Pianist and livewire Dan Webb released an EP called Capitulation when he was just 20 years old, and toured the country to glowing reviews. A classically trained musician with a knack for bombastic pop songwriting, Webb has developed a reputation for his energetic live shows. With a new EP, Hyperspace Clearance , set for release, this talented Melbourne boy is settling in for a month-long residency at The Evelyn this December. He spoke with Beat about the making of his sophomore record and the thrills of Dan Webb Live.
What have you been up to since the release of Capitulation ?
“I've been really busy. I like it that way – having upcoming projects to aim towards gives me a sense of direction and purpose in life. Straight after I recorded the first EP, I was already thinking about doing a second one. Once I had saved up a few pennies and I'd developed the songs to a point where I was happy with them I booked in to record Hyperspace Clearance at Sing Sing. Being a self-managed, independent artist means that I'm also really busy doing stuff behind the scenes. It was a massive learning curve for me booking shows for the east coast tour in September and then organising flights and accommodation too. I also scored a distribution deal through MGM this year.”
What did you learn from the release of the first EP?
“I learnt a lot. We only had two days of tracking so we felt a bit rushed and I knew we'd need more time for future projects. I wasn't completely prepared for heading into the studio the first time. We didn't record any demos. I wrote half of the lyrics to Fictitious Girlfriend on the morning I recorded the vocals!”
How did you plan to make things different for Hyperspace Clearance ?
‘For the first EP, I really wanted to show people you don't need to rely so heavily on guitar to create rock music. I wasn't so fussed about that the second time round, so it allowed me to explore different genres, styles and sounds. I'm not a huge fan of ballads, but I kinda saw Weathered Mind as a bit of an up-tempo ballad, and a departure from the kinda sound I had going on in Capitulation. I started paying more and more attention to melodies. It's not something that's come naturally to me ‘cause I'm so used to playing chords and whatnot... but I think I'm getting better at it.”
What sort of things were you thinking about when you wrote this EP?
“I'd been working on some ideas for songs for a few months around the time my grandpa died. It hit me pretty hard and there was a period where I didn't feel like playing or developing songs, which is really unusual for me ‘cause I normally play every day. I resumed writing after I bought a new keyboard and I felt inspired again all of a sudden. My lyrics were about people leaving me, because in addition to the death a bunch of my friends were heading overseas and I felt a little abandoned.”
Did you try anything new in the instrumentation?
“Yeah, I'm a huge fan of vintage keyboards so I jumped at the opportunity to play clavinet and a Wurlitzer electric piano. I played a Fender Rhodes on most of the tracks of the first EP, but it didn't feature once on Hyperspace Clearance. I also got my bass player Luke (Ebert) to play a couple of old bass guitars.”
When you listen back to it, what influences do you hear?
“I was listening to The Beatles and Stevie Wonder around the time of writing and recording, so I think they were definitely big influences. Especially the Let It Be album – it's not my favourite Beatles album but I'm a huge Billy Preston fan and I also love the rawness of it.”
Is this why you chose the Abbey Road Studio to master the EPs?
“Abbey Road's produced some of my favourite albums of all time. Needless to say, it's a ridiculously well established studio with some of the most experienced mastering engineers in the world. I jumped at the opportunity to work with them on the first EP and I was really happy with the result so I went with them again this year.”
How did you come to meet Kieran and Ari and why did you want to work with them?
“Why not! Ari is a mate of mine from work. Sometimes he fills in for the super-busy Ross Irwin in The Cat Empire. He introduced me to Kieran. I wanted to try something a bit different for my EP launch at Northcote Social Club in September so I asked if they were available and up for it and I guess the rest is history. I was blown away at sound check. It's a lot of fun playing with those guys.”
How does your live show differ from your recorded output?
“I haven't used any samples to date, and though I often play two keyboards at the same time I can't get exactly the same sound as on the recordings ‘cause on some of the tracks such as Way Out I've layered up to six layers of keyboards!”
You’ve mentioned that you tend to play long jam-style instrumentals in the show, if it feels right – does this come from a background in jazz?
“Yeah, that's exactly right. I played in stage bands at school, as did Jos (Josiah Bradshaw, drums) – we went to the same school. I was classically trained from a very young age, so I really appreciate just feeling free to explore different ideas in the live show and mix things up a bit.”
Aside from the improvisation, why should people come see your live show?
“Audience participation! I played a crazy show in Newcastle where I invited people up on stage to dance and play my keyboard. It's really spontaneous, you never know what might happen. I'm thinking about bringing a keytar along to one of the residency shows so there's a really good chance I'll end up in the crowd.”
DAN WEBB launches his brand new EP Hyperspace Clearance across the entire month of December with a Tuesday residency at The Evelyn. He’ll be joined by The Cat Empire Horns and a slew of special guests at The Evelyn on Tuesday December 14, 21 and 28. Check out myspace.com/danwebbmusic for more info.