For Dance Gavin Dance, "The Turmoil Is All Just a Backdrop to the Music"
"For me, it's a little different," says Will Swan, guitarist and founding member of posthardcore mainstays Dance Gavin Dance. "I always want to do this and write music and stuff, so I can't really see myself doing anything else... It's not like that for everybody in the band, though."
On the eve of their tenth-anniversary tour, which reunites former vocalists Jonny Craig and Kurt Travis with the latest Dance Gavin Dance lineup, Swan maintains a realistic perspective on his band's relatively tumultuous past. "That's probably the hardest thing about being in a band in general, just keeping everyone on the same page, keeping all the relations in the band good enough that you can tour and be a band and do all the things that you need to do."
Over the years, Dance Gavin Dance has seen a virtually endless rotating door of members set up shop, record an album, and tour, only to leave — sometimes dramatically, as when Craig departed for a second time due to a publicly announced drug addiction. Rather than get caught up, though, for Swan, it's all just "part of being in a band."
"I guess we've just had a lot of things happen that have been out in the open," he says, "some extra drama that a lot of other bands don't have. It's just been our path, I guess, and it's been pretty rocky, but it's also been fun. The art is what really matters to me, so I don't really have any regrets, because I'm really happy with the way the albums have turned out."
As the band's main writer and one of its two original members, Swan has had a lot on his plate over the past ten years, putting out five full-length albums with Dance Gavin Dance while working on various side projects; he just completed tracking a new album with his other band, Sianvar, and also recently launched his own record label, Blue Swan. Still, Dance Gavin Dance's latest full-length effort, Instant Gratification, dropped in April to generally positive reviews and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hard Rock and Top Rock Album charts.
Though there may be a "perceived animosity — people think that we have some kind of beef," according to Swan, Dance Gavin Dance has powered through the hard times and proved its influence and legacy among the posthardcore set. "The turmoil is all just kind of a backdrop to the music, and the music's all stuff I've been really proud of," he says.
Of the latest album, an arguably more hooky departure from previous records, Swan weighs in: "The previous album was more experimental for me, and I wasn't thinking too much about structure or a lot of things. It was just about making cool movements and bringing epic feelings out with the music... So this album, I feel like I compensated the other direction in my general songwriting, to make it a little bit easier for the vocals to get into a groove."
As for what we can expect from Friday's anniversary show with all three DGD vocalists in tow, Swan says, "We're probably going to section it off. Do a set with Tilian [Pearson], then have Kurt [Travis] do a few songs, Jonny [Craig] do a few songs." And if you're wondering whether Swan is nervous about bringing the band back together given its past, he makes it clear: "I don't really feel like there's that much of a hatchet to be buried."
Apart from a near-obsessive drive to "top myself and become a better writer," it's clear the success of Dance Gavin Dance has also been in catering to the fans. According to Swan, it's the same impulse to please fans that resulted in 2010's Downtown Battle Mountain II that ultimately led to this reunion tour.
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He recalls: "Hearing the rumors of a DBMII and then making that happen, because wouldn't it be funny if there was a DBMII? So we did it just because we could. Same thing here. People are like 'Oh, ten years, crazy that you made it this far with all the things you've been through! Wouldn't it be funny if you had all the singers come up on a tour for the ten-year anniversary?' And then we just made it happen. That's just kind of how things work out for Dance Gavin Dance."
Dance Gavin Dance
With Slaves, A Lot Like Birds, DayShell, and Strawberry Girls. 6:30 p.m. Friday, December 4, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $18 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.
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