view the dada discography – courtesy of Jeff Carroll.
Since the release of dada’s groundbreaking 1992 debut Puzzle, the trio has created an array of songs boasting progressive rock musicianship, dazzling vocal harmonies and melodic power pop layered with inspired psychedelic and experimental rock impulses. Adding to the trio’s groundbreaking line of attack are the marathon-length shows that deliver on the promise that every performance is the only one of its kind.
Two decades after the Los Angeles outfit embarked on its singular journey, singer-guitarist Michael Gurley, singer-bassist Joie Calio and drummer Phil Leavitt are celebrating dada’s 20th anniversary with an extended U.S. tour that kicks off at The Key Club in Hollywood on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013.
“This tour will be about a reset in a way” said Calio, noting dada plans to include songs seldom or never played by the band throughout the upcoming tour. “For right now I think dada is about digging into our roots, examining and celebrating – enjoying it a little bit more.”
Puzzle was released on September 8, 1992, and it didn’t take long for the band’s sonic imprint to find an audience. The album’s first single “Dizz Knee Land” found widespread airplay on alternative and mainstream rock outlets. The band was soon touring around the globe, opening for the celebrated likes of Crowded House, Depeche Mode and Sting.
“It’s certainly a milestone and an achievement for any band to last 20 years,” said Leavitt, who began thinking about celebrating the band’s anniversary a few years ago. “People always ask, ‘Do you still talk to each other after 20 years?’ So that’s really why I wanted to commemorate it because no matter the size of the career if you can stick together and still have a desire to play music together after 20 years you have accomplished something.”
Dada was founded when Gurley and Calio began writing songs and performing as an acoustic duo in the late ‘80s. But from the beginning, their approach was unique amidst the onslaught of ‘90s bands featuring lead singers and mostly generic backing bands.
“Joie and I were both lead singers. But we really found quickly that harmonies were going to be a big strength for us,” recalled Gurley, noting both he and Calio are fans of Simon & Garfunkel’s pioneering harmonies.
Gurley noted that once they recruited Leavitt, they were able to blend the thunderous power of trios such as Cream with the artful harmony-minded songcraft of Simon & Garfunkel.
The success of Puzzle was followed in 1994 by American Highway Flower, featuring the ambitious “Ask the Dust” and astounding “Feet to the Sun,” dada has gone on to create a magnificent discography featuring a half-dozen full-length albums and an EP. The trio has also issued a number of solo efforts and participated in far-flung offshoot projects along the way exploring a range of styles including folk, blues, jazz and rock. Immediately after dada went on hiatus in 1999, Leavitt performed with the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas from 2000-2002. In addition, Gurley and Leavitt were both members of Butterfly Jones in the early ‘00s; Calio has released several solo discs and with X Levitation Cult. Mike Gurley and the Nightcaps are a popular jazz group in Southern California. Additionally, Leavitt has stepped out from behind the drum set as lead singer and Calio is playing guitar in 7Horse, a psychedelic blues project that will serve as the opening act for dada in 2013.
All three members of dada are excited about celebrating the legacy of a band with their first full-length tour since 2004.
“It’s one of those things where you are really lucky if you can get something like that,” Calio said of the magic created when the members of dada perform together.
Added Gurley: “The best way for me to crank it up – to let my hair hang down and really rock – is with dada. It’s still the best band I’ve ever been in and I’m really looking forward to taking it to the people again.”
Long-time and new fans of dada all have one thing in common; they are passionate about the band and have a deep connection with its three members.
‘It means everything to us. We would not be going out (on tour) if we didn’t have it,” Gurley said of the bond between dada and its audience. “They’re so informed on everything we’ve ever done. It’s far and few between when you find a casual dada listener. They know everything.”
Leavitt said that 2013 is significant because it will provide dada the chance to play markets where it has rarely – if ever – performed. Joliet, Illinois and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are among the spots that will host their first-ever dada concerts on the upcoming tour.
“I love recording, I love the studio and over the years I’ve had a lot of great experiences with the guys recording. But for me it has always been about being on the road,” Leavitt said. “For me to get on a bus and roll out of L.A. and go do 35 shows, that’s what it’s all about. That’s rock ‘n’ roll. I love it.”