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|From Dream to Fruition
Gatsbys American Dream’s Bobby Darling gives the lowdown on the creation and release of their new album Volcano
May 16, 2005
by Ashley Graham
For a first release on a major label, Volcano may seem ambitious. An album based around the story of Pompeii and its inhabitants, it sees literary references, historical tragedy and the habits of human nature, all through the course of thirteen tracks. But for Seattle natives Gatsbys American Dream (no, that’s not a type-o, that’s for e-searching ease), the concept of that tricky concept album is nothing new.
Volcano comes at the heels of 2003’s Ribbons & Sugar, inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and seemed the natural step for Gatsbys, a band teetering between various labels and definitions of indie, rock, pop and new age punk. The ideas may be heady, but that’s just what this band wants.
“Making records is my favorite part of being in music and in a band,” Gatsbys guitarist Bobby Darling said. “Filmmakers get to make movies, we get to make records. There are lots of other parts of being in a band – touring, fans, interviews – but the record is really our chance to put our art into practice and create something. Once a year we get to go out and really try to kick ass.”
Ass-kicking judgments aside, the band has an undeniable sense of creativity and originality in what they are attempting, and it’s admirable no matter the outcome. And though they may talk big, they are also eager to deny that their attempts are anything but simply 100% Gatsbys.
“I don’t look at it as super-ambitious and we’re not out to outdo other bands, it’s just how we do it,” Darling said. “It’s just the way Gatsbys American Dream makes music and how we’ve always been doing it. We’re not out to make some groundbreaking record, it’s just that people think it’s different.”
And as the band moves to Fearless Records for the release of this latest album, that idea of different becomes essential. Ever-focused to do things their own way, Darling contends that Gatsbys was not phased by the pressures involved in altering the creative process to suit any label and instead stuck to what they knew.
“It’s been very important to us since we began to maintain control of what we’re doing, so it’s not like we really look for a green light from the label, we just kind of do what we want and the label better like it or they won’t work with us,” he laughs. “That’s been our attitude from the start. We don’t care and we let labels know that ahead of time. That’s definitely alienated a few labels and made us seem like a bit of a wildcard, but if we’re not going to do it our way, we’re not going to do it.”
The band found a willing home in the open arms of Fearless though, and as Darling says, they have been great “as far as labels go.”
Released on April 12, Volcano becomes the first in Gatsbys catalog to be sold retail, and the first, incidentally, to hit the likes of SoundScan, a Nielsen monitoring tool for album sales. While the band is excited to see an official sales record, there is also more anxiety to perform up to par. Good thing confidence is never a lacking quality for Gatsbys, and especially not in the case of Volcano.
With an additional two months in the studio to record as opposed to their previous outings of one, Gatsbys took all the necessary precautions and time with Volcano. Working with different producers who were more accommodating and “100% into it,” as Darling said, helped the album take shape and become part of a detailed process of flushing out ideas, discarding certain tracks and writing directly in the studio.
“We were working every day for three months and it was such a luxury to work on it. [It was] much more fun and we’re much more proud of the finished product because we got to take the time to work on it and make it what we wanted it to be – it wasn’t just like we were stuck with what we got because we ran out of time, which has happened in the past.”
The history of Gatsbys American Dream, Darling, singer Nic Newsham, bassist Kirk Huffman and drummer Rudy Gajadhar, is deeply ingrained in the threads of Seattle’s music scene. They took early advice from Rocky Votolato on the complexities of the music industry, shared many a line-up with Acceptance, and Gajadhar’s older brother Mark is a member of Blood Brothers. And that’s just a sampling of the connections. Darling looks at Seattle as the main reason that the band is able to stand up and be noticed in the world of rock, amongst all of the fierce competition.
“Seattle is a tough scene to break into. There are so many great bands here and if you’re not unique and awesome, people don’t care. In a lot of other scenes I don’t think the caliber of bands is as exceptional. Developing in another scene you can probably go through a couple years of finding your own sound and growing into a band, whereas here there’s a lot more pressure. We had some very cool people that helped us out a lot when we were starting out, that helped show us the ropes and teach us the etiquette of being a band in Seattle.”
And no matter where this new album may take the band, Darling says that connection to Seattle will always be inevitable.
“I haven’t seen us as being just a Seattle band for a long time. We’ve been full time the last few years and we’ve spent more time on the road than we have at home. We’ve built it up slowly, going back to the same markets, but there’s always a soft spot for Seattle. We’d never have been able to play to those five kids [at our first show] in Anaheim if we didn’t have our hometown crowd.”
Gatsbys American Dream finishes up their short U.S. tour in support of the release of Volcano before joining the ranks of pop-punkers on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour in late June. More information on the band is available at www.gatsbysamericandream.com.