With a dynamic esthetic that is derived from their innovative musicianship and passionate live performances, the indie rock duo Dads have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the Garden State. Now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Dads continue to deliver a progressively heartfelt sound that not only regarded them as torchbearers for the “emo revival,” but has also evolved since the release of their 2012 debut full-length, American Radass.
After touring as support for groups like Reggie And The Full Effect, Touché Amore and Tigers Jaw throughout the year, the band finally embarks on their first ever headlining tour this month alongside Tiny Moving Parts and Nai Harvest, just in time for the release of their sophomore LP, I’ll Be The Tornado.
While they were on the road for a brief tour with I Am The Avalanche following their weekend at Riot Fest in Chicago, I spoke with vocalist and drummer John Bradley about their headlining tour and also discussed the band’s personal and musical inspiration that made an influence on the writing process of I’ll Be The Tornado.
You guys just played Riot Fest this past weekend in Chicago. What was that like?
It was a lot of fun. We ended up going there for the entire weekend because there were a lot of bands that we wanted to see. We’re really lucky to be able and go to a lot of these fests and see a ton of bands that we grew up listening to and a ton of bands that we listen to like crazy nowadays for free… for a lack of a better word (laughs).
Riot Fest is really cool because there are huge scale bands and for the most part, if you’re an artist, you get to stand and watch them from the side of the stage. So I was like watching Dashboard Confessional and I was taking photos and sending them to my sister and my mother being like, “Remember when you drove me to see these bands?” And it was really cool.
Who were some of your favorite sets that you saw at Riot Fest throughout the weekend?
Pianos Become The Teeth had a really good set. Dashboard was great. And at the very end of the weekend, all of our friends got together and we watched Weezer play The Blue Album and that was just a fun time.
In the past, you’ve played festivals like Bled Fest where they would take place in a more intimate setting. What would you say was the general reaction of your set at Bled Fest like compared to playing more of larger scale festival like Riot Fest?
Umm… Bled Fest is cool because the last year and the year before that, they put us in an area where like a lot of people could see it, even if they weren’t really familiar. And there’s definitely an aspect of “you have a lot more people going crazy” at a fest like Bled or an actual Fest, like in Gainesville.
But at Riot Fest, I didn’t expect anyone to go really crazy. I was totally prepared for it to be just like a “watcher-fest,” where like everyone is just standing and watching. But when we started, people were like… I don’t know, for a lack of a better word, “moshing” or “push-pitting.” And people were dancing and crowd surfing and stuff and singing along. It was really cool, but it was a high-energy set. I was able to jump off the stage and get into the crowd. I’ve seen pictures and it looked like a lot of people were really enjoying the movement.
It was also nice because unlike a Fest or a Bled Fest, everybody could see because of the way the stages were set up. Even if you weren’t up in the front, you were able to stand and just watch and view what was going on, but then the people in the front were still able to get into it.
So, you will be embarking on your first ever North American tour in October. How does it feel to finally be headlining your own full tour?
Yeah, pretty much when you first start out, you kind of just string as many dates as you can together, and there’s no really rhyme or reason. Like, we’ve done dates where we were the headlining band, but we didn’t really like, call it a headliner. This will end up being our first official, professional “we have a tour manager tour, we have a load-in time, we have a booking agent” headlining tour, so it’s kind of stressful. I’m kind of freaking out because it’s like, “Are we doing this right?” “Are we doing this correct?”
But then you kind of remember there are no rules and no one on this tour is going to get mad if we mess up. Like, no one on this tour has been like, “Oh, we’ve toured with ‘so-and-so band’ that is very legit and very professional” to the point where they would be like, “Oh, you guys are doing it wrong.” I’m really just so excited to do this tour with each other and that we’re all excited no matter what goes on.
You’ve opened for many bands like I Am The Avalanche, Reggie And The Full Effect, Touché Amore and Tigers Jaw throughout the year. How do you think these past tours you’ve played as supporting acts have helped you prepare for your upcoming tour?
We got to see some of the tricks of the trade and go to more importantly see these bands that took us out and treated us well and they like, made it their top priority to more than just put on a good show every night and treat the opening bands well. We were very blessed with some of these bands we went out with because we’ve heard all the horror stories of like, people that would go out on tour opening for big, big bands that never even spoke to them, never hung out with them and just treated like horrible shit.
But, with us, it was like, everybody and Reggie And The Full Effect knew that it was kind of our first laminate tour, and they were so excited to be the people to bring us into that. They were so excited to like, give us all of their shit and let us do whatever we want to do.
You can pretty much tell after a day or two with us that we’re respectful and kind people to the point of almost being very shy. And Touché ended up seeing that and they were like, “Yeah, you can have any of our catering and any of our fruit or anything like that.” And I don’t think I ate an apple until like, halfway through the tour.
It showed us that, when we go out with Tiny Moving Parts and Nai Harvest and Choir Candles, we’re going to be just as helpful and just as companions, I guess. And it’s not going to be like, “We’ll see you next week,” or, “Go over there and don’t talk to us.” Because these are your friends and they become your family for those four or five weeks that you’re out there, so you might as well treat them great.
Next month you will also be releasing your second full-length, I’ll Be Your Tornado. How is this record personally and musically different compared to American Radass?
Definitely a lot more mature and definitely a lot more… I don’t know, I’ve talked to a bunch of people who’ve heard it and they call it “grown up,” and I am really excited about that because I feel like that’s what we did. I feel like we’ve always shot from the hip and we’ve always written about stuff that matters to us. But I think that the stuff that matters to us now are more compound things and stronger feelings towards not just a person right in front of us, but the person that’s far away. Or an idea that is more on the grand scheme of things than the moment that you are in.
I think American Radass and everything else that came before that was very like, “Oh my god, this sucks right now.” Whereas Pretty Good and I’ll Be The Tornado is like, “Oh, these are things that happened sucking and these are things that are terrible, but I haven’t been paying attention to them because of other reasons.” And it’s kind of just trying to put the best foot forward and make the best of a shitty situation.
There was a lot of positivity on American Radass, but it got swept under the rug because we were all so very sad and very angry at the world, whereas I think with I’ll Be The Tornado, we’re kind of like, “Yeah, this world can definitely suck sometimes, but you can make it a better place.”
So in that sense, how does the title of the album fit with the overall theme of the record? What was the main inspiration behind the album title I’ll Be Tornado?
We had a lot of different titles up in the air and that one won the overall vote of everybody that had a part in this record and that fits the overall… I hate to say the word “theme” because I don’t want anybody to think that this is a concept album (laughs). But it definitely fits the overall theme of like, the full line being, “I’ll be the tornado that keeps you warm,” that is like, “We are the chaos that keeps it moving,” but it’s a “welcomed chaos.” It’s crazy enough that it keeps you on your toes, but in the best way possible.
When you were writing for this record, what was the one personal goal that both you and guitarist Scott Scharinger wanted to accomplish to assure that this record will musically surpass your previous work?
I feel like we never really set out any goals for American Radass. Then when we started writing this, we kind of just let it flow organically, but at the same time, we knew that we wanted to make a record that we would be happy with in 20 years.
Not that we weren’t happy with American Radass whatsoever, but it’s like, we really looked up towards the people we loved in middle school—the people we loved growing up musically—and we really did a lot of research on what they did and how they viewed their record that we thought was monumental to us.
I’ve talked to a bunch of friends and their biggest compliment that we could ever hear is, “This music reminds me of something that I would listen to in high school.” Because that was a very horrible time and that was when music really seemed to “hit.”
It’s kind of like, if you really think about the monumental records that have shaped your life, we sat down and figured out why they did and we kind of thought about that. It’s cool because we’ve met a lot of adults that are in their 30s and in their 40s that are like, “Yeah, we’ve heard the record. It hit me like a record would have when I was a 14-year-old.”
And that’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want it to be specifically, “Oh, my girlfriend broke up with me and I’m sad because I’m leaving high school.” We want it to be, “Oh, well these are the big problems that are in everyone’s life. And they also affected us and let us talk about them.”
Dads will be playing The Studio At Webster Hall in Manhattan on Oct. 20 and the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia on Oct. 23. For more information, go to wearentdads.com.