Interview: Dance Gavin Dance
Before their stellar performance to a sold-out crowd at House Of Blues: Anaheim, Dance Gavin Dance’s Will Swan, Jon Mess, and Matt Mingus gave us some time to chat about the reformation, DBM2, Secret Band, and unreleased tracks.
Mind Equals Blown: You recently released your new record, Downtown Battle Mountain II. What were some of the goals you had going into that recording process? Were you intentionally trying to go back to the DBM1 sound?
Will Swan: No, not at all. We were trying to just write a new DGD record and experiment with different things we’d never done before, tread on new paths we hadn’t gone down. I think we did that. We didn’t really think of DBM1 while writing DBM2, even though after listening to DBM2 it’s such a throwback album; I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
For the writing and recording process, what was the first song finished?
Will: I had “Spooks,” “Elder Goose,” and “The Robot With Human Hair 2 1/2” fully written out probably a full year before we even started writing DBM2. The rest of them were written about a month and a half before recording DBM2.
Will, we wanted to talk about the music you have going on the side. (ex-DGD guitarist) Sean O’Sullivan said you have dozens of records at home you’ve recorded on your own…
Will: I’ve got a lot of music that I write that I don’t release. None of it is really taken seriously enough to where I’d want to release it, so when I do projects for release, I make it known. Other than DGD, the only thing I’ve really got going is Secret Band, which is members of DGD: me, Matt, Jon, and Eric Lodge. We just did a harder project with only screaming and crazy vocals. That is yet to be released and we’re working that out right now.
Regarding Secret Band, you had “3/11 (aka Breakfast Time)” come out online. When will we start hearing more stuff?
Will: Soon hopefully. We have a 4-song EP that’s already recorded and we’re just figuring out how to release it. As soon as we get the logisitics done, it’ll be out.
Are you planning on releasing it through Rise Records?
Will: That’s kind of what’s being worked out right now. Once it’s figured out, we’ll put it out as soon as possible.
Is Secret Band the actual name of the band?
Will: It was kind of a joke for awhile, but there’s no name we’d rather have, so yeah.
Are there any plans for Secret Band shows?
Will: Not officially. We’ve already played one show, and it was prettyyyyy secret (laughs), we didn’t tell anyone about it. That’s probably how Secret Band shows will go; local Sacramento shows that we play at random bars. It’s supposed to be just a fun project for us, so we’re not trying to attach all these other strings. Maybe in the future we’ll do a west coast tour, but I don’t see any hardcore touring for Secret Band.
This is the first time you’ve handled all the guitar duties on an album. What was it like working alone and having control over everything?
Will: It was actually kind of a relief, just knowing that I could complement the parts that I had written with a second guitar part that I’d be happy with. Before, we’d write songs and I wouldn’t really know what our other guitar player was going to do until we got in the studio. Sometimes I’d be like ‘I could have done something way cooler over this part.’ On this record, I never had that problem; it was all up to the standards that I have. It’s my favorite record so far, and I feel like the guitars are the most cohesive they’ve ever been.
A lot of people are wondering if we’re going to hear any songs from self-titled or Happiness at all on these tours…
Matt Mingus: Noooo. DBM1 and DBM2.
When the news first broke about the original line-up getting back together, a lot of the interviews made Dance Gavin Dance seem like a finite thing; like there’s an end in sight. You’ve already got Warped Tour scheduled. Is DGD going to be around in 2012?
Matt: I’d say so, yeah. I don’t see why not. That’s just the schedule we have right now. As far as we know, we’re planning on doing another record. I don’t see why we wouldn’t.
Jon Mess: Unless something happens, I don’t know.
Will: But nothing ever really happens with us (laughs).
What differences did you see this time around versus the recording of DBM1?
Will: Recording’s always pretty much the same. We go in prepared, we know what we’re gonna do, and it’s just a matter of laying it down. I think we did a really good job tracking this record and I can’t hear anything I’d want to re-do. I’m really happy how it came out and I think it’s pretty close to perfect.
Jon: DBM1 was recorded in 2 weeks; this record was 2 months. We spent a lot more time on this record.
Who’s playing second guitar live? (Ed’s note: original DGD guitarist Sean O’ Sullivan declined to participate in the reunited line-up)
Will: The guy who played our last tour with Kurt is on this tour, Josh Benton. We’ve known him for a long time, and he also recorded Secret Band for us in his home studio. He did a great job on the last tour, so we invited him back. We got our friend Jordan McCoy from K Sera to play bass. He actually went to high school and junior high with me and Jon, so we’ve known him forever. We didn’t want to bring in anyone from out of town to fill in, so we got local people who were friends of ours. It’s going really well so far, and they play the set really well.
Will rapped for the first time with DGD on Happiness, and there’s a lot more of that on this record. What was it like adding the rap element to the record?
Matt: I was stoked! I’m personally a huge fan of hip-hop and all sorts of R&B and rap. I was really happy about it, and it turned out rad.
Jon: Originally, Will wrote “Spooks” and recorded a rap over it. When it came time to record it [for DBM2], Jonny didn’t have anything for that part, so Will said “Well I’ve already written a rap for this, why don’t I rap?” I’d already written two other parts that I didn’t think sounded good screamed, so he rapped those parts. I think it’s great. Will also screamed twice on the record. Now we have more vocals to go around on the record.
For the Hot Topic edition of the album, there were two extra songs, “People You Knew” and “Perfect.” Were there any other songs recorded besides those?
Will: There actually were. There were two other songs. We’re not sure what we’re going to do with them yet. They don’t have vocals, so we may record them, release them for free, maybe put them on another record later…we don’t really know yet. They’re really the only DGD B-sides besides “Attack.” There’s only 3 songs we’ve written that haven’t ended up on our records.
Your production demos for almost every album have come out online. Is that something you are putting out or are those being leaked?
Matt: I think Zac (Garren, ex-DGD guitarist) put them out. We obviously don’t care; people like listening to that stuff to see how the song sounded before. We’ll release them for this record eventually.