The result: a self-titled record that blends the musicians’ love for 80s new wave acts like Duran Duran, New Order and Pet Shop Boys, with a hint of Morrissey’s baritone weaved in. For both No Doubt members and AFI’s Havok, the music they created together was something they had never dabbled in, but the tracks came together naturally. In fact, they’re so anthemic they sound like they could soundtrack one of John Hughes’ seminal 1980s teen films. It’s something that speaks to the overall theme of the record, too. “In a sense, [the album] is a romantic drama as well,” Dumont explains. “The lyrics are so much about Davey’s life and the romantic aspects of it.”
With the album’s release this month, we caught up with Dumont and Havok about creating a project that went beyond their fanbases, how nostalgia informed their music and how “dead girls” have taken a liking to Havok.
How did DREAMCAR come about? How did it start?
Tom Dumont: It started a couple of years ago -- Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and I wanted to see if we could keep playing music together. We thought we needed a collaborator and a singer who we can work with and Tony and Davey knew each other. We took Davey out to dinner -- on a date, kind of -- and we just talked to him about music and what he’d have in mind. He was open to it, and of course, we knew Davey was in AFI and that’s his priority, but he had time to start writing songs with us. We started doing it as a collaboration just to see what would happen. We originally sent him four musical ideas. He wrote over those and started making demos of them. Then we wrote song after song after song in all of our free time. It really started purely as this idea of making music for fun that we liked, and we weren’t sure how it was going to all pan out initially. In the end, we had written over 20 songs together, and we thought, this is a band. We have an album here. Let’s do this for real. Let’s make a record together and put it out. We recorded the album last summer, and here we are.
How did you guys come up with DREAMCAR for the name of the band? It’s so ethereal.
Davey Havok: After many attempts of naming the band, there were many names that were taken. There are many band names that were taken. I was thrilled when we came upon DREAMCAR and found out we could use it as our band name. I really think it speaks to being idyllic, nostalgic, the unattainable or that dream you do achieve. Thereby we decided it was perfect for us.
There are a lot of supergroups out there right now -- BNQT, Minor Victories, Nice As Fuck, etc. What sets you guys apart from them?
Davey: I think supergroups have more than members of just two bands -- I think you have to have three. I think our record sets us apart from other bands. I think we think of ourselves as a band we’re happy with that makes music that we enjoy. Hopefully people will enjoy it.
Davey, how has DREAMCAR been different than AFI for you?
Davey: It’s vastly different. Musically it’s different than anything I’ve ever done before. That music not only informs how I perform and how I write, but it informed my decision to actually take part in this band with the boys because the music really touches on an aspect of my musical upbringing that I haven't touched on, so it was cool to finally do so.
What music inspired you guys to make DREAMCAR happen?
Tom: We never talked specifically about being a specific kind of band. We made the music organically. I think a lot of it comes out of a shared love for music we grew up listening to in the 80s. I think that informed a lot of what we did and became the common ground between the four of us. Davey’s bands, AFI and Blaqk Audio, come from a different place than No Doubt. So, the sound of DREAMCAR is where we ended up meeting in the middle.
Davey: I listen to a lot of music I grew up listening to. For me, what I’m listening to doesn’t inform my writing. Oftentimes I’m not listening to anything because I’m immersed in music all day.
Was there anything that made you guys go in a new wave direction?
Tom: It wasn’t something we specifically discussed -- I think we just found it was common ground for the four of us. We wanted to make music that was fun for us that had a unique sound. I feel like that period was so influential in our musical lives. We just had a lot of fun experimenting with those textures and sounds. We didn’t talk about it too much up until now. We also wanted the album to sound contemporary -- we wanted it to sound like something that would be on the radio now. I think we struck a good balance of doing something that was fun and inspired by [the 80s] and was sonically modern.
How did “Kill For Candy” become the lead single for the record?
Tom: That was one of the first four songs that we wrote together. It just feels like it set the right tone. We’re a new band, and we think that a lot of fans of our bands have been curious to know what DREAMCAR sounds like, and it feels like that song sums it up.
Davey, do you have any interesting anecdotes around writing the lyrics for the record?
Davey: For me, the writing process was listening to a body of music and being informed by the body of music -- writing a lyric or melody based on the music I was receiving. When I started writing “All Of The Dead Girls,” it came from the concept of the lyric “dead girls,” which was informed by my dear friend Josh Richman whom I lived with for many years. I wrote this whole record in his home up in the Hollywood Hills. If you read the lyrics of that song, it’s a multilayered self-aware, self-unaware dichotomy. It wasn’t a direct quote, but it was a comment about me and those who have an affinity for me or not. Not too many interesting stories... I just write.
How did you guys keep the project under the radar?
Tom: The reason why we didn’t announce it or talk about it was because we didn’t know what was going to become of it. We just wanted to be purely as creative as we could, which is why we kept it to ourselves for as long as we could. You’d think that these days with social media and the internet that a rumor would get out, but we were able to keep it under the radar and write for a long time without anyone knowing about [the project].
Davey: We spent about two years in secrecy before we amassed enough songs that we brought in Mark Williams, who I knew from the music industry, but who is good friends with the rest of the boys from DREAMCAR. It was at that point that he had listened to about 15-20 songs that we had made. He was very excited about it and wanted to bring us into Sony. They ended up releasing the record.
How do you think AFI and No Doubt fans will perceive DREAMCAR?
Tom: It’s interesting, we’ve been playing a bunch of shows live and it’s so interesting to see the audience reaction. It’s very clear who in the audience are AFI fans and who are No Doubt fans. So far the response is really amazing. I feel so much gratitude for the fans who are coming out to hear what we sound like. My favorite fans of all are people who came up to me over the past few weeks that said, “No Doubt and AFI are my favorite bands. We can’t believe it” There are some fans that love both bands, and I think it’s just fate that we got together for those fans or something. One thing you realize after playing music for a number of years is that you can never please everybody. But if we can please ourselves, that’s what makes us happy.
Davey: I only feel like I need to make AFI music to please AFI fans. However, that being said, I’m so touched to see that at so many DREAMCAR shows are so many AFI fans that have come this extra step to go and see a band when they didn’t know what it was going to sound like. It’s hard to say what we would or wouldn’t do [in the future]. We could do something very similar or very different.
Is there a theme that resonates within the record?
Tom: To me a lot of the unifying theme comes from Davey, lyrically speaking. Davey is very different from AFI and certainly very different from No Doubt. Davey is so dramatic in the way he makes lyrics -- his delivery is really dramatic on the level of a Broadway musical. And I love that about him. In a sense, it’s a romantic drama as well. The lyrics are so much about Davey’s life and the romantic aspects of it. I feel like that’s a huge theme of the album.
Davey: It’s not a themed record. Each song definitely stands alone. Luckily I was given the opportunity to express myself freely. The boys were very supportive of my lyrics and songwriting, which was very flattering. Each song really stands alone, but I think all of them are informed by the music I heard first.
Do you see DREAMCAR as a one-time album or project?
Tom: We definitely don’t think of it as a one-time thing. Nobody knows what the future holds. We definitely have the same approach as we did with No Doubt. If it’s fun, and we’re getting along great, we’re going to keep doing it. With DREAMCAR, I think it’s definitely possible. I see us playing shows and touring into 2018. I’d love to see us make another album. No Doubt is always my first priority in life, so if an opportunity comes up again we’ll do that. I think it’s very possible to be in two bands at once.
Davey: I view DREAMCAR as something I’m really, really passionate about. I love it. I think it’s something very important to me.
That brings me to my next question: what does the future of No Doubt look like?
Tom: We’re on a hiatus. We’re all really happy for Gwen [Stefani] -- she’s doing what she loves right now, which is being on The Voice right now. She’s doing a great job. She put out a solo record and toured last year. DREAMCAR is really happening while she’s doing that stuff. I think people had a mistaken impression that No Doubt had broken up, and we never have. We’ve had so much success over the years, and it has afforded us the freedom to do our own things. No Doubt is like a family -- it’s such a deep, deep friendship there. We’ve always wanted Gwen to be happy, so we wanted her to be able to do what she wanted to do away from the band. That doesn’t mean that No Doubt is over.