Dance Gavin Dance Has A New Line-up, A New Record and Big Summer Plans
Dance Gavin Dance has seen more roster changes than an MLB team. It’s tough to pinpoint why the Sacramento-based post-hardcore band has had a tough time keeping members, but one thing is for certain: it never slows their tremendous momentum when someone leaves. If anything, it further fuels the fire lit within their fixated fans, who cause a ruckus on Myspace pages, Twitter updates and message boards. The band owes a lot of their success to the Internet and their young, tech-savvy fans who never hesitate to turn to their computers, iphones and Blackberrys to show their undying love (and, in many cases, hate) toward the band.
With their third full-length album (Happiness, due out June 9), a new lineup and the entire summer spent on Warped Tour to look forward to, the band seems very happy indeed with where they are. Submerge recently sat down with guitarist/co-vocalist Will Swan during a rare break from touring to chat about the new record, hitting the road and their dedicated, albeit crazy, fans.
I got a copy of Happiness to prep for this interview and I must say, it sounds a lot different than previous material.
It always does; every new record is way different than the one before.
Is that something you go for consciously?
I just want to write whatever comes out. Being the main writer, I try not to have an agenda. So every record, I feel, is just a natural progression. This is just what we were feeling at the time.
The guitars seem less distorted and sound much clearer. Can you talk about that?
We wanted to get a really clear tone so you can hear all the riffs. It’s more like a classic rock tone.
Rhythmically speaking, it seems groovier and almost dance-y at times too.
Yeah, I wrote “Don’t tell Dave”—it’s song number eight, the like, dance-funk song—while we were on tour with Senses Fail. I recorded the drums, bass and guitar. I just wanted to play it with the band [laughs] and they were down, so I taught them the song. It just kind of came together. I was really happy to be able to put it on the record. I have lots of funk influences; I like George Clinton a lot. There’s definitely a lot of funk that came through on this record.
You took over the screaming responsibilities after John Mess left the band. Is that something you’re comfortable with?
You know, at first I didn’t really like it. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and better at screaming. On the new record, being able to write my own parts and now being able to perform those songs, it’s a lot better feeling than playing someone else’s stuff.
Would you say Happiness is your best material to date?
Yeah, well of course, I always like new stuff [laughs]. I do hardcore comparisons between records. I feel like this one is the most cohesive vocally. Me and Kurt [Travis, lead vocals] worked together to try and come up with actual themes. We worked more together as one.
There’s one part on the record that really stood out. Who is that rapping halfway through the song, “Powder to the People?”
No way! It doesn’t sound like you at all. How did that idea come about?
Everyone keeps telling me that; I had to lay something over that song and I didn’t really know what yet. I got to the studio and our producer calls me and says, “I’m not going to be there for half an hour.” So I just sat there and listened to the song and thought, “What can I even do here? Rap might work!” So I just wrote the rap right there and when our producer got there I laid it down and he liked it. That song was already so weird I thought it would be cool to do something off the wall.
Another track I’ve been curious about is, “I’m Down with Brown Town.” What does that song title mean?
It’s got a couple meanings. It’s a heroin reference; it’s also an anal sex reference, it just kind of came about. While Kurt is singing, “I’m down with Brown Town“ [on “Nasa,” the track leading up to “I’m Down with Brown Town”], I’m screaming, “it’s only seconds away,” then the next song starts.
So you’re foreshadowing the next song?
Yeah, exactly. But kids online have no idea; they are all confused. Then “I’m Down with Brown Town,” the actual song, has another heroin reference; it’s like the heroin section of the CD. None of us have had a heroin problem, but we know people who have. Those songs kind of tie together both musically and lyrically.
You guys will be shooting a new video soon. What song will that be for and can you hint at the treatment?
Yeah, up in Portland. It’s for the song “Tree Village.” We’re doing all our stuff in one day, then there will be other shoots for the story while we’re not there. So we’re going to go up there and do what we got to do. The treatment for the video, I’m going to keep that under wraps. It’s a weird, kind of abstract treatment. It’s more visual; you’d have to experience it. Anything I said about it would just be like, “what the fuck?”
You’re doing a couple weeks with The Audition and Closure in Moscow leading up to Warped Tour. Are you looking forward to the summer?
Yeah, for sure. I cannot wait to go on Warped Tour. We’ve never done Warped. We played it once in Sacramento, on the Ernie Ball stage. It was fun; we had a good crowd. If we have a crowd like that every day, it would be great.
Your lineup has changed again recently. Are you confident it’s solid now?
Yeah, I think so. I always feel pretty solid about it, though. [laughs]
After perusing your Myspace comments, message boards, etc., I’ve come to the conclusion that you guys have some crazy fans. Why do you think so many people love to hate you guys?
[Laughs] The Internet is just a place for people to complain. They don’t even understand. I try not to pay attention to anything anyone says anymore. Our fans are so crazy. I cut my hair, because it’s getting hot you know? And I’ve been getting a ton of shit for it. Kids are like, “Why did you cut your hair?”
Yeah, you had quite the afro going on. So they’re missing it?
Yeah, they totally are!
The Sweet Brag Tour w/ The Devil Wears Prada, A Day to Remember, Sky Eats Airplane, Emarosa
Club Retro, Orangevale | April 19, 2009
Words and Photos By Russsell Wonsley
Club Retro has not seen or felt such a concert for sometime. Before the show, a line of kids wrapped around the building and then continued onto the back of the church’s property. All of them to soon witness the chaos that would take place within the walls of the venue. Crammed against the newly added barriers, the kids waited for the show to begin.
There was almost a nervous chatter among the crowd of people. No one knew what to expect of such a dream team lineup the Sweet Brag Tour had to offer. Suddenly the lights dimmed, and the men of Emarosa took the stage. Leading the group with his recognizable voice, Jonny Craig started off the show with a great quality performance. Warming the crowd with songs such as “The Past Should Stay Dead” and leaving them wanting more with the song “Set It Off Like Napalm.”
Next to take the stage was the electronic-powered band Sky Eats Airplane. The band brought with them more of a hardcore sound that would continue into the rest of the night. With high stage jumps, Jerry Roush got the kids to start moving within the depths of the pit.
A Day to Remember were next to the stage for an anticipated performance.
They dropped their third album (and fourth overall) with Victory Records, Homesick, just about a month ago. It seemed as though the crowd had already caught on to the many gang vocals that the record contained. With beach balls flying into the crowd, ADTR took the stage playing the first song off the new album “The Downfall of Us All.” Jeremy McKinnon (vocalist) took control of Club Retro with his catchy lyrics and overwhelming stage presence. In addition to new material, the band pleased the crowd with classic hits such as “A Plot to Bomb the Panhandler” and “Why Walk on Water When We Have Boats.” Nearing the end of their set, Club Retro had become a sauna of sweaty teenagers.
Exhausted from what ADTR had just thrown down, the bustle of crew members preparing the stage for what everyone had gathered for beckoned the audience to reach back for more energy.
It looked as though the new label has been taking care of The Devil Wears Prada, as the stage was littered with professional lighting. The set opened with just purple ultra violent lights that casted an almost solid column of light up into the ceiling. The scene was chilling, as the battle was about to break out between good and evil.
It all began out of nowhere. The Devil Wears Prada took the stage and without wasting a second Mike Hranica pulsed the crowd with his heroic growls; he held the energy of the stage in the center. To his left fellow gutarist Jeremy DePoyster sweetened the songs with his soft harmonizing choruses. You could feel the whole band in tune with one another as they pummeled the venue with breakdowns and grueling guitar riffs. Playing every hit song from both records, the band even treated Club Retro to a new song from their upcoming album With Roots Above and Branches Below titled “Dez Moines.” Fans stretched out to the stage hoping that this would bring them closer to the madness.
Also check out our interview with The Devil Wears Prada
Up, Up And Away
If Early States ought to have been intimidated by the traditionally aggressive cauldron of hardcore and metal bands bubbling out of the greater Sacramento area, they seem not to have noticed. In fact, they seem downright indifferent to the fabled demographic of their immediate proximity; a place where bands like Tera Melos shattered the glass ceilings of post-punk with dizzying mathematical permutations and broken instruments; a place where spatial metal heavyweights Deftones and Far ignited the tinder of disenfranchised Central Valley denizens and went knock, knock, knockin’ on Billboard‘s door; a place where the sheer strip-mallian essence floats so pungently in the humid troposphere, you’re damn near required to bleed Orange Julius should you be so unfortunate as to be shanked in the citywide food court. It’s this kind of focused apathy that seems to be setting the band apart from its peers in the local music scene, and it’s definitely getting it noticed outside of it as well.
Early States is fronted by 18-year-old Zack Gray. His affluence in songwriting has yielded the band (also including Shaun O’Brien, 20, on guitar and keyboard; Brandon Lee, 22, on drums; with recent additions Tom Hatch, 18, on bass; and Nick Silva, 18, on lead guitar) a fluffy bed of uber-pop melodicism and expansive indie-rock pomp.
“We weren’t apprehensive,” says Gray with regard to the divisiveness of the band’s sound. “If anything we looked forward to introducing people to something new. We want to be one of the bands that takes [the scene] in a new direction.”
While the band boasts an average age of 19, their focus remains steadfastly on the progression of their still fledgling career. Having just finished recording their debut EP Powerlines, Early States is forging ahead with not only their CD release show at Club Retro, but also with the spoils of their headway with major Los Angeles-based music licensing firm Immediate Music. The band was recently signed a licensing contract with the company, who is responsible for the composing and licensing of music cues and pieces for television and in the promotional campaigns of 70 to 80 percent of the top 50 highest-grossing films seeping out of Hollywood’s glistening underbelly, including the entire Harry Potter series, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and even Ã‚ÂSpider-man. Not a bad spot to be for a band that only formed about a year ago.
“Being the first band to sign with Immediate Music hasn’t changed our direction. It has only made us more driven and ambitious,” notes Gray. “We’re honored that a company as prestigious as I.M. wants to work with us. It’s definitely some great validation.”
The band is planning on shopping their music to proper record labels come January 2009, and figures to utilize the time in the interim to “tighten up any loose screws” and to focus on the release of their EP.
Powerlines was officially release at the Nov. 21 CD release show, but the album hit Purevolume a week prior for free (with the band on the front page), and has made its way on over to music Mecca iTunes, then Amazon, then to basically wherever music is sold on the wild wild Web. Additionally, the band has acquired an endorsement from Dickies clothing.
“Our band is our number one priority and we look forward to being able to give it our full, undivided attention,” explains Gray. And the drive with which he’s espoused his songwriting couldn’t cut closer to the quick of the proverbial angst-loaded post-grad.
Powerlines ushers in atmospheric nodes in all the right places, begging here and there for a unique thread to tether, but still maintains an unmistakable knack for hook-y transitions and guitar-smothered verve. Gray’s adolescent renderings of universal themes such as “love and conflict, to wanting to get away, to finding happiness in yourself instead of looking for it in other people,” while prudent, don’t belie the vastness of his visionary palate.
“Although those are the main themes that can be found on Powerlines, I really enjoy listening to people’s interpretations of what they think the songs are about and how they relate them to their own life,” says Gray.
Early States are hoping to tour in Spring 2009, but will be working on new material and playing local and regional venues to begin the arduous task of getting their name plastered in the fertile minds of show goers; more importantly, the quintet has already eschewed the reticence of the young band syndrome, and expects nothing but great things in the future.
“We believe that we’re a very hard working band, especially for our age,” says Gray. “We think we share the same focus as the bands we look up to and aspire to be like.”