No Doubt-Meets-AFI Supergroup Dreamcar Shares Debut Song, Dishes on New Wave-Inspired Sound

Steve Erle
Dreamcar

Dreamcar, the supergroup uniting AFI frontman Davey Havok and all full-time No Doubt members not named Gwen Stefani, is finally here. On Thursday (March 2), Havok and No Doubters Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont went live with their first single -- the catchy '80s new wave-inspired track called “Kill for Candy” -- on KROQ in Los Angeles, officially brining the long-hyped project to life. They also spoke with Billboard about what’s in store.

“To put it in sexual terms, it’s definitely like holding a load and then letting it all out,” Young tells us Thursday morning, when he and Havok called Billboard from KROQ. “It feels really good, it really does.”

The whole project gets unveiled on May 12, when Dreamcar’s self-titled debut album drops on Columbia. It was produced by Sugarcult frontman Tim Pagnotta, whose production/co-writing résumé includes synth-rock successes like Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” and Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.” They’ve got a handful of club dates ahead, prepping them for performances both Coachella weekends this April. But how will they win over crowds before the album’s even out? Havok and Young have a plan…

How good does it feel to finally have music out there?

Davey Havok: It’s very exciting. We’ve been with this music for so long, and we started writing it about two years ago. We’re just really happy with it and to finally end the secrecy and have people hear the music, so as far as the rumors of the band and the confirmation of the band and what is it gonna sound like, it’s a relief and it’s exciting.

How gratifying has it been that people have been so interested in the album?

Adrian Young: I think any time you’re creating something artistically and it’s received well or there’s some sort of positive feedback, it just feels good. If we were here promoting a No Doubt record today, there would be an excitement to that. But because this is a brand-new band, it’s a little bit of a different type of excitement and there’s an anxiety that goes along with that as well. We didn’t know how this was gonna pan out and we didn’t even know this was gonna be a band, because it was an experiment to start with. For me, personally, just playing a handful of club shows is gonna be pay off enough. 

Havok: It’s so nice to see this reaction, and of course I’m so lucky to be working with such talented and esteemed gentlemen. I’m not surprised that people are very interested to see what they’re doing and I’m very happy to be a part of it. It’s really fantastic to see people react to a new band this way. Of course we both have our histories, but this is a brand-new band. We’re a guitar-based band and it’s 2017 and people got a lot going on, so for them to turn towards us and give us the attention they’re doing, we’re very lucky. 

This feels like an album you were born to make. Did you guys discuss the sound or how did it come together?

Havok: This was completely organic. They didn’t come with a concept or a specific direction. But when I received those first four pieces of music for songs and sat down and began listening to them and writing toplines, it became very clear that it was something I really needed to be a part of because it was something I was immediately passionate about. And it immediately spoke to me and evoked, in me, moments of my musical upbringing that really go back to some of my seminal years in regards to music participation, consumption and fandom. And that new romantic period was something I was very enamored of when I was very young. And with Dreamcar, the music we were writing, it pulls it out of me. And as we continued to write after those four songs, it just organically grew into the tone that you hear on the record and on the song we just played, which, as you said, is very much a part of me. It’s thrilling for me to be able to express it in a way that we are with Dreamcar.

Young: It came naturally because that was the time period for all of us when we were teenagers and kids. So to tap into that was very natural, but, to be honest, we didn’t set out to do that, we just started jamming. And there was no preconceived thought of, “Let’s try to be this kind of band or that kind of band or let’s go for the new romantic sound.” It just happened naturally.

What made you realize Davey was the right person for this gig?

Young: When he sent back the very rough toplines, I probably listened to those 10 times over and over to really wrap my head where he was going. But once we got together to demo his vocals properly over our music, that’s when I knew. That’s when I was going, “Oh man, this is going to be awesome.” 

Was there one song where you knew?

Young: It’s the first song on the record, it’s the first song he demoed, it’s called “After I Confess.” I think that probably should be the first song in our set. It was a no-brainer, it fit like a glove. In some ways I was surprised how easy it was. I haven’t joined another band since I was 19, so I didn’t know what to expect and I was surprised how easy it was.

Perhaps the O.C. crowd will only be familiar with the one song, but as we know in this day and age that by the time you play San Francisco four days later, the crowd will know every song.

Havok: [Laughs] I come from a different era, so I don’t really think about that, but you’re absolutely right. They’ll have very low-quality versions of them they’ll be watching. That’s great, that’s actually a benefit of the technology, of which there are few.

Are there songs you’re particularly excited to play live?

Havok: Honestly I can’t wait to play all these songs. Of course seeing the reaction to “Kill for Candy” after it’s been released for a while, that will be very interesting. But I feel all the songs on the Dreamcar record really will translate well. 

The sound of Dreamcar lends itself really well to covers. Is that something you have discussed for the club dates?

Havok: I wouldn’t be surprised if we did covers. We’ve been talking about that. We all have similar influences, and covers are really fun for bands to play just in general, so I wouldn’t be surprised. We haven’t decided on any specifically. But also, as you pointed out, we’re playing these shows, Coachella and the shows we just announced. And they’ll only be familiar with one song, so it’d probably behoove us to play some songs that they are also familiar with.

What one artist would you would to cover?

Young: David Bowie. I would love to play “Moonage Daydream.”