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 25th anniversary.
“dada is about digging into our roots, examining and celebrating it.” Says Calio
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 cracking the Top 5 on the Modern Rock Single’s chart and pushing the album’s sales to over 1,000,000 worldwide. The band was soon touring around the globe, opening for the celebrated likes of Crowded House, Depeche Mode and Sting.
“People always ask, ‘Do you still talk to each other after all these 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 you have accomplished something” explains Leavitt.
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 offshoot projects along the way exploring a range of styles including folk, blues, jazz and rock. Gurley and Leavitt were both members of Butterfly Jones while dada was on hiatus 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 has released 3 albums to date. Bringing a stripped-down approach, 7Horse cuts to the bone and identifies core feelings and phrases in their music. Their latest effort Livin’ In A Bitch of A World was released earlier this year. Their debut album Let The 7Horse Run spawned the hit song Meth Lab Zoso Sticker, which was chosen by Martin Scorsese for his film The Wolf of Wall Street. Since then, it’s had over 1.2 million views, 5.5 million streams and over 100,000 downloads.
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.
You don’t have to be a physics nerd to know that old chestnut about bodies in motion staying in motion is absolutely true. Just look at East Coast-bred, Toronto-based rockers The Trews who, since the April 2014 release of their universally acclaimed self-titled fifth studio album, have scarcely stopped to take a breath.
For proof, a quick tally of some recent achievements in the following categories…
Touring! Singer/songwriter Colin MacDonald, songwriter/guitarist John-Angus MacDonald and bassist Jack Syperek hopscotched extensively across North America, playing everything from soft-seaters to festival stages. They also supported Supersuckers in the UK last fall.
Awards! An East Coast Music Award for Rock Recording of the Year plus ECMA nominations for Group of the Year, Fans’ Choice Entertainer of the Year and Fans’ Choice Video of the Year. The Trews also received a 2015 Rock Artist of the Year nod from the SiriusXM Indies.
Film! The forthcoming comedy How to Be Deadly, chronicling the guerrilla escapades of (fictional) YouTube sensation Donnie Dumphy, showcases two Trews songs. Keeners will note that director Nik Sexton also helmed the Trews’ wildly successful (and flat-out hilarious) PledgeMusic campaign video which assisted in financing the latest album.
Thrills! The band performed ‘Taking Care of Business’ alongside Randy Bachman at the recent SOCAN Awards in Toronto where the legendary Guess Who/BTO guitarist and songwriter scored a Lifetime Achievement Award. The MacDonald brothers and Big Sugar also nailed ‘American Woman’ as Bachman looked on.
Singles! ‘Under The Sun’ - one of several songs on album The Trews cut with fans in-studio as a reward for their support - is currently tearing up charts nationwide, following in the footsteps of previous TOP 10 Rock singles, ‘What's Fair is Fair,’ ‘Rise in the Wake’ and ‘New King.’
Amid all that glorious momentum, there has been a significant change. Original drummer Sean Dalton left the band after 14 years. Skinsman Gavin Maguire stepped in to brandish the beat at the suggestion of long-time Trews touring keyboardist Jeff Heisholt.
Canadian fans can witness that for themselves this summer as The Trews perform coast to coast, hitting multiple prestigious festivals along the way. Following an winter break, the band joins Gavin DeGraw, Sister Hazel, Will Hoge, Michael Franti & Spearhead and Red Wanting Blue aboard Rock Boat 2016, cruising the Caribbean (and scorching the rock faithful) from January 26 to 31.
Smart money says the newly revamped and re-energized Trews will – in typical Trews workhorse fashion - use any available downtime to contemplate their next album. “Who knows what’s next?” laughs John-Angus MacDonald.
“We certainly have options… maybe issuing previously unreleased material. And we’ve got to write a bunch of new songs. There’s lots to do between now and the end of the year. But we’re ready.”