The highly anticipated debut album of Dovetail, the 2012 recipients of the John Lennon Songwriting Award, is out today, October 29th. Aptly titled, Mount Karma, the lyrics on the album are mindful of personal journeys traveled by the band mates, which are then paired with complex and inspiring instrumentals. This combination, in tandem with a steadily increasing fan base, positions Dovetail to be one of the next big break-out bands.
Mount Karma kicks off with their award-winning track, Julie, which is a heartbreaking tale of inadequacy when with the one you love. Frontman Philip Creamer croons: “I was your candle, Julie / You knew how to light me up / Burning at both ends for you Julie / I wasn’t bright enough.” On the next track, Big City, the lyrics follow a young, small-town girl into the big city, where the she is encouraged to slow down; to not grow-up too fast.
The album takes a slower turn in Hey Hey Mama, with the trickling in of a soft piano and guitars, leading into the story of an abused young woman who turns to the narrator for help. Over time, the person she turns to ends up learning a little something about himself as well: “In the shadow of truth / Where my dreams go to die / To a widow of youth / Who had grown very high / And grew fond of a girl / Who was lonely and wise / She’d been burned by her father / And I learned to stand up tall.”
Heavy is one of the album’s stand-out tracks, combining an assortment of styles and genres to create a truly unique song. Part Jack White , part Beach Boys, with a dash of Keane, Heavy’s hypnotic harmonies and lyrics, which follow an identity crisis, will leave you dazed. Next up is See The Sun and Can’t Feel You, a track that starts off with mid-range vocals and heartbreaking lyrics about appearing happy to the outside world after the loss of a love: “I’ve been feeling so tired / been feeling so tired / Feeling so tired when the sun shines / I’ve been looking alive / Been looking alive / Looking alive on the outside.”
Dovetail then dives into Hurricane, a personal favorite of ours. Hurricane is perhaps the most commercial-sounding song off of Mount Karma, with lyrics simply begging to be danced to: “When you move just like a hurricane / I search for shelter from the rain / When you move just like a hurricane / I can’t get near you, babe.”
Following Hurricane is the blues-inspired Easier To See, a track filled with complex keyboards and pounding percussion. The lyrics in Easier To See cut to the core: “I can never be what you want me to be / there is not a cure for the problem you see / I could never give what you wanted / Though you thought you got the best of me.” Mixed with the eerily relatable lyrics is a sense of urgency that Dovetail has not displayed in past tracks, and it could not have worked out better – the band is in their element.
After recovering from Easier To See, Dovetail transitions into a softer sound again with the short and sweet Listen Children, Story, and Speak, before the danceable Get Down picks up the mood yet again. Mount Karma wraps up with the memorable The Road, the reverb in particular giving the song a vintage feel, before concluding with the title track, Mount Karma. Mount Karma hints at Dovetail’s southern roots, the song filled with soft verses before blasting choruses that are so perfectly blended they come off as orchestral.
Mount Karma is an emotional roller coaster; it’s deep, it’s relatable and musically, it’s brilliant. We at Joonbug had the pleasure of speaking with the band about their musical influences, style, and much, much more:
If your sound had to be compared to three bands, who would they be?
TUCKER: I would say it probably lies somewhere between the Beach Boys, T.Rex and Queen.
ANDREW: The Band, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.
How did you all get your start?
AARON: We are all different, but I started playing at a young age. Punk bands, jazz bands church bands, school bands basically anyone who would let me hit stuff. [laughs] It progressed from there to become my art form and a way of expression. As far as Dovetail goes I had been playing music with Philip for years and this project was finally right for both of us. Daniel was still in high school and learning how to be a pianist and we all really cut our teeth together on this music. At that point it was a matter of finding the right pieces to complete the musical puzzle. With the addition of Matt, Tucker and Andrew we really found the perfect combination.
PHILIP: We got started playing in a few different groups & playing spiritual music together. We became Dovetail when other things dried up & I had some new songs to record. We all talked a few times about who would play & then we jumped right into the studio.
TUCKER: I started getting into music through my dad who played piano. That eventually translated into learning guitar and playing in various bands around Los Angeles and Dallas before moving to Dallas to join Dovetail in 2011.
ANDREW: I started to play bass not too far after my older started playing guitar and just before my little brother played drums. So music became a family connection and a conversation.
What was the inspiration behind the title of “Mount Karma?”
AARON: I know what it means to me, but I'll let Philip speak to this one…
PHILIP: The search for understanding the purpose of life. Contemplating the concept of Karma, at first in an observational kind of way, and later in a more spiritually literal way. It's a compilation of songs written over a period of pretty powerful changes in my life.
What are your biggest musical influences?
AARON: My influences are all over the map but they include Mavis Staples, Buddy Miller, Jim Keltner, Steve Jordan to many to name. I love authenticity and I want to hear the experience of the artist in what they do.
PHILIP: The Beatles are my biggest musical influence. Gram Parsons. Beach Boys & Queen too. The Band & Bob Dylan. Great vocalists like Freddie Mercury, Steve Mariott, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Paul & John, Jeff Buckley & Rufus Wainwright.
How do you think that being based in Texas has shaped your musical style?
AARON: Texas has a swagger all its own. Its blues Its country its southern rock it’s a melting pot of styles. When you grow up with all those influences they can’t help but get in your soul. It’s all outlaw and all tradition.
PHILIP: It's definitely caused a unique appreciation for other regional guys like Roy Orbison, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson. Being from Texas always leaves the door open for a western influence in the songwriting, a connection to roots music.
TUCKER: There’s an interesting thing going on in Texas right now, specifically around Dallas/Ft Worth, where theres a group of several bands (Larry G(ee), Quaker City NightHawks, The Misteries, Rise and Shine, Wesley Geiger) that are helping to fuel each other creatively and are creating an environment that is housing a lot of really incredible talent that is interested in helping each other along. You can hear elements of Texas in Dovetail's music through the inspiration of Texan artists before us, or even in the musical landscape of the album. It's representative of where we are.
ANDREW: Everything, the culture and the people shape how we interact with each other and our audience. It shapes our style and clothes among everything we have done in music.
What is the main source of inspiration behind the album?
AARON: I see this album is a moment in our lives. It's what we were going through individually and as a band and what we were listening too. I think we will look back on it and call it our growing up album.
PHILIP: Think of it as a narrative of the the making of the album itself. It's a sort of self-reflection. A pseudo concept record.
Do you have a set songwriting process?
AARON: Philip is the main songwriter and will bring a lot of ideas to the table for us to flesh out but as far as the process goes its been everything from tweaking parts in the studio to starting with non form jam and seeing what happens. I think our goal is to create a distinct Dovetail sound no matter how the process takes shape.
PHILIP: The songs come in different ways, but more often than not, I have ideas and bring them to the band for collaboration. Then we often play them live, changing them along the way.
TUCKER: Generally, we'll work on a song together and hash out a basic structure for it, then we'll record a demo of it in our studio at Philip's place, which gives us something to take home and play around with until we get together to work out something more permanent.
ANDREW: The process is always changing!
If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?
AARON: Give me Wilco or Paul Simon for the win.
ANDREW: Paul McCartney.
TUCKER: Well, I'd love to tour with Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Dawes, Jonathan Wilson - something like that would be a cool match up. But then there's always Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys (or just Brian Wilson in general) and The Stones are eternally touring.
Is there any certain message that you’re trying to get across with your music?
AARON: I want people to be able to identify to this record. However it speaks to them. I want people to listen to this record and discover something internally. The message is what you find about yourself.
PHILIP: That people matter and that the ego is evil.
ANDREW: That real music is still an art form.
What are your plans for the future?
ANDREW: To keep pushing our abilities as musicians and to better connect our conversations musically through our songs.
TUCKER: Hopefully we'll get a tour happening after the CD release and start playing the album out a bit around the US and overseas.
AARON: Work, Work, Work. The easy part is the music.
PHILIP: Yeah, I think maybe we’ll try music on for size.