The Dave Matthews Band? They're back. In fact, they're kicking off a tour today at Madison Square Garden. And when your band is the Dave Matthews Band, the beginning of a tour means interviews. Lots of them. A press junket can take the air, not to mention the civility, out of the best of 'em, but such is not the case with Dave Matthews Band, who are friendly, witty and completely professional.
And they're open to a little touch-up before going on-camera. Stefan Lessard takes the makeup chair first and is good to go in less than sixty seconds. And Boyd Tinsley? "Just some powder, please." A Pussycat Dolls shoot this is not.
But all four of them, to a person, are in good spirits, which makes for some unexpected but welcome antics when shooting promos: View Photos from the Fuse TV Interview.
Dave: "Hi, I'm Dave Matthews. [long pause] Hmmm, I suck at this."
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Carter: "Check out fuse, dot fuse, dot slash, dot... sh*t!"
Dave: "Dot sandwich!"
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Carter: "Check out fuse.tv/dmb."
Dave: "Wow, that was awesome!"
The camaraderie that fueled Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, the band's highly collaborative new album, is in full display in the Roxy Suite, an art deco hideaway in Radio City Music Hall that serves as the interview's location. Dave can't stop talking about Carter. Carter can't stop talking about being brothers. Stefan is all about a 'rebirth.' And Boyd announces a 'further evolution' in the band's sound. A good day to sit down with the Dave Matthews Band, then.
Dave Matthews sits and asks for a cup of coffee ("black") and gets ready to talk. And talk. Once Matthews gets going, he keeps going. Great for us, not as much for those in charge of keeping the day's schedule. But when the topic is the newest album, and its genesis, and its intraband importance, it's difficult to slow Matthews down.
The album is about "death and sex and love," according to Matthews, none of which is unexplored ground for Matthews, but what's different is the overall feel - there may be (deceivingly) happy moments on the record, but it's a serious work. It's often about loss, loss shared collectively by the band, as well as loss weathered by the individual. And it's about facing your feelings. The album songs were a collective effort, born of group improvisation. It's a musical language that can succeed only if everyone is willing to communicate. Which wasn't the case for a few years. But now? They talk. They play. And they can even, yes, argue.
"We went away for a bit. Most of the problems we had with each other didn't matter. We can fight now. You can't fight when you're not talking. We can fight now."
The verbal communication, of course, translates into musical communication.
"We found a way to play together again," says Matthews. "I'm a weird player. In other bands I feel weird. I don't feel weird in this band. It's all about getting each other."
And according to Dave, even people that don't like DMB will find something on this album to like. "If you don't like this record, you don't like music," Dave quotes an industry associate as saying, and though the words aren't Dave's, it's clear that he doesn't disagree. As the lengthy interview wraps, Dave's coffee arrives.
"Remember two things?" asks Dave. "Just remembering one thing is hard."
Drummer Carter Beauford enters with Matthews, and though it's clear he equally as enthusiastic about Whiskey King, it's difficult for him to get a word in - because Dave won't stop raving about Beauford's playing.
"I challenge any band to swing like Carter swings," Matthews says. "There are drummers that are going to go into therapy after hearing this record. I heard him play some of his best stuff on this record."
Carter, however, is able to chime in with an opinion common to all four members: the spirit of brotherhood is a major reason why the album is so good:
"We were able to enjoy making music... and being brothers. Like a return to the early days. [That] camaraderie means everything to me."
Stefan Lessard bounces around the room, weighing in on any conversation, while marveling at the speed with which his Twitter tweets get replied. "Basically, I tweet about being hungry." But he, too, has thoughts on Big Whiskey:
"This album is sort of the way it was in the beginning, where the band would get together and write... We needed to make a band record, something all of us had our hands in. Our ideas were flowing but also everyone's ears were open to what everyone else was saying.
This band is a good marriage. There's been a rebirth in a way. Roi was there for the rebirth. His death has amplified how close I feel to the other guys in the band. Roi's passing has made me realize how important it is to enjoy every minute onstage."
Boyd Tinsley may be a Big Star, but he's not too cool to disguise his wonder at the DMB poster he's being asked to sign. "Where's this from?" he asks. It's the poster for the most recent Dave Matthews Band show at Madison Square Garden, he's told. "Wow! Um, are there any extras?" Clearly, Boyd still loves his job, and, like his bandmates, he's proud of Big Whiskey.
"It's the Dave Matthews Band sound, but songs and styles you've never heard. It's a further evolution of our music."
The songs were written as a group, the way the band soundchecks: someone starts playing an idea, everyone comes in, and suddenly they're off. And what's ultimately powering the record? "LeRoi's spirit, how much he loved this band, and how much he wanted to make this album."
Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King is out on June 2nd, and until then, Fuse will be all about the Dave Matthews Band, bringing you exclusive interviews, rare footage and reports from the road, both on-air and online. Tonight, the band plays Madison Square Garden in New York, kicking off a tour that will last into the fall. Don't miss the album, don't miss the tour, and don't miss this page, which will be full of exclusives. And one final thought from Stefan:
"This album is going to translate really well live."
That's a statement worthy of a tweet if there ever was one.