The New(er) Deal
Joel has the unique perspective of being a fan of your band from the beginning and watching it evolve, so he kind of has this outside but also extremely geeky inside perspective on the music and how to drive it in that light, which is great.
Jamie: Right, but I know a lot of people like that, who could never sit down and [feel like a member of the band]. Some of them have become our crew members. A lot of people who are familiar with The New Deal in and out, they have been there from the beginning, they know everything, they dig it, they know the tracks and they know where we’re going to go, but they wouldn’t be able to help lead the set. It was ridiculous, it really was. I mean, we weren’t apprehensive about it because we had played with him before. But it was like, okay, here’s the first jam, let’s just start playing, which is what we did. Somebody started, and away we went. And an hour later, we were like, “Well that was fucking amazing.”
Dan: You’re right about that. And it’ll be really fun to see what happens. He blew me away on Monday when we played together. I didn’t know that side of Joel. It was fucking great, just so cool.
Jamie: It wasn’t bizarre, it was nice. It was a really nice musical conversation. And it was very comfortable in terms of the communication between the three of us. I left that jam very excited. We’re going to jam a couple, once a week, twice a week, for the next three weeks, just because it’s fun to do, and to become really comfortable with each other because we have 1,100 shows with Darren. That’s quite a relationship. And Joel wants to be comfortable. So we’ll do that, and I’m going to enjoy every second of it because you can turn your brain off. I know that if I’m turning my brain off and I can play, then we’re good. Not even think about a thing for an hour.
I think one thing that has changed since The New Deal first formed is that people are a little bit open-minded in terms of what they listen to. Back then people would either listen to pop, jam band, alternative music or rap or whatnot, and these days I feel like people have an open mind to listening to good music across the genres, which is a pretty cool experience.
Joel: Yeah, you see it in festival lineups. We’re playing the Hudson Music Project this summer, and the lineup was just announced today, so of course I went to check it out to see who else was playing. And it’s a classic example of what you’re speaking to, which is that kids are as much into Bassnectar as they are into Modest Mouse. It’s exciting to see that, and I think that in the past there was a lot more segregation between what it was to be a jamband festival and what it was to be a pop music festival or a hip-hop or a rock music festival and it’s not like that anymore. People just like good music. And I think that the Internet’s really helped with that. I think in the past people had to pick a radio station that they were defined by and therefore were only fed that format of music. Whereas now people are just going to blogs, and blogs don’t seem to have the same formatting restrictions that radio stations or TV or the other mainstream outlets have in the past. And that to me is very exciting. And you hear it in the music. You hear a lot more cross-pollination between genres than you used to and that’s where new music is created.
I remember talking to you toward the end of The New Deal’s last run in 2011, and one thing you said is that one of the great things about The New Deal is even in the last few years before you guys took a break, you guys were kind of changing your sound and I remember you mentioned that the way Dan was playing bass kind of drove the band to a different way. How would you say that the stuff you’re doing now with this new lineup relates to that, given that you guys have all done different types of music over those years, and also because Dan and Joel have this amazing musical connection and relationship that’s been developing for 8 years kind of parallel to The New Deal?
Jamie: We’ve done it forever. Joel can do it, and it sounded great at rehearsal. So let’s just do one or two of those a night and not worry about. We never worried about it before. We started worrying about it, well not really worrying about it, but we were conscious of it at the end, like, “Better play this, better play that.” We’re not really going to start going there. We’ll make sure that we know everything in case it comes up and we want to play it. But I don’t think we’re going to feel the need as much to play those things specifically as we kind of fell into in the last couple years.
It’s something that I think will be interesting to see—how that evolves, as festivals get more prominent and blogs expand. I guess shifting to some of the upcoming New Deal plans, for you, how have you been preparing for the shows? Have you been listening back to some old tapes and recordings?
Joel: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been listening back to some of the archived stuff online, because I definitely want to honor Darren’s legacy and stay true to what The New Deal is. And at the same time, I am not Darren, so I’ve got to do my thing with it too. I’m just trying to find the balance and find what I can add to it. But right now it’s mostly figuring out where it came from, which I already know, as I said, having been a fan since the beginning. I followed The New Deal’s evolution since the beginning. I’m definitely familiar with where it’s coming from, but I’m definitely doing my homework to get up to speed.
Joel, I know you already have played a few shows with them back when Darren injured himself. But as you’ve been studying this music, is there anything about Darren’s drumming that has maybe struck you in a different way, now that you’re getting so deep into that head space, versus just being a fan who appreciates the overall feel of the shows?
Joel: The main thing is his stamina. He plays very powerfully for a very long time. And that’s easier said than done. I think he had a lot of stamina. Having done these rehearsals, I’m realizing, “Okay, I’ve got to get the practice pad out a few more days a week and warm up for the rehearsals so that I can see the show through.” Typically, The New Deal does two one-hour to one hour and fifteen minute-sets, which, I mean, Dragonette on its longest show will play an hour and fifteen. So to play two of those sets within our, for the most part, from top to bottom pretty high energy, it’s a lot of work. I think if there was one thing about Darren’s drumming that I am now realizing, trying to fill his shoes, that’s amazing about him—it would be his stamina, if I had to pick one thing. There are many others, but that’s definitely top of the list.
You’ve been playing music over the last few years, but a lot of it’s been studio-based and maybe outside the improvisational setting that you spent so many years developing. How did it feel to get back into that loose, improv space? Is that something that you’ve been kind of doing on your own just for fun, or in a setting that readers might not have known about?
Jamie: Honestly, when I’m writing music for film, I’m doing that anyway. I’m just letting the proverbial tape run and I’m just jamming out to see what comes out. But I sat down yesterday, and we were in it and we were on it in half a minute. There was no ramp-up time. It was there. You can develop your chops and you can develop your ability, but you can’t develop the innate sense of communicating with other musicians. It’s either there or it’s not. It’s just kind of what I was referencing back and trying to figure out what kind of drummer to go with. And so it’s either there or it’s not. So if you give me a piano and I sit down with two other guys of a similar mindset, I’ll blend right in. As long as you don’t overthink it, then you should be good. I am. I haven’t played these particular keyboards in three years. They sat in our storage, and I didn’t touch them because I have a whole bunch of other keyboards and I didn’t need to get them. So it was really nice to be able to get back to these and not have these preconceived notions of what I expect myself to do. Throwing a new keyboard in there will very much help in developing new concepts.
I’m not saying we’re going to be going out there sounding like Avicii. Whatever I choose to bring, it won’t be a replica of that. It will be something new. And it will enable us to just further develop what we do. We all feed off each other’s sounds. They hear something and they take it somewhere, and that mostly comes from me. So if they’re hearing new sounds, and they’re taking it somewhere new, then we’ll feed off it again and again and again and again within the context of a show. So whatever I get will be something that is not similar to whatever I get rid of. I don’t know what it is yet. Again, very New Deal, we just kind of meander through the meadows and see what pops up and be like, “Oh, I’ll take that.” And that’s sort of what will help develop what we jokingly call New Deal 2.0. It’s similar in its emotion and it will be similar at times in some of the signature classic stuff. I would always bring the Moog, and I always have that kind of stuff. Keith Richards plays his 1954 Tele wherever he goes. It’s kind of his signature sound. And there are things that are definitely sort of signature sounds for me, and I will have those, but there will be other things that we add to just develop what we’re doing to another level, a higher level, a different level. It will definitely not just be what we did in January 2012.