There’s a certain esteem held towards those who’ve helmed Dance Gavin Dance – it’s a coveted slot that’s rotated between a trio of powerful vocalists who demand your attention. Jonny Craig, Kurt Travis, and Tilian Pearson all offered unique perspective to the tenured and troubled post-hardcore act, differentiating themselves further with their individual pursuits.
It’s only appropriate that the three singers extend their connected timelines by simultaneously releasing solo material on April 22, offering their latest to the world in one batch.
Slaves – “The Fire Down Below”
Most curiosity is aimed towards Slaves‘ debut track, “The Fire Down Below.” Jonny Craig’s long-awaited return to full-band post-hardcore hits a striking balance, channeling different eras of Emarosa while offering some strategic evolution sure to please. The track’s minute of theatrical introduction isn’t anything new for the scene, though has never been part of Jonny’s repertoire; the strings’ build beneath floating vocals magnifies the already palpable hype before we even hit a true verse. It’s easy to imagine a volcanic reaction to the track’s verses live, where well-placed vocal spacing between vocals and riffs create optimal head-banging conditions. Though the melodies aren’t terribly inventive for Jonny, it rarely matters – he’s back to utilizing his full range, power, and rasp, and he sounds fantastic. The track culminates quickly, wrapping up around four minutes and offering a concise, enticing snippet of what’s to come from Slaves. Regardless of your feelings towards Craig’s past antics, “The Fire Down Below” is an undeniable move towards better days in post-hardcore.
Kurt Travis – “Brain Lord”
Meanwhile, Kurt Travis jumped off the deep end in the best way possible with “Brain Lord.” The funky-poppy-groovy-goodness bears no resemblance to his obscurely-indie tunes of previous solo material or experimental A Lot Like Birds records, instead focusing on amping the fun. Assistance from A Lot Like Birds drummer Joseph Arrington and Strawberry Girls guitarist Zach Garren only add to the bounce, ensuring every “OH OH OH” is entertaining and memorable. That chorus may even be the catchiest of his career – good luck not singing “ohh, but what if I saved you?” by the second swing. Whereas Kurt’s taste for strange once limited his audience, “Brain Lord” expands his reach through accessibility without sacrifice.
Tilian – “Future Friends”
Unlike his peers, Tilian has an established solo sound via his well-received 2013 album, Material Me. “Future Friends” continues down that electronic pop route, refining a bit and stretching further towards the mass. Anyone can hear the Top 40 potential glimmering through the song — Tides Of Man and Dance Gavin Dance fans aren’t likely to follow this direction, but radio listeners could learn every word. Those signature high-pitched vocals have proven polarizing in his post-hardcore career, but they’ve found a happy home in bright pop music that could lead Tilian towards stages larger than we might imagine. I’d suspect it’s only a matter of time before major labels start throwing lifestyles and contracts towards the talented singer.
So who wins?
Who cares? These three songs are aimed at staunchly different audiences despite their originators’ relationship. “The Fire Down Below,” “Brain Lord,” and “Future Friends” are all worth your time and all offer something we’ve yearned for from the singers.