Dave Matthews Band’s fifth studio effort, “Everyday,” turns yet another new page in the famed quintet’s sonic storybook.
Due Feb. 27 on RCA, the set finds Dave Matthews playing primarily electric guitar for the first time, infusing the material with a renewed urgency and texture. The new sound is evident on the first single, “I Did It,” which hit No. 10 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart in just three weeks.
Sessions for “Everyday” began last summer in DMB’s Charlottesville, Va.-based studio with producer Steve Lillywhite — who helmed the group’s past three studio efforts, including 1998’s triple-platinum “Before These Crowded Streets.” But while pausing to embark on its usual summer tour, the South African-born Matthews and his band — Carter Beauford (drums, percussion), Stefan Lessard (bass), LeRoi Moore (saxophone, flute), and Boyd Tinsley (violin) — began to re-evaluate their progress.
“We all felt we needed an injection of freshness,” Matthews admits, adding that he felt hampered by what he perceived as pressure “to write music that would please the industry.” At the suggestion of Bruce Flohr, RCA’s VP of A&R, producer Glen Ballard (Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette) met with the band during a tour stop in Hartford, Conn. The band soon agreed to switch gears and bring Ballard on board.
Matthews then journeyed to Los Angeles, planning simply to tighten up the arrangements of eight songs from the earlier sessions and complete four unfinished compositions. But what resulted was a nine-day flurry of songwriting by Matthews and Ballard that both describe as astonishing.
“We walked in the room on that first day, and we were having fun together,” Matthews says. “By the end of the day, there was a song done. And on the second day, there were two songs done, and so on.”
“At the end of the nine days, we had 10 new songs,” Ballard enthuses. “I was still prepared to cut whatever David wanted to cut. But he just said, ‘Man, let’s just go fresh with all of this.’ It was a radical decision for him to make. He felt that something had been unlocked, and he really wanted to shine the light in on that.”
All of the songs from the Charlottesville sessions were shelved, and when the entire band joined Matthews to record the material, two additional tracks were finished to round out the entirely revamped album. For a band whose material has traditionally been shaped by an ethic of “Play it live first, record it later,” the new approach signals what Flohr describes as nothing short of a total reinvention.
“The motto ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applied here,” he says. “The band decided not only to fix it, but to totally dismantle and rebuild. It became an even stronger foundation than it was before. To me, that’s true greatness. They looked themselves in the mirror and said, ‘We can do better,’ and went after it, rather than succumbing to the pressure of just putting a record out.”
Due in no small part to Matthews’ willingness to embrace the electric guitar as his primary instrument, “Everyday” brings out an edge in DMB’s sound that may surprise some longtime fans. No song runs past the five-minute mark, and stridently uptempo, melodically memorable cuts such as “So Right,” “Dreams Of Our Fathers,” and “Fool To Think” mark an evolution from the earthy sound of earlier hits such as “Satellite” and “Crash Into Me.”
“I think the music has a lot of movement,” Matthews says. “It’s got a lot of push. It’s driving. It’s really fresh.” Ballard offers, “It’s entirely a natural thing for these guys to play a little harder, and for Dave to pick up an electric guitar and still have it represent what they do.”
The band took to this new approach rather quickly, experimenting with everything from tricky time signatures to unusual instrumentation. Moore employed a 6-foot-tall contrabass clarinet on the tear-jerking “The Space Between,” which is tapped as the next single, while Lessard often utilized a bass made out of timber from a shipwreck that had been buried for 200 years under silt in Lake Superior.
And while “Before These Crowded Streets” often seemed weighed down by an abundance of guest musicians, “Everyday” puts the spotlight back on the band’s signature instrumental interplay. Aside from Ballard’s keyboard work, the only notable outside additions come from South African vocalist Vusi Mahlasela on the title track and Carlos Santana on “Mother Father,” a rumination about social responsibility that Matthews wrote with the Latin guitar legend in mind.
As usual, touring will be a crucial part of the marketing plan, according to the band’s manager, Coran Capshaw. In 2000, DMB was the third-highest-grossing touring act in the world, bringing in nearly $59 million in 52 dates (14 of them at stadiums), according to Billboard’s sister publication Amusement Business. Another 11 arena shows in December that missed the Amusement Business deadline brought the band’s total for last year to just under $68 million.
This time around, the venues will generally be larger, with the tour swinging toward an even split between stadiums and outdoor amphitheaters. A five-month North American trek will begin with a benefit show April 21 in Charlottesville and will hit such storied stadiums as Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium (May 22), Atlanta’s Turner Field (June 6), Chicago’s Soldier Field (July 6), and Dallas’ Texas Stadium (July 15), which is the final stop of the tour’s first leg.
To maximize pre-release interest in the project, the band will be extremely visible around street date, says Hugh Suratt, RCA’s VP of marketing. “I Did It” will see its live debut Feb. 24 on “Saturday Night Live.” Two days later, the band will play on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” A PBS special, hosted by Charlie Rose, will air that same week (Rose also profiled the band on “60 Minutes II” in January). A video for “I Did It,” shot in Miami by director Dave Myers (‘N Sync, Kid Rock) will premiere Feb. 15 on MTV, MTV2, and VH1.
In a move that turned a few heads in January, the band pacted with controversial music-file-swapping company Napster to make “I Did It” available as a legal, free download. “Napster: It is the future, in my opinion,” Matthews says. “That’s the way music is going to be communicated around the world. The most important thing now is to embrace it, and that was the spirit by which we did this co-promotion.”
RCA is sponsoring a pre-order campaign at the Web site dmb-everyday.com, where fans can download sound clips from the album and view behind-the-scenes and interview footage. The site is mirrored on the band’s official Web site (dmband.com), which is due to relaunch with a brand-new look prior to street date, according to Capshaw.
RCA is banking on the strength of “Everyday” to translate DMB’s mass appeal in North America to the rest of the world. The North American tour includes dates in Mexico, and the band is expected to tour internationally later this year. DMB got an advance taste of worldwide enthusiasm for its music when it played in front of more than 150,000 people at the Rock In Rio festival in mid-January.
Capshaw reports that the next in the act’s immensely popular series of live concert releases is already “in the pipeline” but will not hit stores until late this year at the earliest. Prior live releases — “Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95,” “Listener Supported” (a 1999 concert taped for PBS), and “Live At Luther College” (a 1996 acoustic concert by Matthews and frequent sideman Tim Reynolds) — have sold a combined 3.85 million copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan.
With only bigger and better things in his band’s future, Matthews is excited by the prospect of presenting his music to new audiences, be they big or small. “Right now, it makes sense for us to play in bigger venues,” he says. “We’ve made the presentation more extravagant, but we haven’t lost any of the spontaneity, because we’re working with the same people we always have. We’re growing together.”