googling him to make sure I was approaching the correct white dude in Doc Martens that scream, “I used to put on shows in my basement.” (Or, most interestingly of all, if he is aware that dazy—lowercase d—is the name of the producer behind an inescapable TikTok hit called “Sunroof” by Nicky Youre, and, as such, makes his shit impossible to find.) Luckily for me, James is already sitting on the steps, looking at his phone, in all-black clothing that would give anyone away as an alt-rock musician. (Or, as I call it, the “Philly uniform.”) That and a single button on his jacket help with recognition; it’s the image of a melting globe, the same one that appears on the cover of his 2022 album, OUTOFBODY.
As we walk into the museum, it becomes immediately clear that nobody involved—not James, not myself, not J, the photographer for this piece—is too familiar with the contents of the place itself beyond the broad idea of “spooky antique medical equipment.” That’s a shame, because upon arrival, we learn that you cannot actually take photos in here, and that security will surely drill us the moment we attempt any funny stuff. Still, here we are, ready to make some rock ’n’ roll magic. The first floor is full of tightly packed cases containing malformed skeletons and body parts floating in formaldehyde. It’s also silent—every foot shuffle booms, the heavy library-esque air forcing everyone into a whisper. I ask James if he’s into creepy stuff, using my best inside voice.
“That’s stumping me,” he says softly, examining a tiny, dried-out human head placed on a shelf of its own. “I have a very specific window for, like, horror movies. Creepy, but not scary.”
We head downstairs into another room. This one is suffocatingly cramped, with heavy, dark wood display cases that look more like the set of a movie adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe wet dream than a medical arts space 400 feet from a Trader Joe’s. Conversation shifts to “Which items are real?” Overgrown intestines: real. A suspiciously plasticky skull showing malformed teeth: fake.
At this point, you may think I’ve more or less forgotten the real reason we’re here: Dazy’s suddenly inescapable presence for anybody even remotely paying attention to the punk underground. (Though I’d recommend him as a companion for any absurdist museum outings you have in mind. So, yes, maybe I almost did forget.) In the two years James has been putting out music under the Dazy moniker, his blend of “the loud, aggressive music and loud, catchy music” he’s liked for decades—aligned with both the hardcore-adjacent alt-rock of a band like Militarie Gun and hook-heavy power pop—has brought all kinds of guitar music fans together. The latter is a genre he considers “an intrinsically niche sort of music,” but his thoughts on the g-word are a bit more complicated: “People who make things don’t always want to have their thing boiled down to, like, ‘If you like X, Y, and Z, you’re going to like this thing!’ But I don’t give a shit. That’s how I thought about a lot of this stuff—sometimes a cool band can be taking two cool bands you like and trying to put them together.”
And so, Dazy was born. Up until 2022, he’d released one-off singles and EPs that, in the tradition of punk, were rereleased as a collection in 2021 by Colorado-based hardcore label Convulse Records. Dazy’s hold on the rock-dude zeitgeist only grew from there, with the 2022 release of his collaboration with Militarie Gun, a single called “Pressure Cooker,” and its shiny music video full of bored-looking guys in coordinating black-and-white outfits. The song absolutely rips. Then came his first full-length, OUTOFBODY, adored by the music blog world and finally enjoyed live, as he tours post-pandemic.
J tries to sneak a pic—no dice. The museum is full of preserved body parts from people who suffered untimely deaths, so I get it, but I like to imagine that, if I lost my lower leg to a particularly gruesome collection of skin lesions, I would be honored to have a rock musician pose in front of it for a magazine 150 years after my passing. Whether that’s the vibe James’ music conjures up is debatable, but talking about the nuances of being designated “power pop”—a polarizing genre term—while people are trying to learn about rare and incurable diseases feels a bit inconsiderate, so we leave. There are worse fates.
A block down from the Mütter Museum is the First Unitarian Church, site of a musty, wood-paneled basement that has secured icon status for hosting countless all-ages DIY shows. It’s a hub for Philadelphia’s local music scene, and the place where indie rock label Lame-O Records’ 10-year celebration will take place across three shows in two days, with Dazy slated to perform. We walk past it, settling on the nearby Rittenhouse Square Park to talk more freely.
“When I first started doing [Dazy] I think a big part of it was, like, I don’t want to think about ‘what’s the plan’ or whatever. I just want to put stuff out and put stuff out fast, because I kind of hadn’t for so long. I’d been so in my head about it,” he says. We pause to cross the street, giving him time to craft an insightful explanation of the shift in approach that resulted in OUTOFBODY. “And then it was really different to try to, like, make a full-length. You want to think about it a lot. It was a totally different exercise. It’s the opposite of what I was doing before. I’d like to get back to the speed, but you also don’t know what everyone’s favorite way to receive music is nowadays anyways.”
I respond, “I don’t think anybody really can know. There’s no real prevailing wisdom.”
“I also think that when people try to say that they know what that wisdom is, that’s a red flag,” James says with a laugh. “I think you just have to be doing, like, the thing that you—it’s definitely corny, but I really think that you have to do the thing that you think is cool.”
And all of Dazy’s work—from power pop sound to album art to merch design—is obviously exactly what James thinks is cool. After all, he does it all himself. Is it a control thing? Probably, but there is something charming about the idea of a man, in 2023, photocopying papers at his local FedEx and covering his house in them, in the pursuit of punchy, memorable album art. How do you make a cohesive experience? You execute a singular vision.
It’s not quite flipping through records in stores, or collecting zines, or making flyers, or deciding what you want to order from catalogs—but Dazy’s approach evokes an evergreen feeling of seeing a collection of art that looks close-knit and cool. And on a Bandcamp or Discogs page instead of those vintage materials. The speckled and inky aesthetics of the visuals say as much about where James Goodson is coming from musically as his sound does.
Once again in front of the Mütter Museum, before getting picked up by his live backing band, James expresses some worry that half the crowd will leave during his set—he’s the headliner, and the only out-of-town act in a city known for its unrivaled support of its own community—and that playing last at a matinee when there’s a show afterward can feel less like headlining and more like playing right before an intermission.
I tell him he shouldn’t worry about it, “people will be stoked!” I meant what I said, but he wasn’t wrong. The next day at the church, the room did thin out as people went outside to smoke and talk to their friends’ bands. But when he did take the stage, the people standing there knew the words to every song. They flocked to the front. They were dedicated.
I couldn’t help but think about something James said the day before: “My brain moves so fast on songwriting stuff sometimes that I’m sure, eventually, I’ll put something out that no one gives a shit about. That’s just part of making and putting out art. Whether or not people like it or how people absorb it is all part of the experience of it. I mean, check in with me when I put something out and everyone’s like, ‘This is total dog shit,’ and see if I’m still thinking it’s all part of the fun."
For now, though, the ethos stands: Just make something you think is cool. We’ll reach out for comment when the kids eventually turn on him.