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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dada carrying on with a little help from its fans




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

After releasing its first album in 1992, California trio Dada still has a rabid fan base.

That was made evident by the fact that the band's Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 shows at Schubas in Chicago sold out so quickly. Those without tickets might consider traveling to Philadelphia or Boston to see the band.

I had the chance to interview drummer Phil Leavitt about the band and its current activities, which thankfully includes a new album.

Q - It seems like Chicago is good to you guys.

Chicago has been incredible to us since the very beginning. That's why when we thought about doing some dates at the end of the year, we wanted to come back there.

Q - Is it still surprising to you that after all these years, there are such rabid fans around?

I don't know if surprised is the word I would use. But it is very gratifying. You never know. You put a show on sale, and the first show sold out in a couple of hours.

We haven't been back in a few years, so it is very gratifying to know that people are still connected to you in that way, and it is very inspiring. It makes you want to come back and get in front of that audience and maintain that connection with people that have been with you for so long.

Q - What should people expect from the shows in Chicago? Any surprises?

We're definitely going to mix up the set list a little bit from night to night. We've been working on new material this year, so I would expect some of that will be in the mix.

There might be a few surprise covers. I can't give away all the surprises. They wouldn't be surprises then, now would they?

They can expect a great night of high intensity music with a great vibe in the room. That's what I expect.

Q - Last year, of course, was 2009. Was it weird playing "The Spirit of 2009?"

When we wrote that, 2009 seemed so far in the future (the song was on the band's 1996 album, "El Subliminoso"). We played it in Philadelphia on New Year's Eve in 2009. It was very odd that finally we had arrived at that point.

It wasn't that long ago, but it was still sort of a look into the future at the time, and there we were, the future is now.

Q - Do you think you might write a 2010 song now?

I don't think so. But we've got a couple of songs that were sort of prophetic in their look into the future, "2009" being one of them.

When you really delve into what the song "Dizz Knee Land" is about, it takes a look at instant fame, which is kind of what we are in the midst of now, with reality TV and the like.

In that song, our character robs a grocery store and is famous, and goes to Disneyland. And now, you can get a TV show by being from New Jersey or being an obnoxious prick. It's funny how that developed over time. I think we were a little ahead of our time.

Q - And of course there's a reference to George Bush in the song, but it's a reference to the first Bush. And then another Bush becomes president. Did you ever think there would be two George Bushes as president?

We never could have possibly considered that would be the case. But I have to say that when he arrived, we definitely had mixed feelings. It was like, hey, that song is still good.

Q - It kept the song timely, didn't it?

Yeah.

Q - That song hit so big. Was it both a blessing and a curse?

It is hard to say that it was a curse. This music business is so hard to break into, any kind of success is a blessing.

And then it is about what you are going to do afterwards. But you can't hate your hit. That's kind of silly.

Because if it were not for that song, I don't know if we would have gotten the exposure and that people would know about us.

I guess you could say it's a curse if some people only think of us for that song. Then they don't really know the band. But overall, I would say that song is a blessing because it put us on the map.

Q - Was there a lot of pressure to follow up that song?

Second records for any bands are difficult. All of a sudden there are ton of expectations. I thought we did pretty well on our second record ("American Highway Flower"). I thought the record company dropped the ball, though.

A lot of people like our second record. I'll stand by it, and I'm proud of it.

Q - And who was the basis for the character in the song, "Bob The Drummer."

It is a fictional character. But there's a lot of guys in L.A. who play gigs around town and maybe looked at something bigger at one time.

That's what that song is about. It is about paying your dues and grinding it out as a professional musician. There's a lot of glamor associated with being a rock star, but there's a lot of heartbreak associated with being an artist, and even more so, trying to be a professional musician, trying to make a living at it.

It's a hard row to hoe, and it's not all groupies and bags of money. Sometimes you have to play a bar mitzvah. That's just how it is.

Q - You said you are working on new material.

We're really excited about stuff we are doing now. That's kind of the reason we wanted to get out and play some dates, because we spent most of the year working on new material.

We wanted to get back to what this band really does, and that's getting in front of an audience. That's so invigorating for us to play in front of a crowd.

That's kind of what the band stands on, it's live reputation. People love our records and that's great, but I think we've made our reputation really as a live act.

It's great getting back on the road. I'm always into going into Chicago, particularly in winter.

Q - Why's that?

To me, you go into Chicago in winter, you have to be a little hard to deal with the Chicago winter. It's rock 'n' roll. Chicago and winter to me is rock 'n' roll.

There's something inspiring about that you have to deal with the elements. It makes you come together a little bit as a group.

Q - When are you looking to get out the new album?

I've love to get it out next year. 2012 is going to be our 20th anniversary as a group. We would like to get the new record out in 2011, and get behind that a little bit.

We will kind of gear up for 2012, which should be a fun year for us. You make it to that kind of milestone, you might as well celebrate it.

Q - What should people expect from the new album?

You continue to evolve as a band. I think we're a better band than we started, certainly. We are not signed to a label right now, so we have the freedom to do whatever we want.

We've always been kind of an eclectic band, and now there's no reason at all not to be, because we have no one looking over our shoulder telling us to rein it in. We can pretty much go in any direction we want to go in, which is great for us.

Our goal is always to make the best record we've ever made. That's the goal. As far as what that is, you don't know until you get there.

Q - When you guys first got on the scene, what do you think separated the band from other groups out there?

We've got this wide range of influences, between classic songwriting, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all the stuff from the '60s coupled with really strong harmony singing, which you don't hear as much anymore.

And then I think we have a wide range of styles and influences, which people tend not to want todo because it is hard to sell that. Record companies discourage that kind of thing. They want you to be as specific in what you do as possible.

And we were always very eclectic. We were always willing to go in a lot of different directions.

That kind of separates us. We are playing pop music, but we are playing pop music that has a lot of different flavors to it. There's a lot of different elements to what we do.

We always like to do that, because we get bored doing the same thing over and over again.

Q - That's what I've always liked about the band. Each song stands on its own.

That was always our goal. Whatever the song wants to be, that's what you make it. To me, it always comes back to The Beatles.

The most inspiring thing about The Beatles is they played the entire gamut of what was pop music history, and they reinterpreted it in the course of their career. That's what we like to do.

I'm inspired by that. There are no limits to what you can do musically.