I had the awesome opportunity to chat with Cole and Eric of Dragondeer over the phone as they just got back from their North American Tour. It was a pleasure talking with them about being authentic and their process for recording on the road. Let’s get to the goods.
Rob: Thanks for taking some time to talk about your journey here! I wanted to kick things off by asking how your tour was? I know you all just got back not long ago.
Cole: The Tour was really great! We got to go to a lot of places we haven't been before. Made a lot of new friends along the way. Every show was very awesome as we played all these festivals. The tour was just really awesome. Then we came home to a homecoming show at Ophelias. This weekend we are up at Crested Butte, for the Crested Buttee Art Festival. The next night we will have another Denver Show at the Bull and Bush Brewery . It is their 48th anniversary party. We’ve never been there as a band and we are stoked because we like that place a whole lot.
So everything has been good, we rolled out those new tracks that we put out before the tour, so we are coming back and seeing the fruits of that. We are also getting on 105.5 The Colorado Sound and into their heavy rotation. That is getting us a lot of cool traction. We’ve got some new stuff we are going to put out in the fall. So everything is moving and grooving, and that’s where we want to be.
Eric: Yeah we played Electric Forest, Firefly, and Summer Fest in Milwaukee. We also had never played Nashville and got to play in a classic venue there. Last tour we played Arise and Telluride Blues Fest, for our weird kind of in state tour, but this time we got to play out of state and get in front of people who have never heard us. Electric Forest was basically this big art installation in the woods with like 43 thousand people, with some of the wildest excentrics gathering in one place. That was great because I know a majority of them didn't know our music. We had like a thousand people we played to and a lot of those people had never heard us before.
That all sounds pretty crazy to play these huge shows and in these awesome places.
So you talked about going out and being in front of these people who have never heard your music before in wild locations. Being a Colorado band, what is it like to break out of this scene and play those stages? What are you trying to do out of state to grow the band’s following?
Eric: I think every time we’ve played in front of crowds like Electric Forest, they didn't know who we were. As we played, the crowds gathered and people started dancing through our whole set and it wasn't because they knew the songs. It is really appealing to get in front of people and make them move. The goal for us is simply to play in front of more people and play more shows. It's pretty basic. We record as many tunes as we can in nice studios if we can muster it. We did these Color Red tracks. Eddy Roberts had us in this AirBnB and Color Red offices. They are the label that put out these new tracks. They had an 8 track analog studio in their basement. Their whole steez is that they take bands in, make original songs on the 8-track, maybe a little over dub in the box, and they bring in some of their friends and their tribe to collaborate. We had guitar work by Jordan Linit, and Jeff Franca from Thievery Corporation played percussion on our track. We recorded another two tracks at Colorado Sound and they just got a brand new board, so we were tracking directly to tape. That was exciting. We will drop those two tracks probably in the next three months or so. All of us have mostly been in bands that generally do EP’s or do full lengths, and it has been nice to drop tracks that are freshly recorded. We have never really done it like this before. We are all record collectors and album freaks, but there has been something kinda interesting where we have naturally switched to dropping singles. We have a full length ready too that we are plucking from a little bit. But it is kind of nice to just have all this new music coming out
Gotcha gotcha, so it sounds like while on the road you have kept up your creativity. You’ve done all this touring, you are getting your music in front of the most people possible, but is it easy to keep up the creative flow? Are you saving it all for the studio when you get back? What is the process for when you are on the road?
Cole: As far as making music on the road, you are lucky if you get time to sit down and have a writing session. A lot of bands go and have these sessions in hotel rooms, and we get into stuff like that a little bit but we will really have our writing sessions in the van and go back and forth with different ideas. The road is a lot of - now we gotta go here, now we gotta go there, now we gotta play this. I don't know how other bands do it. Everybody is a little different, but we just like to have the body of songs in the cannon. We are always writing stuff, and what works for us is we bring the written stuff to the rehearsals and writing sessions, we work them out, and maybe record them. We like to play things live before we actually record. Some people don't do that, but we like to do that. We have had a couple instances where we have had that idea come to somebody in the van and everybody gets excited by this whole new thing. But those are less common than us saying “ok it’s time to write”. We’ll say let's write something completely off the cuff or we bring up old ideas and sometimes we just record things and people will pass them back and forth digitally putting out different ideas. We are also super into demoing things on our own before taking them to a real studio. That really helps us make a lot of arrangements ahead of time and other choices that end up costing you a lot of money at a nice studio.
It’s nice that we have our own little home studio setup, and Eric has a more extensive setup. We’ll go there and do drums at his house, lay down the bass, that will go out into the cloud, and then we will all sort of work on it together and individually. Then we eventually have a demo that comes to life. We’ll have a handful of demos and we say, alright what is the most awesome thing on this demo? Let’s take those, take them somewhere and put them down to record. That’s really nice because by the time you get to that point you’ve already figured out what tone you want for that guitar solo or what drum fills will happen in exact spaces on the track. I can’t tell you how many times with how many bands that I’ve been in where I’ve gone to the studio, we’ve just wrote something, we record it, we’re really happy with it, and then 6 months down the road the song is fleshed out and you’re playing it live and it is the same song that you wish was at a different recording or tempo. That kind of thing happens to everybody. It is nice that we’ve been taking the demo route lately, because in the past we haven't had the time to flesh things out and demo them. Putting in that extra time has yielded some nice results. It is so nice to go into the studio and just get down to business.
For sure, you are here to make music. As much as it is fun touring, actually taking the time to be creative minds and doing what creative minds do I’m sure is the most satisfying.
You talked about going to Electric Forest, playing this music to people from all walks of life, but it really feels like your music appeals to that audience. Your music has that funk that really gets down to the soul and the root of people. On your website you talked a little bit about what went into your latest EP. You talk about your influences, how you broke down your songs, the complexities of them, even talking about the guitar parts juxtaposing each other on Mirage A Trois to create this certain emotion. Frankly, I love seeing that. I love seeing that you are willing to share that, you are open with your music and are willing to share with people what you are going for. Is that transparency really important for you all? Do you want the listener to understand exactly what you are going for, or are you trying to operate more in that gray area?
Cole: Ambiguity in music is a real thing and it is part of the plan for some people. I think less so in our band. I think there is nothing wrong with it. I love artists that are mysterious like Tom Waits, and that dude is definitely mysterious.*we all laugh* You know what I mean? In our band we have always had our heart to the ground. We are not afraid to say this is what we love and we would love you to join us tonight for this experience. Groove out with us and feel it like we’re feeling it. We live for that stuff. Our standards are more on a musical end. We want to play these songs the best we can. We want to rip this as hard as we can and make the best version of every single song we can so that the audience can feel it as much as we are. I like being transparent. I'm a really honest person. I find that it helps me cut out some of the excess stuff that comes up when things go the other way. But I don't know, It is fun in music when you are ambiguous sometimes. I guess this is just who we are as a band and I like that. It is pretty simple. What do you think Eric?
Eric: I think it kinda varies, in some aspects we are private in explaining what we are doing. In those two singles we just put out, it was cool because Color Red put questions to us so they could craft that. It made us think of exactly where those songs are coming from, how we’ve done it, and what the memories were. Like the stories where the band was hanging out in an air bnb in the Smoky Mountains. But I think it goes back and forth. I think we leave something out of the music, not even consciously, and then when it seems important to fill people in on what we are doing we do that too. But it is kinda weird, all the expectations of social media and putting out content to keep people’s interest. I wouldn’t say that is the most natural thing for an artist to do, but I think you do it and you try and be authentic and show people your authenticity.
Cole: Definitely, I think authenticity is a priority for us in this band. That has always been a part of who we are. We go out and put it all out there and say hey, we are going to do this the best we can every single time. We all in the band live for music. We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't absolutely love getting up there and playing. We just want to take everybody to the same zone we go to.
Just from seeing you guys play live, it shows. You guys wear your hearts on your sleeves, and it comes across even in the music on your studio recordings. With that, thank you guys for your time today.
What a lovely chat that was. The Dragondeer guys are very genuine and it was great to talk with them about the life of a touring musician. For those who aren’t familiar with the band, I put together a playlist of the songs by them you need to know. You can find it below. You can also find Dragondeer at http://www.dragondeer.com/home and on Facebook here. Big thank you to Cole and Eric for taking the time to talk right after getting off the road, and a thank you to you the reader for checking out this article.
Until Next Time.