Dance Gavin Dance

author AP date 18/11/09

Judging from the amount of questions submitted by the readers, this interview is one which some of you have been looking forward to happening on this website like Christmas. So when the opportunity presented itself as the band guested the Underworld in London in support of A Skylit Drive, we couldn't let it slip. Twenty minutes with the extremely down to earth Zac Garren felt more like a conversation with one of my friends than a professional interview, and some of the questions and answers may reflect this. Nonetheless, check out what he had to say about the band's music, tumultuous line-up changes and, gulp, Roskilde Festival: First of all, introduce yourself and what your role is in the band.
Zac: My name is Zachary Garren and I play guitar in Dance Gavin Dance. How has the tour been so far?
Zac: It's been pretty good. We finally got to an area that speaks our language. That's a little nicer, a little less stressed out and a little less alien. But the shows have been great - there have been cool kids everywhere. There hasn't been anything like, "wow, this is pathetic." So it's been good. What do you think of the other bands on tour with you?

Zac: We met Adept in Sweden at this one day festival we did a month ago [ed. Stage Dive Day Out in Stockholm]. I didn't meet them, but a couple of the other guys did and they're really cool. A Skylit Drive, we go back years with them. They're from the same area as we are, and we've done tons of tours with them back when we had our old singer, so they're like our closest friends. What's been the most memorable, funny or strange moment on this tour so far?

Zac: Let's see... Well, this doesn't have to do with our band, but we were there. We were in Amsterdam and someone in one of the other bands... I don't know if it was because of the coffee shops or because of food, or if it was the lack of sleep, but he passed out in the store with his eyes open. It was very creepy and scary. I think that was the most memorable moment. We actually interviewed a Danish band called The Psyke Project recently, and they told us about an incident in Amsterdam where someone was stabbed in the face in their show.

Zac: What? In the face? Damn. (Looks shocked) One of our fans is interested in knowing what your dream tour line-up is. Obviously you just said you love touring with A Skylit Drive, but are there others?
Zac: I think as the whole band, probably Deftones. Me, personally... Is this a tour that could happen? Because I like a lot of weird music like Joanna Newsom and Jens Lekman, but we would never tour with those bands - unless we drastically change our sound. Realistically, Deftones would be cool. I can see that maybe somehow happening because we've got some connections toward that area and we're kind of the same sort of style. Glassjaw would be really cool. The Mars Volta would be awesome. I think that'd be the dream line-up actually: Deftones, Glassjaw and The Mars Volta. Yeah, that would be a pretty sweet tour. Speaking of line-ups though, your band has seen quite a few member changes - some more dramatic and public than others. Do you feel that the band has now found a solid shape?
Zac: Yeah, because in the past it was always kind of shaky. Some members didn't get along with other members, and it always stressful and kind of a weird environment. But now we're all friends, we all hang out together. Our last member change was a bassist, but we had already known that he was going to go because he had school, he was just helping us out at the time. We didn't know anyone else, and he was really good, so we asked him "hey, will you help us out with this and go to tour with us right now?" and he was down with that. Now we have a new bassist, Tim [Feerick]. We've had him for half a year and it's pretty much all solid, I can't see anyone leaving the band anytime soon. Are there still some old members that you don't get along with too well, or are things okay between you and them?

Zac: Not really, no. I mean we just toured with Emarosa, our old singer's new band, so we're chill with them. Our old screamer Jon Mess, we hang out with him. He came out to our hometown show and did a couple of songs with us. We haven't seen our last bassist for a while. He's a little reclusive but he's really cool, and I'd like to see him sometime soon. But yeah, we keep in touch with everyone. How do you feel the line-up changes have influenced the band's sound?

Zac: Different people have different talents, and different kinds of styles. Not that we would - like if we had the same line-up, it's not like we would not push as hard, but I think it kind of gives us more of a drive to prove ourselves when we have different members every album. We tell ourselves we're going to do as best we can, and write the coolest stuff we possibly can. I mean I don't think it's that big of a deal because I think we would have done that anyway. But since it happened, maybe there's a little bit more of a drive, or a little passion to want to prove ourselves, and do something that's kind of different. Before the two most recent albums, you recorded a self-titled album, the "Death Star" album. We've heard rumors that the songs were mostly old material that hadn't been recorded yet...
Zac: No. We lost our singer, Jonny, which was like two years ago, but nothing was really written at that point. We had a couple of ideas but we had no songs. And then we didn't have a singer for a couple of months. We were talking to people when we had written five songs or so, and they were showing their ideas and stuff. So it wasn't really anything that we had had before - it was pretty much all new tunes that we had written as a band. Another rumor that our fans are interested in hearing your opinion about is that a lot of the lyrical content in your music, especially the screaming, isn't supposed to make any sense. Is there any truth behind that?

Zac: No, I wouldn't say that. I mean maybe to an extent, because it's pretty weird. I think a lot of it does make sense in a way when you look at it in the right way. At least for me, but maybe that's just because I know the person who wrote them and I can understand what he was going for. I mean there are some parts that are weird. I can see how some kid, some younger kid would have no idea what's going on, but I feel like the lyrics do make sense. So it's more of a case of people not interpreting the lyrics right?

Zac: Yeah, I just don't think it's that abstract. I'd say the lyrics off the first album maybe don't make as much sense as those on the last two albums, if anything. On the self-titled album you had the opportunity to work with Chino Moreno. Can you tell us exactly how that came to be and how it was to work with him?
Zac: Our manager, Eric Rashid, manages his other band Team Sleep, and I think he just asked him. Chino was recording an album for Deftones. He told Chino about our band and that we really like Deftones and want to have him on our album. Eric showed him some of our stuff and he was down to do it. So he flew out to Portland, Oregon, where we were recording and came down for a day, and we just all got together in a room and showed him songs and bounced ideas off, lyrics and stuff. He was really cool, it was awesome, like having this friend that we'd known for a while. There was no weird anxiety or anything, just a bunch of dudes hanging out in a room and making music. He even said - because he was recording at the time and he had Sundays off, and that was the day he came up - that he actually liked doing that more than not doing anything and just resting that day, because it gave him another side of inspiration, which I thought was really cool. It was really cool to see a bunch of guys working together and making music rather than just having one person crashing and stuff. We were all there, just doing it. Maybe there will be a Dance Gavin Dance cameo on some future Deftones album...

Zac: Yeah, maybe! (Laughing) At least at our magazine, there's an opinion that your music is very different and unique compared to a lot of other bands in the scene right now, so we're very interested in hearing about what things have inspired you were finding out your sound.
Zac: As a band, we all kind of listen to weirder music. We don't really listen to anything in this 'scene' or genre, which is cool. I'm flattered that you feel we're excluded from that. We all just really like music and making music, and hearing things that are different. My first show was when I was twelve years old - I saw Thrice. So I've been in the scene for about eight years or so, and I feel like I've already seen all the stuff that people are doing now. It feels like bands are just copies of copies of copies of copies of bands that were actually good, and they don't really know exactly what they're doing. All their songs sound the same and there's no real substance behind it. I don't know, I just feel like because we have outside influences and like weirder and more interesting music, we try to make our music more exciting and try to make every second we possibly can mean something and be entertaining - if not just to entertain ourselves and make ourselves proud. How do you tend to write your songs?
Zac: Everyone in the band, thankfully, can write and is talented in their own way. So it's cool, because we all just kind of get together and jam. But usually the other guitarist, Will, will have a little basis of a song, or a skeleton, or some riffs, and he'll do that at practice. And then Matt, our drummer, will just kind of step on the drums. I usually come in after those two so that I kind of know what it sounds like and I can throw in what I feel would sound cool and make the song a little more different. I mean there's also been parts that I have written first, like the last two albums actually started off with riffs that I wrote. But basically we all just get together and jam, and bring in our ideas. Also for the lyrics?

Zac: Not so much, we leave that up to our two singers. Sometimes they ask for help and we'll contribute some ideas. Like Will, the other guitarist who does the screaming, on "Death Star" he wrote all the lyrics to the song "Skyhook", and then on "Happiness" he wrote all the lyrics to "Strawberry Swisher Pt. I". We've all just kind of given them ideas, like I know Matt came up with a couple of lines for "Don't Tell Dave" and so did I. Where did the name Dance Gavin Dance come from?
Zac: No one really knows for sure, but I believe our first singer Jonny wanted to name one of his old bands that. They had their first show but they didn't have a name, so they just kind of went through a couple of names and chose one for the show. And then people knew them by that name after that show so they just kept that name. It doesn't really mean anything. Regarding the future of the band, could you tell us what your plans might be for the next album and tours and so on?
Zac: I think in the winter we're going to start writing a new album. In February we're going to Australia for the Soundwave festival, which is going to be awesome. There's some really cool bands on that tour. We haven't done that before, the only big touring festival we've done was Warped Tour, which was my favorite tour to date. I'm excited about Soundwave because there's going to be even cooler bands on this, like there's Sunny Day Real Estate, The Get Up Kids, Isis and Shinedown, and just a bunch of really cool bands that I'm looking forward to hearing. About that new album, are you going to do anything stylistically different this time?

Zac: I mean, we don't really know until we write it, but I think - because we all like different kinds of music and stuff - we'd like to throw in more genres. Like on the last record, we randomly had a rap part, which we didn't know was going to happen. We just like throwing in different genres - like right now in the last couple of days we've semi-jokingly thrown in a reggae part into one of our songs randomly, which you will probably hear tonight. And... yeah, we'd really like to do some kind of reggae or sort of dub part, and just have all kinds of different influences. We all just love music and want to just throw in as many crazy curveballs and exciting things as we can. So yeah, I'd expect something different. Would you say that on the last album you had some jazz influence in there?

Zac: I wouldn't say jazz so much as funk. But I was trying to do that on "Death Star" too. I tried to make all my parts sort of funky and not screamo, which we're kind of lumped into. We don't want to be lumped into a genre. We want to be the odd band out in a genre. So I'd say on the new album we were a little more funkier. Is there any bands you guys have been listening to lately that you want to recommend to our readers?
Zac: Well, one of the coolest things actually, to go back to your earlier question, was that we got to see The Flaming Lips, which was kind of my dream. We got to see them in Brussels. They were playing the same venue as us downstairs. As soon as we finished our set, they went on ten minutes later. We finished our set, and it was an awesome show that we played so I was super stoked. We cleaned up, went downstairs, and The Flaming Lips started, and we got blown away by them. Crazy balloons, confetti, Wayne, their singer, inside the balloon walked into the crowd, and their light show was really psychedelic. At dinner that night, before the show because we were both playing, catering was in the same room and we got to be in the same room as them, which was really cool. I've seen their DVDs and stuff and listened to their music in high school and stuff, and especially our bassist was like "wow, this is really fucking cool." Yeah, they had a pretty mindblowing performance at Roskilde Festival a couple of years ago...

Zac: Oh yeah. I think, actually Will, our other guitarist, might have seen them there. I don't know if it was the same one, but I know he went to Roskilde and saw Sigur Ròs and Immortal Tecnique and stuff like that. So yeah, I'd say listen to The Flaming Lips, they've got a new album and it's really, really weird and dark, but it's pretty cool, we're getting into that. And then Jens Lekman from Sweden. He has an album that came out a few years ago called "Night Falls Over Kortedala", and that album is probably in my top three albums. It's classic, and reminds me of old music that my mom listened to when I was a kid. Cool. So you just mentioned Roskilde. Do you guys have any plans or hopes to play that festival?

Zac: I'd actually never heard of it and only recently learned how to pronounce it. It would be cool, but I don't know if it would ever happen because of the kind of music we play and the scene were lumped into. But it would be really awesome to do that. So that's basically it for the questions. Do you have anything you'd like to add, any famous last words or shoutouts or anything like that?
Zac: I think my last words are listen to the album "Ys" by Joanna Newsom. It will change your life. Go do that, go pick it up!

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