Unnatural selection

Dance Gavin Dance goes beyond post-hardcore with latest album

Dance Gavin Dance, from left to right: Jon Mess, Tilian Pearson, Matt Mingus, Tim Feerick and Will Swan.

Dance Gavin Dance, from left to right: Jon Mess, Tilian Pearson, Matt Mingus, Tim Feerick and Will Swan.

Photo courtesy of lindsey byrnes

Check out Dance Gavin Dance at Aftershock, which takes place October 13-14 at Discovery Park Sunday. Weekend passes are sold out. For show info, visit aftershockfestival.com.

For their eighth record, the members of local post-hardcore band Dance Gavin Dance did things a little differently. Since they worked with three different producers instead of the usual one, founding member and lead songwriter Will Swan flew back and forth from Sacramento to Portland and Los Angeles for every Artificial Selection recording session.

“Poor Will,” says fellow founding member Matt Mingus. “It’s so tough, there are so many people out there we want to work with and want to try working with, so we tried putting them all together as a collaboration of producers. To be honest, I doubt we’ll ever do that again. It was just a little hectic.”

After packing Cesar Chavez Plaza for Concerts in the Park earlier this year, Dance Gavin Dance is ready to play another hometown show on a decidedly bigger stage: Monster Energy’s Aftershock Festival on Sunday, October 14, the same weekend as fellow Sacto band and headliner Deftones.

The group is still touring in support of Artificial Selection, which released in June. It’s the 13-year-old band’s most sonically diverse record yet—an explosion of soaring emo verses; ferocious, guttural outrage; and bongo drums and effects pedals that move even further beyond its usual infusion of metal, jazz, math rock and funk elements.

According to Mingus, the mix of sounds happened both intentionally and naturally.

“We like to push the limit and try new things and keep it fresh,” he says.

The band’s members—Mingus (drums), Swan (lead guitar), Tilian Pearson (clean vocals), Jon Mess (unclean vocals), Tim Feerick (bass) and Andrew Michael Wells (rhythm guitar)—listen to such a wide range of musical styles that it only makes sense for some of those decidedly not-post-hardcore influences to seep their way into Dance Gavin Dance’s sound. “It’s really neat to be able to try a lot of different things another genre might have inspired us to try,” Mingus says.

On intricate prog rocker “Gospel Burnot,” Swan plays synth instead of guitar—a first for the band. Elsewhere on the album are pop-punk songs like “Story of My Bros” that feel like throwbacks to the 1990s. (In this case, with Mess screaming, “I’m smoking weed out of a pussy filled with money.”) For the first time, the band recorded a song without Swan (“Bloodsucker”). And in an interesting move, the final epic of a track, “Evaporate,” features reprises from several past Dance Gavin Dance songs.

If there’s anything Dance Gavin Dance is more famous for than experimenting, it’s frequent lineup changes. The group has churned through bass players, rhythm guitarists and singers—founding vocalist Jonny Craig made headlines for his drug use and scams. But that’s changed in recent years—the lineup has been totally stable for its past three records and Mingus says that’s been a boost for the songwriting process. They even brought back a former vocalist for Artificial Selection—Kurt Travis (Royal Coda, A Lot Like Birds) is featured on “Shelf Life.” Other special guests include guitarist Martin Bianchini of Sacramento’s Secret Band, a Swan-Mingus-Mess side project, and guitarist Zachary Garren of Strawberry Girls.

“I think we all try to challenge ourselves in a way—that’s how you become a better musician,” Mingus says. “You write a part you’re not very good at but you’re going to play it live so you have no choice but to get better at it.”