One-man-band Dolfish plays Big Bamboo on Thursday night

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comJanuary 11, 2012 

  • Dolfish plays with Treble Jay (right) and Parker Roads at 9 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Big Bamboo on Hilton Head Island.

The lyrics of a Dolfish song read like a country ditty. But the sound is grunge-y, short blasts of fuzzy guitar rock. It's all filtered through the high-pitched, Neil Young-esque vocals of Max Sollisch. So what kind of music is this?

"I would say garage country," said Sollisch, the man behind the one-man group. "I'm writing with a country sensibility. But it's more gritty, akin to a garage band. It's a barbaric sound. I think it is an interesting contrast to a country song, which would generally have a polished sound."

The native Ohioan plays the Big Bamboo on Jan. 12. It's the second time he's played the island this year, initially connected to the Lowcountry through a friend who knows Swampfire Records' John Cranford.

As Dolfish (a name that came about due to a slip of the tongue that combined the words "dolphin" and "fish"), Sollisch's songs are typically two-minutes or less, the shortest clocking in at 47 seconds.

"I used to write longer," he said. "I just tend to go with the idea of cutting the fat. It's like a challenge to tell a story in as few words as possible."

That makes for a different sort of live show, as crowd banter and storytelling become as ingrained as the music. All music is original, except for a cover of a current favorite, Bruce Springsteen's "Used Cars."

"I play 14, 15 songs in a set," he said. "Mostly they're brief, mostly humorous. They're tales of life -- my life, my friends life, characters I dream up. It leads to a funny show, lots of exchanges with the crowd."

Born in Cleveland, Sollisch, 23, started playing piano around age 3, schooling himself in ragtime and jazz. As a teenager he started writing songs. When he got older he picked up the banjo and guitar. He went to school at Ohio State University and stayed in Columbus afterward. By day, he works as an aide to autistic children. By night, he's played in bands. Dolfish is a solo project for the most part; his brother will accompany him on his current tour through the Midwest and South.

He recently released an EP, "Your Love is Bummin' Me Out," which stands as a testament to his short song writing. The five songs clock in at just over seven minutes.

"I find (the short structure) works well with crowds," he said. "You leave the listener wanting more but still feeling like he understands the character. Besides, no one has any attention span anyways."

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