In the midst of their quick 4-night, 3-city tour, Glide had a chance to catch up with dada, the hard rocking trio from LA. After touring only intermittently during the last decade, the band decided to take a break from recording their first album since 2007, and play three cities where they had an establishedfan base.
The night after catching them in Chicago at Schuba’s, the second of their two sold-out pre-New Year’s shows there, we talked with drummer Phil Leavitt about the past, present and future for dada.The band was in Philadelphia for a New Year’s Eve gig before heading to Boston for the final show.
The trio plays less frequently now than it did in the heady days following their first big hit, “Dizz Knee Land” in 1992, but with 5 studio albums, a live album, an EP and some official bootlegs under their belt and a committed following, their shows are always crowded, the band is tight, and the sound is full.Alternating between social commentary, character ballads, and driving rock-pop, with a cover or two thrown in, their shows are melodic with tight harmonies and intriguing lyrics. Mike Gurley’s killer guitar, Leavitt’s energetic drumming, and Joie Calio’s steady bass and stage antics, give fans a good beat along with clever lyrics.
Phil spoke about what the band had been doing in the past year and where they hoped to be in 2011. After playing the Coach House in California this past summer, the band felt good about the show and they wondered “What else can we do?”“As a musician, you have to be working on New Year’s Eve”says Phil.“It’s good for the band to be on the road, and it’s inspiring to be in front of the fans.”They had success in the Philadelphia-Boston combo before, and when 2 nights at Schuba’s became available, they were on the road again.
Without a new album to support, Phil says the band made a commitment to give fans something special while waiting for new material.They mixed it up a bit, inserting deeper cuts into the set, and adding a mini-Beatles set to their New Year’s Eve show. Joie switched from bass to slide guitar for a few songs, fans got to choose two of the cuts in the Philly show (choosing “Fleecing of America” and “S.F. Bar ‘63”), songs rarely played live.Phil says they had to cut some regular songs from the set and that “changed the rhythm”, pushing the band to work to keep control and maintain energy.They came up with new arrangements for many songs.On the second night in Chicago, at the start of an extended jam on the song “Dim”, the band was overruled by singing fans who began chanting the lyrics “Can’t this car go any faster” right on time.Mike and the band just had to go with it.During another song “Ask the Dust” Mike ripped unexpectedly into “Auld Lang Syne” and the band had to keep up.They covered the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way”, and later Phil joked that he was going to insist that Mike play at least one verse before “going off [improvising]”.
Phil and Joie are used to this kind of show.Phil described their gigs from the early 90s as “Joie and I holding it [the song] together for Mike”, as Mike can wander off musically.Talking about that era for the band, Phil said, “We were younger, had more energy, with a more aggressive punk rock, chip on our shoulder attitude” much of it stemming from how they were treated by the music industry.Now, as Phil describes it, they are very elastic as a band, have a more mature attitude and are focused on making a great sound together.They “enjoy that they are in a small club with people that love them.”
Phil says the band, not content with smaller venues, has bigger plans for 2011 leading up to what will be their twentieth year together in 2012. With band members split between LA and Seattle and their engineer busy on other projects, they have somehow managed to piece together time to write and record an album’s worth of new material.
Now they need to “buckle down and finish the record”.Some songs have been recorded; others are in various stages of writing.Songwriting is both an individual and group effort, Mike and Joie are the main songwriters with Phil instrumentally improvising.Rarely does one of them deliver a finished song.One will have a good 2-minute bit and they’ll finish it together.Joie and Mike will do the “Lennon-McCartney thing” and finish each other’s songs.Phil will throw out an idea – like the long story about his dad that Mike whipped into a song and they all finished together to create “A Trip With My Dad” from El Subliminoso.Sometimes, they’ll just sit around with 2 acoustic guitars together writing.
Phil thinks the band is committed to making an album they feel good about, that can become dada’s masterpiece.They want to “make the fans happy (that) they’ve stayed with us.”They have songs; they just want a great recording studio, world-renowned mix engineer Bob Clearmountain (who did dada’s 4th album, the self-titled dada); and time together to finish it up.There are no unrealistic expectations but hopes that it will attract enough attention to “get someone to get in business with us”.He thinks they have a big sound suitable for stadiums and would love to get to that level. Will dada get back to tour Europe?That success would be welcome, he “loves life on the road with the guys” and knows that now, more than before, he will appreciate just being with Mike and Joie.But what really matters to the band is producing an excellent recording, improving the quality of their gigs, the way they tour, and keeping their dedicated fans happy.
So what can fans expect in 2011?Phil’s master plan has them focused on finishing the album.There may be a few spring tour dates, but once the album is released, they will get out on the road to some favorite stops like Denver, Minneapolis and Virginia Beach, then back to Chicago towards the end of the year. At Schuba’s, Joie threw out the idea to the crowd of holding a week-long residency there.Phil quipped on stage that it would have to be during baseball season, and when asked later, upped the ante by suggesting that dada play one of their albums in its entirety each night, “good prep for the (upcoming) tour”.Once released, he hopes the new album increases the band’s profile and sets them up for a big 2012 – celebrating 20 years of dada. Bob Clearmountain, your phone is ringing…