2008 Dave Matthews Band Studio Progress and Reflecting on LeRoi Moore
By Joe Maliszeski
With no new shows on the horizon for Dave Matthews Band fans to look forward to, we do the next thing we know how to do best – anticipate, wonder, dream, and desire about a new album. As many of you all know a new album isn’t a new idea. The band has been working on the new album over the last year, including a studio stretch in early March of this year. For those that may have missed it, here is a video from the March Studio Sessions to check out.
But what’s the progress? Will we finally get a follow-up to the almost 4-year-old Stand Up? Read on about what the band has to say about the new work on the Dave Matthews Band – New Studio Album 2008.
When talk of a new studio album came up again in the beginning of 2008 fans didn’t know what to think. We had heard the same thing at the beginning of 2006 and 2007. Was this going to be another lost session/album like the previous years? The band had tried this before after the release of 2005 album, Stand Up. A lot of music was recording during those sessions and the band seemed to be on a creative streak working along side Mark Batson, the producer on Stand Up. In Early 2006 Dave was in the studio in Seattle solo laying down some tracks in preparation for the band heading back into the Charlottesville studio again with Batson. Excitement seemed high about the sessions as much the information we got about them came directly from Stefan Lessard from his Haunted Hollow Studios blog. But the Batson Sessions - Part 2 never made the cut. “Mark Batson’s a great guy. He’s a great producer, a great musician,” Tinsley said. “There’s nothing about Mark that was the reason why we didn’t finish the album. I think one reason - there were probably many - but I think one of the reasons was just maybe the timing was not right for us. That was not the time to do the album, and this is. But it had nothing to do with Mark.” The group has some finished material from the Batson session, but Tinsley said those songs don’t figure to surface anytime soon. Subsequent trips to the studio yielded similar results the following year. “We’re on a bit of a creative break as far as working in the studio – we’ve been in pre-production for a long time, but we’ll get more serious later in the year”, quotes Stefan about working on a new album in May of 2007.
So what is to make the 2008 sessions any different? Are we finally going to get an album? The process started again in the beginning of the year. “We came up with the ideas in Charlottesville, in our studio, and then we took it out to Seattle, and Rob [Cavallo] has been there from note one.” Rob Cavallo joined the band as the producer for the sessions which would hopefully lead to the new album. He is famous for working with Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and the Goo Goo Dolls. ‘‘Rob’s a great guy, a very creative guy, and like Batson, he also likes to be involved musically. Cavallo is a guitar player, so often times he would be in the studio with us playing these songs, particularly as we were writing them. So it was exciting. He’s a producer, but he’s also like a musician playing along with the band.’’, according to Boyd Tinsley. Also joining the band in the studio was longtime collaborator and 2008 tour staple, Tim Reynolds. Tim hasn’t been in the studio with DMB since 1998’s Before These Crowded Streets. “Tim just sort of expands upon things,” Boyd Tinsley explains. “He’s such an amazing musician. [He] adds this quality to the music that opens it up.”
Aside for the studio video that came out in March, information about the new album’s progress has been few and far between. What we have gathered comes from various sources, including news articles, member interviews, and from those involved with the band. Early in the year the band, Tim Reynolds and producer Rob Cavallo, got together in Charlottesville, Va. to start working on new ideas and new material. Additionally, sources mentioned studio work on recently played live songs “Shotgun, Sweet Up And Down, and Loving Wings” during the Charlottesville time. Despite the dearth of information, it seemed early on as though the direction of the album would lean toward the live music of 2006-2008. Then in March the band took what they started in Charlottesville and continued with it in Seattle. Here the focus moved away from the live music and towards the new ideas they were developing. Much emphasis has been noted on how the band has worked as a whole to create the new material. “It literally was a collaborative effort from beginning to end,” says Boyd Tinsley. “Every song was written by everybody at the same time - we’ve never really done that before.” Dave goes on to explain more, “We’ve been sitting in a circle for the first time in years, just all of us facing each other and building songs together. I’m amazed. I don’t know how the hell I ended up with this gang, but at least musically we seem to be getting along. Whether people like the new music or not, that much is an amazing achievement for me, how intuitively connected we are at this point.” The band did, however, bring in Danny Barnes to lay down some banjo tracks during the session, according to sources familiar with the session. So despite the 'loose feel' to the studio time, clearly there was some direction as where to go with specific songs.
Dave comments on the idea of playing the new material live before the album is released. “In the past we have, but I want to let this album evolve on its own. There’s music on the album, and there’s music that we perform live. There’s crossover, but they’re not necessarily the same. And I think that makes it interesting for fans.” Boyd Tinsley reverberates what Dave had mentioned, that the focus of the album has been on all new stuff. “We do have a lot of songs from that that are still out there,” Tinsley says of the newer songs being played live. “However, none of those songs are going to be on this new album. Every song on the new CD is something fresh and new that we just finished.” As to the style of the new songs Boyd says, “It feels like the beginning again, but the music is just a lot different. It’s just like the whole excitement of starting something new, starting something fresh, feels like those first couple of albums. I’d say like, not as far as the songs are concerned in particular, but like the mood and the vibe of it feels like ‘Under The Table (And Dreaming)’ and ‘Crash’. It feels like the beginning again, but the music is just a lot different. It’s just like the whole, just excitement, of starting something new, starting something fresh feels like those first couple of albums.”
I had a chance to talk with Dave Matthews during the tour. “We’re working on a good record. Just writing all new stuff and having a blast”, he mentions to me unprovoked about the album. “Whole band is writing together. It’s real different, it’s real fresh. […] We’re all in the studio in a circle. It’s been a lot of fun.” He goes on to describe the process the band followed for recording the new album. “We are writing backwards. Starting with these jams. 10 minute feels and groves.” He talks about how they started with about 75 of these “honest” feels and they picked out 20 of their favorites and then down to 15 of which they worked on. (Here’s a portion of what Dave had to say about the album and the recording process.) “Throughout the whole experience we were all together,” says Boyd Tinsley. “We came up with ideas all the way through writing songs, literally, and that’s something we’ve never done before. It’s really been a pretty amazing experience. And everybody’s just really digging the songs.” From there it was up to Dave to take what the band had started and to work on the lyrics, with a plan to return to the studio after the group came off the road.
That was the plan, except the band would change forever before they came off the road and were able to return to the studio. In late June founding member LeRoi Moore was involved in an ATV accident that put him in the hospital in serious condition. Two months after beginning a physical rehabilitation program, LeRoi died unexpectedly from sudden complications from the accident.
Questions arose about the future of the tour, the future of the album, the future of the band. “We have to see how everything moves and be open to one another,” Matthews said about how the guys are dealing with the loss of Moore. “We expect there to be obstacles that will arise that will come from [LeRoi’s] absence. Maybe in some ways, the tragedy will allow things to happen more easily. Certainly, the finality of death, in my experience, causes one to assess one’s blessings” How will this change the band and the music? “LeRoi was a founding member, but time changes us,” Matthews said. “Hopefully, we don’t imitate ourselves. Our detractors would probably say we haven’t changed, but more than that thing [LeRoi] left musically, his absence as it pertains to the relationship and dynamic of the band, that will change the chemistry, that will change everything.”
As for the recordings that LeRoi did during the studio sessions early in the year, Dave comments. “We were very fortunate that some of the music that we have features him, and certainly the songs and the writing of the songs, he was a central part of much of it and the spirit of it,” Matthews said. “We’re doing our best to have his participation.”
In October, Dave is back to the original plan, working on the lyrics. “I am working fucking hard on some new music. Carter/Roi/Stefan/Tim/Boyd and I worked hard on the foundations. I’m busy with lyrics” posted recently by Dave via his iPhone on Twitter, the social messaging website. LeRoi’s influence and presence in the songs is apparent. “I miss my friend today. Working on songs we worked on together and hearing him play. He was my great friend.”
With Dave working on the lyrics when can we expect an album? “We’ve always tended toward pushing the [recording] process in the past so we could get back on the road”, says Dave. “But because of different elements, we should really put our efforts into making something that would be the culmination of our years together.” The band doesn’t want to rush the process, both in tribute to Moore and to the integrity of Dave Matthews Band’s music. “We’re trying to make some beautiful music, and we don’t want a deadline,” Matthews said. “We’re going to take our own sweet time.”
Sweet time they have. Will the 2008 Cavallo Studio Sessions follow the same fate of the 2006 and 2007 work? This happens to be a critical time in the life of the sessions. If they are going to die off much like other sessions have this is when it would happen. But this session seems to have life and the band seems eager to work on finishing the album. And even more so, the fans are eager to hear what the band has been working on. The sessions/album are still in progress and Antsmarching.org will be sure to keep up to date with the latest about the album and pass along what information we get. In the mean time, we will all keep our eyes on the new studio album page (dmbnewstudioalbum.com) for something other than “Coming Soon”.
inRich.com - Dave Matthews looks ahead as band takes its time in the studio
seattlepi.com - Dave Matthews gathers the tribe for new album
rollingstone.com - Dave Matthews Band - Summer Tour Guide 2008
billboard.com - Dave Matthews Band Still Plugging Away On New CD
themorningcall.com - With work on new CD, the rejuvenation vibe continues for Dave Matthews Band
The Virginian-Pilot - Dave Matthews Band is recharged and refueled
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