Dear and the Headlights | Illuminated

prof_dear_cd.jpgIf anything, in art, an explanation doesn’t seem necessary; you should just experience it.






The dreaded sophomore curse is a documented tendency in music. Couple that with a national magazine naming your follow up one of the most anticipated releases of 2008 and you’ve got a lot of pressure on a young band.

Fortunately, Phoenix, Ariz.’s Dear and the Headlights have met the challenge head on. Drunk on Bible Times, the Equal Vision Records follow up to last year’s Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, is every bit as good as its predecessor: layered, upward-reaching, uplifting. Led by Ian Metzger’s near-whiny yet earnest vocals and backed by four innovative musicians—P.J. Waxman (guitar, vocals), Chuckie Duff (bass, keys), Mark Kulvinskas (drums) and Robert Cissell (bass, keys, guitars)—Dear and the Headlights’ profile has risen.

This past spring saw them on tour with such heavy hitters as Jimmy Eat World and Paramore, while autumn brought a tour with Motion City Soundtrack. Now touring in direct support to Steel Train, the guys are in the midst of what they call their best tour ever.

We reached Waxman on the road and talked about such things as upstaging the headliner, making the records they want to make and keeping it real.


This spring you toured with Paramore and Jimmy Eat World, then this fall with Motion City Soundtrack. What were those tours like? What did you learn from those artists?

It’s awesome as far as a business standpoint; obviously playing in front of tons and tons of people, more people hear your band. It’s a really good opportunity. It’s definitely possible that people who would go to see Motion City Soundtrack would like our band. We’ve had plenty of people come up to us after the show and say "Hey, I didn’t even know who you were, and you guys totally blew me away." There was this one show where this kid bought our CD and a shirt and was like, "You know, I got my money’s worth; I’m going to leave." He didn’t even wait to see Motion City. That was pretty strange; I don’t think I would ever do that. It’s been awesome; it’s better than every tour we’ve ever done. Everyone in the band brought something. Playing in front of 7,000 people is a pretty great experience.

It’s definitely our show, and Jimmy Eat World’s & Motion City’s show; they’re definitely different shows. We’re still starting out; everything we do is… We use the monitors; everything’s perfect. They’ve got people that they’re paying to run sound. If anything, we learned organization and professionalism. Eventually, we need to just be able to make it. I feel like we’re a real band; we’re just a bunch of guys. But I’m sure everyone thinks they’re just a bunch of guys. [When the fame goes to their heads,] that when it gets bad.

Is the current tour with Steel Train and Forgive Durden a headlining tour for you?

We’re supporting Steel Train and Forgive Durden opens the shows. This tour has probably been one of our favorite tours. It’s definitely a lot smaller; probably the most people at a show have been three or four hundred. But the people that come out to these shows are a little more similar…Forgive Durden and Steel Train are kind of along the same kind of music.

Playing along JEW and Motion City is quite different; it’s a pop-punk band and whatever people call us, whatever we are. This tour’s a really good fit; the shows are smaller but it’s pretty good. It’s also the first time we’ve had a direct support slot, so that’s wonderful.

How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you?

If I say that my band is jungle punk/hip-hop/gospel, I have a certain idea of what that is but you’re going to have a completely different idea. When you’re in a band, you don’t think your band sounds like anyone. You think that you’re the most original thing ever. I think genre is totally specific to the listener. Yeah, this is us; this is our band. It doesn’t sound like anyone. But then other people are like, "That sounds like Bright Eyes, or that sounds like…" If anything, in art, an explanation doesn’t seem necessary; you should just experience it. If you want to know what the band sounds like, don’t listen to what I have to say about it, because I’m going to have a totally different picture than you.

How about describing what they can expect from your live show?

I’d probably say tons of energy and passion. We go out there and by the end of the first song our t-shirts are already soaking wet. We have the most fun we possibly can every night, sing our hearts out, hit every chord like we mean it. We just try and have the best time that we can; we do what we love.

Your sophomore album was named one of the most anticipated releases by Alternative Press. Too much pressure, or do you feel you lived up to the hype?

I don’t think we were too worried about it. I think no matter what, it’s easy to be affected. The best way to do it is just play your songs, write the songs you want to write, say the things you want to say. If people like it, that’s awesome; if not, you’re still doing what you want to do. It may have been an anticipated album, but if we wrote a really bad record that we all loved, I’d be much happier than if we wrote a record we didn’t like but that Alternative Press liked. It’s a much more personal kind of thing, and we’re just lucky that other people can appreciate it.

Does Drunk Like Bible Times have an underlying theme?

No. As far as I know lyrically, it’s just a bunch of different observations on people and life and being in a band and touring and relationships; kind of just about being alive. I guess that’s what all music is. There’s not a story or theme, I don’t think.

How did the band get its name?

It was a long time ago. We had a list of probably 100 band names. It’s just so hard for people that make a bunch of different sounds. It’s really hard to choose four words to describe five people that have 20 years of living and different ideas on the music. We just said, whatever we said, it’s not going to be what we are. We just said Dear and the Headlights, that’ll work. And it’s not like deer in the headlights, the animal; it’s a bunch of different versions of what it is. We ended up with DATH, kind of like a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Probably plenty of people have said that to us; Ian’s the dear and we’re the headlights. | Laura Hamlett


Dear and the Headlights play Off Broadway in St. Louis Friday, November 14. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door; doors 8, show 9. Remaining dates with Steel Train and Forgive Durden are as follows:

11/11: Kilby Court, Salt Lake City
11/12: Marquis Theater, Denver
11/13: Jackpot Saloon, Lawrence
11/14: Off Broadway, St. Louis
11/15: The Bottom Lounge, Chicago
11/16: Triple Rock, Minneapolis
11/18: The Rave, Milwaukee
11/19: The Shelter, Detroit
11/20: Grog Shop, Cleveland
11/22: Walter Street Music Hall, Rochester
11/23: Living Room, Providence, Penn.
11/25: Harper’s Ferry, Allston, Mass.
11/26: Bowery Ballroom, New York
11/28: First Unitarian Church

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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