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Killer Klassix: Dance Gavin Dance- “Demos” EP

It’s something interesting to follow a band from their initial demos to being one of the biggest bands in the scene and only generating a bigger and bigger fan base.
Killer Klassix: Dance Gavin Dance- Demos EP

I have fond memories of being on campus from my first semester, but I never thought I’d be writing about one of those instances for my column. I don’t find it difficult, or odd in any form, but I just remember it so vividly. I was walking down the hallway blasting music in my headphones on my way to my psych class and out of the corner of my eye, someone wearing what has to be one of the most niche bands I’ve come to know in my long time of being a screamo/emo fan. 

I say screamo/emo in the non-judgemental sense because I think the scene gets such a bad rap for only being seen but never heard. The pun is definitely not lost on me. The mixture of unclean and clean vocals serves as the representation of the inner battle we fight within ourselves and always having the clean vocals carry much of the music is a wonderful artistic expression in my view. There is also a form of lost linguistic prose with screaming lyrics that fall deaf to most ears. 

The band was Dance Gavin Dance, and the guy, well, I haven’t seen him around in a while, but we did become friends.

The “Demos” EP was the first EP self-published by Dance Gavin Dance. While they primarily sold it at shows along with other merch, it is the quintessential release exhibitor of all the talent from the Sacramento post-hardcore quintet. 

Dance Gavin Dance became somewhat of a hopeful obsession of mine. I became a mega fan attempting to parse the lyrics and meanings of their songs, by 2013 when they announced their third new vocalist. I have loved each of their vocalists for various reasons.

“Attack of The Dashing Young and Bold” acts not just as the song title, but as an expression of the band’s ability to manipulate distorted guitars, unconventional drum parts and soulful vocals. Vocalist Johnny Craig, unclean vocalist Jon Mess, lead guitarist Will Swan, and drummer Matt Mingus assemble melodies and rhythms with a stylistic progression that caters to the listener. While Mess’ screaming may be a bit much, there is poetic prose there. While Craig’s vocals might be too mainstream for the hardcore fan, his melodies are akin to a hardcore guitar riff. Craig’s vocalizations tend to align with the intensity of the material, starting with a singular note and seamlessly building throughout the verse to a full-bodied vocalization. Contrasted with Mess’s growls, which only increase in aggression, the track comes down to the triple layering between Craig, Mess and Swan all interwoven, creating a uniquely solid melody.  

“Hot Plate (Demo for The Importance of Cocaine)” has always been a song that I hated, but upon writing this review, I appreciate for its artistic attempt to take all the elements of post-hardcore, screamo and R&B. Craig and Mess’ call response structures intricately establish the dynamic that carries through every release with Craig and solidifies the sound of the band as a whole. While Craig takes the lead, soulfully moving through verses while creating an audibly silky texture.    

“The Rain In Vietnam” (demo of “The Robot Vs. Heroin, Battle of Vietnam”) thematically draws influence from the historical heroin epidemic experienced by Vietnam vets after returning from Vietnam with PTSD. The narrative is further wrapped in a story about the fall of the kingdom after coming under siege. While lyrically the song is enough to stand alone as a concept, Craig and Mess’s dueling vocals on the track are wonderful not just to listen to, but to sing along to, which may be difficult, but after finding the lyrics online, can be nice. 

The track pushes every possible artistic melody and every progression to the point of a listener being able to recognize a Dance Gavin Dance melody in any given playlist. I probably am giving this song a bit more attention because it’s not just my favorite from the Johnny Craig Era, but is also my favorite to sing and might be my favorite Dance Gavin Dance song from their whole repertoire. There is a relentless ambition that is apparent on this EP, that not only serves as a driving factor but an all-around enhancement to the EP as an entirety. However, the song holds its own against even more produced or better-constructed songs being created by modern screamo metalcore bands. I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

For being an underground and non-official debut for the band, each track is solid and is just good. There isn’t a melody or beat missed on this EP. The EP was so well put together, that the latter two songs ended up on their following debut EP, “Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean,” where production is tightened and the songs are cleaned up a bit. 

Regardless of the following release, it’s something interesting to follow a band from their initial demos to being one of the biggest bands in the scene and only generating a bigger and bigger fan base. I guess in that case, we’ll need to save something to say on later releases.  

4/5

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