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Warped Minds 

The eclectic Dance Gavin Dance soldiers on after yet another lineup change

One of the highlights (and bigger draws) on this past summer's Warped Tour, Dance Gavin Dance plays a bit of everything. The band's music has alternately been described as post-hardcore, experimental rock, progressive rock, psychedelic, and jazz fusion. And when they hit the main stage at Blossom over the summer, their unbridled energy really went over well with the punk rock audience. The music might actually be so eclectic because the band's been through so many lineup changes. This past August, singer Jonny Craig's departed for the third time, leaving the future of the Sacramento's outfit in doubt. And yet guitarist Will Swan, who spoke via phone, says the band has regrouped with new singer Tilian Pearson and plans to record with the former Tides of Man singer once it wraps up what it's calling the "Rock Yourself to Sleep" tour.

What do you guys have going on outside of the band?

Jon paints, I'm a television video editor for channels like HGTV, [drummer] Matt [Mingus] has been drumming for other bands when we're not touring, [guitarist] Josh [Benton] records music, [bassist] Tim [Feerick] works at Billboard Records, and I don't even really know what Tilian does yet. But everyone does all kinds of stuff; we're not all in the same scene.

Where did the name come from?

We had a bunch of really terrible names at the beginning when we were going to play our first show. We had to come up with something so they could put our name on the flyer, and we just had the worst names, but Dance Gavin Dance was one of the options. I got on board the Dance Gavin Dance train, I think it was like three of us liked it and three of us liked some terrible names, but we went with Dance Gavin Dance, and, well, it stuck.

How does it feel to be headlining the "Rock Yourself to Sleep" tour?

It feels great. It's been really fun. I like headlining because we get to play a lot longer. There are always songs we don't get to play that we want to play when we're doing support tours, so that's pretty cool. This tour we actually got to pick out a bunch of really awesome bands, like A Lot Like Birds, Hail the Sun. It's not your typical breakdown tour, it's a little bit different, and it's cool to get to take a package like this around the US.

How do the bands on this tour mesh?

This tour is so laid-back. Every time we do a headliner we try to make sure it's a cool atmosphere with all the bands. We've been on tour where the headliners don't give a shit about the opening bands and you can tell when you're on the tour, so we like to make sure everyone's having a good time.

Tilian is doing the vocals for this tour, right?

Yeah, and when we get home from this tour, we're going to write a new record, and I think Tilian is going to be our permanent vocalist.

How'd you pick him up?

We met Tilian a long time ago when we were touring with Tides of Man, and we became friends with them. He left Tides of Man and did a bunch of stuff, and right now he's at a crossroads himself, doing solo work and not really in a band. We hit him up when things didn't work out with [former singer] Jonny [Craig], and we did some things that sounded great. When he came to practice with us for this tour, we were blown away with how solid he was. So we wanted to solidify this line-up, and he's been sitting really well with u.

Do you think fans will accept him in Jonny's spot?

I think so, and if not we'll make some changes. But we're just going to write the best record we can. I don't really have any expectations other than make a really good record.

How do you think your sound has changed since your first CD, Whatever I Say is Royal Ocean?

I'm like the main songwriter, and I know I've gotten a lot better at guitar since being in the band; I mean, we started when I was 18. I've just progressed as a guitarist a lot, and I know Matt has progressed on the drums. I feel like every record, we get better and expand on our musical abilities and pull from genres we like to pull from. We want to make sure we do stuff that's different, so it doesn't sound like the same recyclable thing.

You guys have been through a number of lineup changes but have never changed your name. Have there ever been options different than Dance Gavin Dance?

As long as we're playing Gavin songs, it's Dance Gavin Dance. And we don't want to stop playing older songs; we like touring on them. We think we could change the lineup and do those songs justice as well as expand with new material, and that's what we've been balancing the past several years.

More by Nikki Hunt

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