The last time drummer Adrian Young played a “first show” with a band he called his own was in 1989, when the 19-year-old became a member of a little-known punk and ska collective called No Doubt.
Nearly three decades later, Young will play his second first show, with lifelong bandmates Tom Dumont and Tony Kanal, but a new lead singer in AFI’s Davey Havok. Their new band is called Dreamcar, and their first tour has sold out despite having released only one song. So, how does it feel playing with a new band for the first time?
“I think that’s gonna make me feel like a teenager again, which is what I was the first time I played with No Doubt,” Young said with less than two weeks to go before Dreamcar is to take the stage in Orange County, the birthplace of No Doubt. “I’m having those same excitement and anxiety feelings now. We’re a couple of weeks away. I’m very blessed to be having those teenage feelings as a 47-year-old man.”
Dreamcar is not No Doubt; the two bands sound nothing alike, and Gwen Stefani is not in the picture. But her focusing on her solo music, TV projects and personal life, which has been increasingly led in the public eye, cleared up time on the other band members’ schedules.
In 2014, Young, Dumont and Kanal decided they wanted to continue making music together. Each had recorded and performed with friends—in Young’s case it was playing in No Doubt brass musicians Gabe McNair’s and Stephen Bradley’s bands, among others—but they wanted a project on which they could hang their hats.
That’s when Kanal suggested Havok, and Dreamcar shifted from neutral to drive, beginning to accelerate. The three were already fans of AFI, and Havok’s band Blaqk Audio had opened for No Doubt in 2012. Havok and Kanal moved in the same Hollywood circles; both were vegans. The three courted Havok together.
“We didn’t know what it was going to be like; definitely a different experience—we knew that going in,” Young said. “I thought it was going to be a little more awkward when we first started doing demos together, but it wasn’t. We had sent Davey four tracks of music, and he sent back very rough bedroom vocals back. We thought they were very good ideas. As soon as he started to track the vocals, it felt comfortable and it made sense. We didn’t go through a learning curve, period or struggle of trying to find what sounds good to us, or what works between Davey and us. It was instantaneous.”
It was the trio’s first time writing songs without Stefani or her brother and bandmate Eric Stefani, so it should be no surprise that Dreamcar’s 12 new songs sound nothing like punk or ska. But the band’s sound is also a departure from Havok’s emo and punk pop roots. Instead, the four musicians pulled toward ’80s synth rock and New Romanticism.
Tracks like “On The Charts” and “After I Confess” could have been written by Duran Duran (and that’s a compliment). Young explained it was never the goal to sound one way or another, and the songwriting process came organically, a combination of the three No Doubt members and lyrics of Havok.
“There were no outside influences at all,” Young said. “There was no goal … to try to be hit makers of the day or try to bring in outside songwriters to make this thing work. It was just to make music for the fun of it. It’s obvious that our youth is deeply rooted in the New Romantic era of the early ‘80s … but we never decided that we were going to emulate that. It feels very natural and very comfortable to be producing these sounds and styles of music that we do on this record.
Havok wrote all the lyrics for the Dreamcar album, and he named the band itself as an ode to aspiring to one’s dreams. For some, that literally is buying a new car. Working with a songwriter like Havok forced Dumont, Young and Kanal to think about the creation processes in different ways. While both he and Stefani are talented in their own ways and approach melodies in creative ways, there was no getting around them being different, Young said.
“It is different, and I can’t really quantify it,” he said. “It’s a different landscape and it’s an interesting path to go down, because we’re so used to the No Doubt path [for] basically our entire adult lives.”
The band has released one song so far, the new-wavy “Kill for Candy,” and has sold out its six-date West Coast tour on name recognition and the strength of the new track. Young, a regular Bay Area visitor—his wife is from the Bay Area, and the two were engaged at a No Doubt show at the Fillmore in 1999—had to pull out of Bay To Breakers on May 21. He was registered, but it conflicts with Dreamcar shows in New York and Philadelphia. It’s fair to say the band will be busy for the foreseeable future.
How far are Havok, Young, Kanal and Dumont willing to take their new band, and how much does it mean to the four band members? It’s definitely not a side project to the members of No Doubt.
“Yeah, there’s a fine line between side project and other band member’s main band, right?” Young said, laughing. “We are 100 percent all-in on this. However, it’s new. And we have this history with our other band, which we’ve all been doing since we were teenagers—including Davey. This is definitely what we are doing right now. I can speak for Tom, Tony and myself. We’re not doing anything else right now. We’re doing this. We really believe in this band, and we want to be doing this band.”
Dreamcar Tour Dates
April 5 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room at the Observatory
April 9 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
April 11 – Los Angeles, CA @ Roxy Theatre
April 15 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
April 19 – San Diego, CA @ Music Box
April 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
April 22 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival