UTG INTERVIEW: Dance Gavin Dance

Dance Gavin Dance have been a mainstay of the post-hardcore scene since their inception due to a combination of particular controversies and phenomenal music, but with a talented lineup that appears to be sailing smoothly alongside the successful release of their fifth full-length, Acceptance Speech, the former key aspect of the group has withered away as they continue to push themselves further and further musically while managing to avoid any unnecessary drama. UTG was able to sit down and chat with the group’s guitarist and main songwriter, Will Swan, at the one and only Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina, about a variety of topics including the new era of Dance Gavin Dance, reviving the early 2000s post-hardcore scene, rapping on Acceptance Speech,  and much more.

First off, your tour with Finch kicked off on Sunday. I know you had some tire trouble today, but how’s the tour been overall?

Tour’s been great. The reception for the new album has been awesome. It came out on October 8 and we had our secret release in Chicago, that was [a] crazy show. And it’s just awesome to hit the road with the new record and have everyone hear it and know the songs and be able to sing along.

Speaking of playing shows, how does it feel to finally be playing music with Tilian that he’s been a part of writing?

It’s been, I think, a lot better than… Last year, we did a tour with Tilian and he was playing all songs that weren’t his, and it was awesome, but at the same time, people wanted to hear what we sounded like with him. Now we’ve spent time, written the record, we have a sound, DGD has an identity again, and we feel like more of a cohesive unit coming out and playing these shows and that there’s something for people to look forward to with our music now cause we have a new record, we’re gonna be touring off of it. All kinds of stuff coming up in the future, again, so our band’s always in a state of who knows what’s going to happen next, and right now, things are looking good.

Talking about Acceptance Speech in a little more detail, what was the writing process like, not only with Tilian coming in for the first time, but also with two other new members in Tim and Josh as well?

It wasn’t very tough at all. I mean, we wrote the record with me, Matt, and Tim on bass. Every song was written in one day, so we’d get to practice, and we wouldn’t leave until the song was done. So, every song was written one practice, so if you take out the days in between practices, Acceptance Speech’s music was written in…eleven days. And after we were done, we’d demo the songs, give them to our other guitar player, he’d layer guitar over it, or a couple of the songs, I did both guitar like “Back to the Future Pt. II” and “Death of the Robot.” We had a special guest guitarist who’s a friend of mine who’s going to be the guitarist for Secret Band and did second guitar for “The Jiggler.” So, Josh did second guitar for the rest of them, but writing was about the same. It’s usually me as the main writer, Matt’s always coming up with cool stuff on drums, and then a bass player. Second guitar is like, an addition to it after, you know, the core of it has been written.

You guys also switched to a new producer for the first time and chose to work with Matt Malpass. Did working with him give you any new insight on writing?

We’ve actually never really had to have production on music… our producers never change anything we do musically. Like, I’ve never changed a song with Crummet or Malpass from demo to recording. So, that never impacts us at all that way, it’s really just the sound quality and the mix. Malpass, I’d say his biggest input on the record was the electronic stuff after songs cause he’s got a huge hip-hop background and Atlanta’s got a lot of hip-hop too, so I was inspired by it, Malpass was inspired, and we added a couple things onto songs that aren’t usual DGD, and I’d say those were his biggest contributions… just planting the spark to get us to work on some electronicy stuff. But, other than that, he did a really great job with tracking and recording the record. It sounds really organic, [but] I like Crummet and Malpass, they’re both awesome producers.

Bringing up the hip-hop elements on the album, I wanted to see who some of your influences were when you rapped?

I listen to all kinds of stuff, man, but I’d say just for that part, though, it was Atlanta that influenced me, cause every morning on the way to recording I’d put on the local hip-hop station and they’d play that Bugatti song all the time, so I took a line for that. At night and the mornings, we’d put on the TV in the hotel and it was usually the Jodi Arias trail…that’s ALL that was on TV, so that snuck onto that record too. And then also…we see a lot of young bands who are obviously all trying to sound like DGD. I mean, I don’t want to, you know, talk shit, but it seems like some bands are like, man, that’s like a wannabe DBM-era DGD band. So I felt like talking shit on them in one of our songs. Got a little bit of everything in there, you know. It’s a short bar, but I jam-packed a lot of ideas.

Earlier this year, Tilian mentioned in an interview that there’s no such thing as a permanent Dance Gavin Dance vocalist. I was wondering what the chemistry between you guys is like now and if this feels like it’s going to be a long-term lineup?

We’re feeling good. Judging the future is always really hard, but we really like Tilian, he likes being in our band, and things are going well, so things are looking up right now, and we’re all on board to push DGD as far as possible. We’ve all got side projects and stuff too that we occupy ourselves with. Tilian’s got his solo record, Material Me. He’s going to be on ESPN in November, like, twenty or thirty times. I’ve got a side project with dudes from A Lot Like Birds, Hail the Sun…

Sianvar, right?

Yeah, Sianvar. That’s gonna be coming out and I’ll probably do some shows with that too, but that hasn’t been announced yet, so we’ll see what happens. We all have other stuff to work on and DGD, so we all keep busy and are just pushing ourselves and our band in the music scene.

Right, and I was going to ask about how you feel about the California scene in particular, because you’re working with Donovan from Hail the Sun, Joe from A Lot Like Birds, etc. It seems like there’s a really tight-knit atmosphere out there.

Well, there aren’t that many bands that are heavy that are doing this genre anymore. I feel like we get lumped in with a lot of bands that we don’t really fit with because we’re doing music that’s in the vein of Blood Brothers, and At The Drive-In, and old Thursday, and stuff that…you know, that scene’s not around anymore. So, we’re the last vestige of that. There’s a couple of bands that we’ve banded together with and we all have respect for each other and tour with and are friends and do things musically together. That’s kind of formed with us, A Lot Like Birds, Hail the Sun, Stolas, and you know, I have another band I’ve signed to my label I haven’t announced yet that also fits in that scene. That’s kind of the scene I want to build on right now, cause I feel like it kind of went away…there was us and a couple of stragglers, so we’re trying to build that back up and maybe push out some of the only-breakdown bands and shit like that.

Speaking of breakdown-bands, you have a song on the new album called “Demo Team” that is known for taking a stab…

Yes, very sarcastic. [Laughter]

Yeah, I was curious as to how you guys came up with it and why you decided to include it on the album?

This is the only album we’ve really had a bunch of B-sides for, so when we were choosing songs, “Demo Team” was just so funny to us. Musically, even without vocals, we were like, there’s parts of this song that are just a joke. Jon is really good at taking sarcasm and satire, parody, and just infusing comedy and inside jokes into his lyrics and his vocals, and so he just ran with it. We were like, alright, this has to go on the record, this is just too good. Especially the intro where is voice is chopped like [in] all this shit that comes out, you can’t even tell what he’s saying [laughter], and that’s the point…this is [a] fucking dumb idea. But, we try to do it in a way that sounds cool even though it’s making fun of something else.

That’s one thing I wanted to point out. When I heard it, I was honestly digging it and not sure if I should feel dirty or not.

It’s supposed to make you feel like that, man. [Laughter]

Last month, you guys were also planning a music video. Is there anything you can talk about in regards to that yet or is it still mainly under wraps?

Yeah, we already shot it, it’s for “Strawberry Swisher Pt. 3.” It’s been finished and it’s in editing right now, post-production. I think once it’s finalized and the label’s happy with it, we’re happy with, we’ll announce a release date. We’re not really sure cause it’s kind of up to how quickly they can get it done. It looks really awesome, the guy who did it is really talented, and I think it’s going to be our best music video by far.

Once you guys are done touring with Finch, what can we expect from Dance Gavin Dance throughout the rest of this year and beyond?

Well, we’re going to Australia for a headliner right after this tour, and then after that, when we get home, I’ll be working on finishing the Secret Band record, trying to figure out when I could record my project with Matt Geise and Lionel Robinson, and also signing a new band to my record label and also releasing Sianvar, so I’m gonna be really busy. Got alotta shit going, plus trying to find something cool for DGD for early next year, or maybe doing Warped Tour or something, you know. We’ll try and plan something cool out. Some kind of tour around the U.S.

Written and conducted by: Michael Giegerich – Follow him on Twitter

Mike Giegerich
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