Shoplifting with Dirt Buyer

Rough Trade Records

February 10th, 2024


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Songwriter Joe Sutkowski of Dirt Buyer contemplates the beauty and disaster around him on sophomore album Dirt Buyer II.

Dirt Buyer II (their first record on Bayonet), was recorded in February 2020, and represents a foray into heavier material that marks a deeper shift for the band.  Now working as a trio, Sutkowski is flanked by Tristan Allen on bass (who is a puppeteer by trade building marionettes for their own solo project), and Mike Costa on drums, a fellow Berklee grad who cut his teeth playing in bands across Boston including past collaborations with Sutkowski. Half-recorded while the band was on tour with Surf Curse, the record finds Sutkowski reaching out for places, people and beliefs to ground him. Reeling from the aftermath of a short, intense relationship, he wrote the songs that would become Dirt Buyer II while his bandmates were out and he was bouncing from house to house on tour.

We caught up with Dirt Buyer’s Joe Sutkowski at our NYC store for our newest session of Shoplifting. An invitation to roam the racks in pursuit of the recorded material which has most inspired and shaped their sound today. Be sure to check out his sophomore album Dirt Buyer II out now via Bayonet Records.


First I picked Tim by The Replacements. There’s a lot I have a lot to say about them, but I don’t know, I think it’s as simple as they’re a really good rock band. The songwriting is so masterful and the melodies are so beautiful; they can write the shit out of a song. This record specifically is really special to me. It’s one that I always go back to. The Replacements are a really sick rock band that write really good songs and, as a songwriter, I like how much stuff there is to steal from them. It’s music that you could have on or you can analyze it and try and pick little pieces out of it to keep in your tool belt. Tim is one of my favorite records of all time and whenever I don’t know what to listen to, I always go back to it. I think it’s the first Replacements record I listened to all the way through. It’s almost like a Replacements greatest hits album. I made a Replacements Essentials playlist and included like half of the songs that are on this record.  

Then we’ve got Tapestry by Carole King. It’s not only a Rough Trade Essential, but a Dirt Buyer Essential as well. Carole King wrote songs for other people in the Tin Pan Alley era and people were like, why don’t you just sing your own songs? She was kind of a secret weapon in that way and started writing and singing her own songs and wrote some of the best singer-songwriter pop songs ever. And then we’ve got Either/Or which is another Dirt Buyer Essential as well as a Rough Trade Essential. This is the Tim of Elliott Smith, it’s a really good place to start. I’m biased because Elliott Smith is one of those people that everybody loves to rip off because there’s so much good stuff to take as inspiration, lyrically, melodically, and harmonically. The way he plays guitar; it’s regular, but really spicy. He’s got some really good sounds on this album too, like the snare and speed trials. Elliott Smith is probably on the first page of my songwriting Bible

Next I have The Head on the Door by The Cure. You know, everyone likes them. Everybody likes this album and it’s got some absolute bangers so, let’s not complicate it. It’s one of those ones where… What can you say about it? Just listen to it! Last but not least, Norman Fucking Rockwell by Lana Del Rey. I saw it and I was like, yeah, definitely picking this one. This was my favorite album of 2019, I listened to it forever. That was the year that we toured with Surf Curse and it was constantly playing in the car. This is another one that has some really good sounds and the songs are so tiny and sweet, but so big emotionally. I’m in love with this album. It’s very good and I always go back to it.

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