|dada, from left, Joie Calio, Michael Gurley and Phil Leavitt|
Since the release of dada’s groundbreaking 1992 debut Puzzle, singer-guitarist Michael Gurley, singer-bassist Joie Calio and drummer Phil Leavitt have created an array of songs boasting progressive rock musicianship, dazzling vocal harmonies and melodic power pop layered with inspired psychedelic and experimental rock impulses. Adding to the trio’s groundbreaking line of attack are the marathon-length shows that deliver on the promise that every performance is the only one of its kind.
Two decades after the Los Angeles outfit embarked on its singular journey, the trio are celebrating dada’s 20th anniversary with an extended U.S. tour that concludes with a special performance at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday, March 2.
Puzzle was released on September 8, 1992, and it didn’t take long for the band’s sonic imprint to find an audience. The album’s first single “Dizz Knee Land” found widespread airplay on alternative and mainstream rock outlets. The band was soon touring around the globe, opening for the celebrated likes of Crowded House, Depeche Mode and Sting.
“It’s certainly a milestone and an achievement for any band to last 20 years,” said Leavitt, who began thinking about celebrating the band’s anniversary a few years ago. “People always ask, ‘Do you still talk to each other after 20 years?’ So that’s really why I wanted to commemorate it because no matter the size of the career if you can stick together and still have a desire to play music together after 20 years you have accomplished something.”
Dada was founded when Gurley and Calio began writing songs and performing as an acoustic duo. But from the beginning, their approach was unique amidst the onslaught of ‘90s bands with lead singers and mostly generic backing bands.
“Joie and I were both lead singers. But we really found quickly that harmonies were going to be a big strength for us,” recalled Gurley, noting both he and Calio are fans of Simon & Garfunkel’s pioneering harmonies.
He noted that once they recruited Leavitt, they were able to blend the thunderous power of trios such as Cream with the artful harmony-minded songcraft of Simon & Garfunkel.
The success of Puzzle was followed in 1994 by American Highway Flower, featuring the ambitious “Ask the Dust” and astounding “Feet to the Sun,” dada has gone on to create a magnificent discography featuring a half-dozen full-length albums and an EP. The trio has also issued a number of solo efforts and offshoot projects along the way exploring a range of styles including folk, blues, jazz and rock. Gurley and Leavitt were both members of Butterfly Jones while dada was on hiatus in the early ‘00s; Calio has released several solo discs and with X Levitation Cult. Mike Gurley and the Nightcaps are a popular jazz group in Southern California. Additionally, Calio and Leavitt have kept busy recently sharing lead vocal and songwriting duties in 7Horse, a psychedelic blues project.
“The best way for me to crank it up – to let my hair hang down and really rock – is with dada,” Gurley said. “It’s still the best band I’ve ever been in.”
Long-time and new fans of dada all have one thing in common; they are passionate about the band and have a deep connection with its three members.
‘It means everything to us. We would not be going out (on tour) if we didn’t have it,” Gurley said of the bond between dada and its audience. “They’re so informed on everything we’ve ever done. It’s far and few between when you find a casual dada listener. They know everything.”
Leavitt said that 2013 is significant because it will provide Dada the chance to play markets where it has rarely – if ever – performed. Finishing the tour in San Juan Capistrano is fitting too; the Coach House was the first place where Calio and Gurley took the stage together when they opened for Mary’s Danish at the venue back in 1991.
“There is a devoted fan base that I think has an appetite to see us again and for me that’s the only thing; that’s how a band defines itself is by getting out on the road and doing shows night after night,” Leavitt said. “For me to get on a bus and roll out of L.A. and go do 35 shows, that’s what it’s all about. That’s rock ‘n’ roll. I love it.”
Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano
When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 2
Information: www.TheCoachHouse.com or call 949-496-8930