Dallas Smith of Default
With an album that was originally due out in 2008, Default (Dallas Smith on vocals, Jeremy Hora on guitars, Dave Benedict on bass, and Danny Craig on drums) fell victim to the unfortunate industry side of the music world and their album was put on hold as their former record label went out of business. Never fear though, the album aptly titled Comes and Goes finally made its debut on October 26th through AudioNest and was well worth the wait.
What may have been enough to split up some bands only seemed to bring Default closer together. Calling the whole experience a mixed bag of emotions the band is just happy to finally share their music with their fans that have been patiently waiting. Comes and Goes offers up Default’s strongest offering to date with lyrics that are deeply personal and a song selection that runs the gamut. From the first single, the upbeat anthemic “Turn It On” to a song penned about Dallas’ son titled “Caught In The Moment” this album brings Default back to their core of their melodic rock sound with big hooks, catchy riffs, and inspiring lyrics.
We recently caught up with lead vocalist Dallas Smith to talk about the band’s journey, the new album, and of course we couldn’t resist the chance to talk playoff hockey with him!
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
I wanted to start out by going back in time a little bit to talk about the release of Comes And Goes because the US release was held up for some time due to legal matters and the ultimate demise of the record label you were on at the time – how does something like that impact you as a band after you come off of recording a brand new album? Did if feel like a setback to you?
When it originally all went down we were quite happy about it because we knew the end result would be that we would be off of a record label that we weren’t very happy with. But as time went by we realized it was going to take a lot longer than we thought and that we were going to lose a lot of the momentum that we had built up. It was good and bad at the same time. We went through a year and a half of waiting and feeling such uncertainty. That’s the kind of thing that can break up a band and luckily we stuck through it because we believed a lot in this record. We wanted to tough it out and let the record see the light of day.
So let’s talk about your writing process because I’ve heard you say that there’s really no primary writer in the band and that everyone is involved – does that get tricky sometimes with music being such an intensely personal thing or are you all able to step back and do what’s best for the music and the band as a whole?
That has always been the trick for us. People get married to an idea not because it’s not necessarily better, but because it’s theirs. It’s just natural – I do it, everybody does it so you need to have a referee. We’ve always had one, like a producer or a co-writer with us that we trust and respect and allow them to make a final call if we can’t all agree with something. They help us steer the ship and diffuse any situation before they become arguments. That’s just the way we’ve always worked and the way we work best. We’ve always known to involve someone else.
Do you think it’s because of that type of songwriting that you’re able to cover such a diverse range of song types from ballads to modern rockers to more classic rock type songs – because Comes And Goes seems to have a little bit of all of that?
I think so, I think a lot of our influences come out in different songs. I’m glad you said that though because that’s really what we were going for with this record, we wanted to have a lot of dynamic to it. We wanted to make sure there were ups and downs in the album and that you could listen to it throughout and hear different things and feel different emotions from song to song.
Let’s talk about a few of the songs. I’d like to start with the latest single “Supposed to Be”. To me that song sounds as if it was influenced by The Beatles. Am I way off with that assumption or is there a Beatles vibe going on there?
Yeah, I grew up on Abbey Road and The White album, my parents listened to a lot of classic rock. The Beatles are my first musical memory, Abbey Road Medley. I use to listen to the late night Sunday radio shows and I remember staying up late one night and hearing that. I must have been around eight or nine years old and I thought it was the coolest thing. I started asking a lot of questions about it so my parents pulled out all their Beatles records so yes I’m very influenced by The Beatles in general. I started getting into Zeppelin when I got a little older. In the ‘80s when I was still listening to The Beatles a lot all of my friends were listening to Motley Crue and those kind of bands and I just never really got it, I was more seventies influenced. When Soundgarden and Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots came out I felt that was more seventies feeling and I started listening to new music a lot more. But yeah, back to the song, when Jeremy started playing me the riff that was what the song meant to me. We’ve actually toned it down a bit. We have another version of the song that has the harmonized “La La La’s” at the beginning, it’s almost like a Beatles mix version, it’s really cool. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day but maybe we can make it a B-Side one of these days.
So touching on that seventies influence that you mentioned, I hear that a lot on “Fascination”. It starts off really funky and then it reminds me of the great rock songs from the seventies so I wanted to ask if you feel like that song was influenced by that era?
Yes, that’s a song I actually haven’t listened to in a long time but it’s been part of our live set for awhile. That guitar work and that bass work is very classic rock. He listens to a lot of seventies funk so that’s probably where that comes from.
There’s a song on the album that you wrote for your son called “Caught In The Moment” . Can you tell me about it and why the timing felt right?
It was weird, we were in rehearsal one day and Jeremy started playing that riff. We pieced together the chord progression and for whatever reason that melody popped into my head. The lyrics, I don’t know what it was about it, it was just one of those things that pops into your head, and that was one of those songs. I put some thought into it to consider if I wanted to go down that road and I thought that it would be cool to write a song for him that he can listen to later on in life to know where my head was at the time.
So is he old enough to appreciate it now or is he very young?
He’s turning six pretty soon so he’s still pretty young.
You’ve called the lyrics on this album the most personal to date for you so far. Was that something you went into the writing process wanting to accomplish?
I think it It just kind of happened, I wanted to get away from the break-up/relationship type lyrics. The lyrics this time around just really represented where I was at the time, more so than previous albums.
Taking the album as a whole, what do you want fans to take away from it?
We just hope that our record isn’t like a lot of bands records with one single and then a lot of lost album tracks. We hope it’s a record that you can put on, listen to front and back and over again while experiencing an array of emotions. If you’re feeling in need of a certain song you can always find that song on the record.
Aside from the song you wrote for your son, what songs on the album are you most emotionally invested in?
That’s tough – I think the song about my son in particular is the one I’m closest to. A lot of them are inspired by certain situations but still fictional but that one is the real deal for me so I would have to stick with that one.
It’s been about ten years now since you released The Fallout and a lot has changed in the music industry since then. As a band you’ve experienced your share of ups and downs, how do you feel that the industry has changed over your career and do you feel like it’s headed in a positive direction?
I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. WalMart is taking the music sections out of their floor space, everything is going digital, and there might not be albums anymore. Who knows, if I knew what the real answer was I’d be a rich man for sure! But it definitely has changed and you just have to adapt. Touring has become more important if you can actually get out there on the road and have the fans to come out to your shows. It’s tough out there, it’s so different than what it once was. People just don’t have the disposable income, live music in general is suffering. When I was growing up that was people’s idea of a good time, going out to a concert. Now it’s just not like that anymore.
Well one of your strong points for sure is your live show, you seem to always draw a crowd. You have very loyal fans!
We’ve done pretty well on the road. We try not to be that band that just gets up there and plays a song, we want to entertain and be energetic and have the songs translate well live.
You returned to a producer that you’ve worked with in the past for this album. How much of an impact does a producer like Bob Marlette have on the album and what’s his approach?
Well you know that whole referee thing we were talking about earlier, Bob is a great referee. He came down on this record and was more involved in the initial songwriting so that was great. So right from the ground up he was there helping us along. He shared the vision and he’s just a great guy to hang out with as well. He’s a very talented man and I can see us working with him again in the future.
I always like to ask musicians – What was the path that led you to music. Was it something you always knew you wanted to do? Were your parents involved in music? How did things fall into place for you?
My story is quite odd actually. I sang a lot when I was little. My mom and dad sang around the house and played guitar. My mom told me that when I was around four or five I just shut up and stopped singing entirely. I think it was a shyness thing. Throughout high school I would just look forward to coming home and putting on my favorite record and just sing along to it, that was kind of my therapy growing up. Default use to have a different singer (Well it was just Danny and Jeremy) and I use to go and hang out with them and watch them play. Always in the back of my mind I would think “damn I wish I had the guts to sing” because I knew I could. When that band broke up, all I wanted to do was get over my fear of singing in front of people and just get up and do a couple cover songs. So I sang a couple songs with them and from that moment on, about a year and a half later we had a record deal in The States and about a year and a half after that we sold a million records. This was my first band, I had never written a song before that or sang in front of anyone.
I know that you guys are big hockey fans – have you been able to follow this season and what are your predictions?
Oh yeah I’m a pretty diehard Vancouver Canucks fan. Our team is probably going to win the President’s trophy (for most points in a single season). We haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet though. Boston’s been around for a lot longer than we have and you have a few cups. We don’t have one and it’s our 40th year so I hope this is our year. We’ll see what the real make-up of our team is once the playoffs get here. I think Boston’s got a great team. I think they’ll do really well in the play-offs. So I think it will be Boston and Philly in the Eastern Conference Finals and then the winner of that will play the Canucks.
Canucks win in four games!