[Originally for DC Music Download, 12 October 2012]
With a spot on Warped Tour, a deal with Atlantic Records, and a string of dance-able pop hits to their name,The Dance Party joins a select few that have made a name for themselves above and beyond the tiny confines of D.C. After living in Los Angeles for an extended period of time, the group (comprised of Mick Coogan, Kevin Bayly, David Kuehl, Jon Jester) is back in the D.C. area with a new experimental-music project called Brett. With a new EP slated for release on Oct 30th, Coogan took a few moments to discuss all the new announcements related to the future of The Dance Party and Brett.
D.C. Music Download: How does it feel to be back in D.C.?
Mick Coogan: It’s cool. It’s fun to come back-we played at the H St festival and did nothing but just new music and people really liked it. It was kind of a big moment for us, that we broke it out to a wide audience that has really never heard of us before-people were jammin’ pretty hard by the end of it.
DMD: You guys have posted new music recently under both The Dance Party and new project, Brett. How do you feel about the way people have reacted to the new music?
MC: It’s been great. It’s been a soft release-the real EP, or the singles, are going to come out Oct 30th. But we’re going to build new fan bases and build buzz because every week, we’re releasing through our label remixes of songs. We’ve got a really great producer called Nacey to do a remix of our song “Confidence” and he did a great job. It’s this really weird, cool, trippy mix. You can go in a van and tour all you want, but if you stay at home and market yourself correctly through your network, you can do things a lot more efficiently.
But, we’re excited about the response within the industry and our friends. The hardest part is for people who’ve been listening to The Dance Party for five years, and loved the band, and have spent a million good times together with us. And they go “Brett? What are you talking about?” It’s hard, but it’s like we know that our fans are going to be weird about it. We’re thinking of a bigger picture and how music is consumed nowadays. Our fans, though, are being supportive-so we’re happy.
DMD: I want more details on this new project, Brett. What’s the story behind how it got started?
MC: We knew we wanted to do it when we got back from Warped Tour last summer. In L.A., we wrote with people set up through Atlantic and through our publishing company. You work with all the biggest producers in the world, and you just have these big, huge pop songs and you hope that one of them strikes gold and everybody’s rich and we’re all driving Ferraris. But, the reality of things is if you don’t have the proper leverage, if you don’t have the proper network within labels and within publishing companies, then you might write a cool song. But if it’s not an A+ motherfucking slam-dunk top hit like Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, then you’re not going to get any love on it.
We did that for a month. We wrote a bunch of big pop songs, and we liked to write with other people because they give you a new outlook on how to write songs. But it just came out kind of empty, and we were thinking-we still have song ideas in our heads, but I think we wanted to go a route that is a little more instinctual for us rather than going out and writing a hit because we want to write big songs, but I think when you have a instinctual and kind of weirder take on pop music, a lot of people can still dig it. It was kind of a release from the system that we’re in, cut a bunch of strings, and then when you finally got your arms free, you can see how far you can move and stretch. It’s been a fun year of writing these songs, and we recently put our website live, and now it’s going to be slowly building buzz, and getting to these blogs and see if people will latch onto it-but I think they will.
DMD: So what’s behind the name Brett?
MC: For our purposes, and for the aesthetic that we’re heading towards (how we play our live shows and our music production), I knew that this was going to be very much a different type of project. I think we’re going to fit the name very well, it’s just kind of weird and quirky, but it has some soul to it, I think. And I think when you hear the body of work, and when people are going to start getting into it, there’s going to think “OK cool, Brett-I get it”. But it’s just very different. It’s like well, let’s just go really simple and try to create a vibe, and see if people can latch onto the vibe that we’re presenting. I think that was the idea behind it.
DMD: What was your creative process with the EP-how did you want the overall release to sound?
MC: We knew there’s a vibe that we wanted to promote. We want to make dance music, but we also wanted to play guitars and have that fuzziness in it. At the end of Atlantic Records, I was pushing for a lot more electronic music, but by the time we’re 50 songs deep into it…when you do a record on a label like that, you write for six months, you write for three sessions a day and you’re writing mad songs-they’re all produced and they’re all huge. By the time we were into it, we were too far into it to be like “OK, fuck it-let’s make some cool electronic music”, though we’re already into the idea.
For this EP, Kevin and I were producing ourselves, and it’s a lot different producing yourself. You sit down and you learn programs, and we knew the sound that we wanted to make. We decided to manipulate the programs, the recording programs, to match the ideas in our head. “Confidence” was the first song that Kevin brought to me the sketch of, and I thought “Wow, this is so badass”, I was listening to non-stop Depeche Mode, and Kevin randomly brought that bass line and I thought “Dude, this is it”, so we just worked from there.
It was written about a year ago and kind of defined how we’re going to shape this project, and where it’s going to be. We’re going to strip away the 10,000 guitars that we usually do, and focus more on rhythm and electronic-synth elements, and maybe quirkier melodies and weirder lyrics. When you’re writing with a producer, you can’t get away with that shit-you can’t get away with saying something weird or off-the-wall because if it’s not in the realm of being a hit, then they don’t want to hear it. I get that-and I do like to write with those producers outside of the band-I like to write pop music. But, when you’re writing on your own, and use your own experiences, you don’t wanna follow those conventions, so Kevin and I started with this song “Confidence” and that was going to be the vibe that we were going to fit in.
We have a bunch of songs that are in that world, and we’re learning more and more as we’re writing more and more between L.A. and here, in the last couple weeks of doing other work. We’re going to try to mix these elements of big, fuzzy shoegaze guitars that we loved our entire lives (Smashing Pumpkins and Jonny Greenwood) and all these records that we’ve been listening to forever, and mix them with dance beats that we’ve always been into-and that’s kind of the world that we’re sitting in. Not a lot of bands can do it, because not a lot of bands have a shredding guitarist, like Kevin, that can understand how to make that world in a song using guitars. Anybody can sit down and at computer and fuck with their computer long enough to make cool sounding electronic music, and there’s a lot of really good stuff that is made like that. But, we’re unique in that we have top notch players-like these dudes would be playing in Foo Fighters if they weren’t part of this project-they’re just top session players. Luckily we’re all also like brothers, so that’s how it works.
DMD: There’s also a song called “Way Cool” launched under The Dance Party-when was that written?
MC: That was that written around the same time as “Confidence”, and we liked the song, and always felt that it was a cool song. We played it live on tour and we wrote it around this time last year. People were responding to it live, and when we were touring through L.A., one our friends really dug the song and did a video for it.
We shot the video in February, and we knew the song wasn’t going to fit to where we were going musically-it just didn’t have what I wanted. But I liked the song, and the whole band liked the song, and we had a video for it-which has a cool element and feel to it, and the filmmaker is a good friend. We didn’t want to bury it, because now that we’re working on Brett songs, and trying to build the band, that we’re not going to be doing Dance Party stuff-unless contractually obliged to for other reasons. We wanted to release that, and we wanted to give it to our fans-so that’s the story for releasing that song.
DMD: How did you guys hookup with Nacey for the “Confidence” remix?
MC: We were acquainted randomly. We haven’t been in D.C. frequently, but back when we were coming up, Nacey was playing shows and doing other stuff. I just started listening to more of his other work, and we’re writing a song with him actually. There’s some shit going on in D.C. in terms of electronic music that’s amazing. You’ve got U St. Music Hall, which is a central hub for just awesome electronic music-the best in the country. We’re working with people like Chris Burns and Nacey, and we’re reaching out to people that we’ve known over the years. Everybody wants to collaborate because it helps everyone-we all write a cool song together, they give it to their friends, to give to our friends, and you keep building and building.
It’s a happy time for us, because, we’ve to a point in our musicianship where we don’t have to sit down with a guitar and write a rock song. We can sit down and listen to a house beat or some weird fucked up sound and make a song out of it. It can be different, it can be ours, and so it’s been fun collaborating with these guys.
We have a song in the bag with both Nacey and Burns, they also have remixes-Burns has a remix coming up in a few weeks. But yeah, I think it’s just part of that idea that if you can control your content, then you can control you career. I think it took a long time for us to be able to do that because when you’re signed to a manager, to a label, and to a publisher-you don’t have that control. You’re playing by their rules, because you’ve signed a contract to them. Now we’re finally free. We just got out of our publishing deal and we were so stoked because now, we can now go to other smaller, boutique publishers and say here’s our music, do your thing and see where this fits in the whole amalgamation of pop culture. It’s liberating-we’re in a time where we can control our own destiny, and for a long time, we couldn’t-so that’s why we’re in a good spot, and we’re just going to do it slowly.
DMD: After the Rock and Roll Hotel show, what’s happening next for the group?
MC: What we’re going to be focusing on for the fall is playing more smaller and intimate shows to get people acquainted-not play some huge, five band bill, but play a smaller space and just bringing people a little closer. We’ll be playing at CMJ with our label Dub Frequency, and that’s when we’re going to be finally labeled as Brett, and finally go out there with no strings attached.
- Interviewed by Stephanie Williams