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On the road again, for Dave Matthews

August 4th, 2006

THE JOURNAL NEWS -

080406.jpgThe Dave Matthews Band, bringing their festival-tour to Randall's Island this weekend, is using the summer to try out tunes for their next album.

When you've built your success on playing live, you tend to stick to a pattern that works.

"We do change the sets and let the music evolve and look for spontaneous moments in what we're doing," Matthews said recently. "Maybe I get tired of not being in one place or not having the same pillows every night, but as long as we like playing, it sort of makes all the other (stuff) more bearable."

DMB has a following equal to other improvisational rock bands like Widespread Panic and Phish, and they quickly learned to capitalize on the fact that their fans relish following them around the country.

"More than anything, what has driven our career is touring," Matthews said. "If you're lucky enough to find something you enjoy, you put up with traffic jams."

As they have every summer for 10 years, DMB itself will create many of those jams, incorporating new songs into their stretched-out, jazz-inspired live sets. Also on the bill this weekend: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Govt. Mule and David Gray.

Mathews answered questions from David Lundquist of the Indianapolis Star:

When you play consecutive nights at the same venue, do you have a routine for your down time that second day?

"It usually means there's a day off beforehand. So anything we do, we do on the day off. The day of show is usually pretty focused for us. We come in and t the first day just to make sure everything is working. A soundcheck isn't necessary on the second day, but we get a little time to rehearse new ideas or some changes in the set that will make it — for the few people that go both nights — worth their while. For people who are keen enough to come both nights, we'll have two completely different shows — maybe repeat three or four tunes that we're really into at the time."

You're midstream in the making of a new record, right?

"We've been writing, so we've been in the studio coming up with ideas ...with the idea that we'll take the new songs on the road. We've already been practicing some of them so we can let them evolve to a point where we're all comfy with the way we've arranged them and the way they've unfolded on the road."

I peeked at Stefan's Web site (bass player Stefan Lessard), where he has a bit of a journal about the work you're doing. One thing he wrote was, "Get the hook and the song will follow." Is that a guiding principle?

"In a strange way, yes. One of the things that I feel happens often when you go into a studio and write a song is that you sometimes find a hook and then you beat the hook to death. ... We're not driven by a specific thing. It doesn't have to be a vocal hook, it doesn't necessarily have to be a chorus to be a hook. One of the things that is exciting about this band — which doesn't always translate to radio — is that it could be a horn line or a drum groove that is the hook.

"I think one of the strengths of the Police, for instance, was that they came up with the choruses first. When you have that, you can run in every direction and then come back to it. So make the departure from it and the return to it as innovative as possible."

I know some acts have a microphone somewhere on the stage, where all the musicians can hear it. Do you have that kind of thing?

Yeah, but we all have them. I wear one on my shirt because I walk around a lot. All of us talk and listen to each other. When we were playing clubs, we could shout at each other. But now that we're more spread out and the general volume is a little louder, it's convenient for us to feel close together. Being able to talk at a comfortable level makes everything seem a lot smaller. You don't feel as exposed when you can turn around and chat casually from 70 feet away."

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