Twenty years. That’s a long time for a band to stay together, and a great reason for the band Dada to get on the road again. I was thrilled to chat with drummer Phil Leavitt about the band, the music industry, their love of touring, and his other band, 7Horse.
|Phil Leavitt, Michael Gurley & Joie Calio from the band Dada|
Other than to celebrate your anniversary, what made you decide to get back on the road?
That’s what it’s all about. Rock ‘n roll, being on the road. We have a bit of a devoted following who have been with us all this time… We have a real connection with them and we feel like the least we can do is go out and play. And our 20th anniversary is such a milestone, we owe it to ourselves to go, to celebrate the ups and downs of the last 20 years. For me, I love the road. To get in the bus and play six nights a week is great. We just love it.
You are famous for long, kick-ass concerts, what will this tour be like?
We will dig into the catalog with deeper cuts, play songs rarely if ever heard at shows. We start rehearsals on Monday to figure out exactly what songs we will play. But we definitely plan to songs that we didn’t play as much before and give them more of a raw approach on stage. Plus, since it’s the 20th anniversary of Puzzle, we will play a lot of that album. And also Joie and my other band 7Horse will open which gives another cool aspect to the tour.
How does 7Horse differ from Dada?
7Horse is really below the belt, more of a blues-based country rock band.… While Dada is more intellectual and complex. I was watching the Rolling Stones documentary “Crossfire Hurricane” and Keith Richards commented that the Beatles were always the one in white hats so they had to be in black hats. I feel like that where Dada are the white hats and 7Horse are the black hats.
Everyone loves when you do covers as well, will we hear some in Denver?
We always do California Dreamin’ so I’m sure we will play that on the tour. But as far as covers, we tend to do songs as more of in the middle of other songs – not as a focus – but as a tribute to other bands along the way. We have a big Dada catalog to choose from, but I am sure some fun covers will be interspersed.
How has your sound changed over the years?
We’ve always been a pop rock band, with a strong Beatles/60s/70s music influence… but in the beginning I feel we had more of a punk rock energy and aggression. As we matured, we learned to relax a bit and that we don’t have to rely on pure speed to convey energy. As a drummer, my groove has gotten deeper and fatter. But the sound that was born that day in the rehearsal studio 20 years ago is still the same – we have just gotten smarter.
After the huge success of Dizz Nee Land, did you feel huge pressure with your subsequent albums?
After that song hit, we had a big 15 month tour and then there was pressure to go back in the studio and repeat that same success. We had some issues with producers and all of a sudden everything seemed so much more important. There’s definitely a sophomore jinx. It was hard to follow that up. It would’ve been nice to have the same producer as we did on the first album. Success really ratchets up the pressure. My favorite album, actually, was our third – with engineer Scott Gordon. We had a lot of fun in the studio and a lot of experimentation. But every record is different. The timing in your life, what you are experiencing at the time, what music you’re listening to… I really feel that my favorite album is the one I’m working on. I don’t like to look back, I just keep moving forward.
What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry?
The record industry has completely fucked it up. Back then, we were pawns and we were happy to be pawns. We knew we were getting ripped off but we didn’t care. They didn’t get in front of the technology, so, good riddance, in my opinion. Now there is greater access to music than ever, you can hear any song – any time of day. I do miss sitting in my room with my LPs and staring at the cover while listening to it… I miss that experience. But now as an artist, the cool thing is you have total control. With 7Horse, we got the money together for a record, got a single out there and broke into the Top 40. So we made the album we wanted and got it out there. But then, on the other hand, we hit a brick wall – we’re up against people like Bruce Springsteen and Jack White. Which at that point, you need a vehicle to break past that, maybe a viral video or a big record deal like those guys have. So the record industry is an interesting point in time. Some people say now is the best time because of the control but also in the past, you could go into a recording label with just some good songs and a good performance and get a deal. Now you have to have a Facebook presence video hits … and really have a story about you going before you get signed. But the upside for me is the love for what I do hasn’t waned and there’s always a downside to the music business … so the trick is to keep the loving what you do no matter what.
What are your plans after the tour?
We are just going to focus on the tour right now and then we’ll see. We would love to think about an album but it’s a very mercurial position to find the time and the songs to get in the studio. We’ve been in the studio in the last five years and have not been satisfied so that’s why we did not release anything. But we would all love to record something new after this tour if it works out. One step at a time.
Anything to say to fans?
This tour really is a thank you to all of our fans who stayed with us all these years. When we haven’t been around, they have stayed with us. Their connection has really inspired us. For me personally, as someone who has been really working on the logistics of this tour, the thought of their energy has really inspired me to make this happen.