Dave Matthews Band’s Away from the World : A Preview
Published by Relix 08/27/12
By Dylan Gray
On September 18, 2011, the last night of a three day musical caravan, hosted by The Dave Matthews Band, on Randall’s Island, New York, lead singer Dave Matthews told the crowd the band was going into the studio and he hoped to have some new music to share by 2012. Creating a frenzy among fans for new music after the success of their 2009 album Big Whiskey and The Groo Grux King, there was little news from the band until now. On September 11, the group will release their new album titled, Away from the World, produced by Steve Lillywhite.
The first glimpse of the new album was on April 24th of this year, when Matthews went on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to debut a new song, “Mercy.” The song immediately became a hit among fans, and provided much anticipation for the Lillywhite-produced album. Lillywhite has worked with the band in the past on the albums, producing the celebrated Big Three : Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets. Favorites like “Ants Marching,” “What Would You Say” and “Two Step” all stem from these core albums. Now, according to Steve Lillywhite via Twitter, “the big three will soon become the big four” once this album is released.
But, the anticipation doesn’t end with just the fans. Members of the band were excited at the chance to work with Lillywhite again. Boyd Tinsley, violin player and founding member of the group explains, “Steve is an amazing producer and an amazing person. This is our fourth or fifth, if you count the ‘Lillywhite Sessions,” album with him. He has a way of making everyone comfortable. He has always brought music out of us, that we didn’t even know we possessed. I love working with Steve. He knows how to create magic.” Tinsley goes on to explain that although this album has a certain “classic” Dave Matthews Band feel, each member has grown as a musician and this album is proof of their evolution over time as musicians, adding, “This album just came from a good place and the band is having fun learning the new songs before each show and then getting to go out and play them for the fans.”
Tinsley explained the group was ready to get back into the studio to make more music, stating, “We were ready to get back together and play again after a long break, so there was this fresh excitement to play to be in the studio again. It felt like a new beginning. Everybody reached for, as Roi [LeRoi Moore founding saxophonist who passed away in 2008 following to anATV accident] would always say, the next level. It was one of my favorite sessions.”
Tinsley also acknowledges some surprise at the speed with which it came together. “All the music just seemed to flow out of us. We could not believe how quickly we finished the music and how great it was. Of course, Dave worked long after everyone else left, to write and record the lyrics, but, still, relatively speaking this album just flowed. None of the Lillywhite records took a great deal of time. Sometimes, the best music happens right out of the gate.”
According to guitarist Tim Reynolds, who has guested with the band on several occasions, and has been with them since 2008, “Since it’s Steve Lillywhite, it goes back to the old Dave Matthews Band sound, but it’s much updated. When working with Steve, he would yell out a band that he wanted a song to sound like. For example, for one song he wanted it to sound like a Pink Floyd song so he just would say ‘Pink Floyd’ and I knew exactly what he wanted and it was a great way for us to communicate in the studio.”
Looking back on the sessions, Reynolds explains, “We started off recording with two acoustic guitars (Matthews and Reynolds) and then built the rhythm section on top of that. It is very different from the last album we put out. This album has a lot of heart to it. Not that the other records have not had a lot of heart but something about this record, it just has sweetness to it.”
Part of the fun of making this new album for Reynolds, was the fact, some songs the band recorded, started one way but the finish product is nothing like how it was when the band first started recording, “I really like ‘If Only.’ It sounded a lot like Marvin Gay. You know, it came out one way but back when we were starting to record the album it sounded completely different but then over time, it evolved in the studio.”
The first song debuted off the new album, “Mercy,” was a band favorite, Reynolds says. “It was one of the first songs we had worked on and it was a very pretty song lyrically and the entire band just really loved it.”
Another source close to the band said that when the band first got to the studio, Dave surprised the rest of the band by presenting several demos that he had already written; then it was up to each individual to write their own part. This was the same blueprint the band followed in the early days. To date, the band has played six songs off of the Away From the World album and according to Reynolds, “The best material is still to come!”
One song receiving great praise from band members is “Drunken Solider.” Tinsley shares, “I really love every song on the album and so I have been hesitant to pick a favorite. To me this album is like a story and I like the whole story. There is something about “Drunken Solider” that stands out to me.” Reynolds expresses the same sentiment, stating, “Yeah that is a really epic jam. We recorded each section at different times so that we could stay focused on the song as a whole. It has a lot of dynamic transitions throughout the song.”
Fans have been very receptive towards the new material during this 2012 Summer Tour. Setlists have been a great mix of older “rare” songs, and newer material, creating a great dynamic for those long term fans and the more recent supporters. Since coming back from their 2011 summer hiatus, the band appears to be recharged and excited to be on stage again. Away From the World hits the shelves on September 11, 2012.