“We’re pretty much reinventing ourselves as a band.”
That’s a fairly heavy statement for any singer to make, especially someone who fronts a relatively young band with a million-plus in record sales, several massive rockradio hits (“Wasting My Time”, “Deny”, “Taking My Life Away”), a bunch of late-night-tvshow appearances and more than a few sold-out tours with some of the biggest alt- and active rock groups in the country under its belt. But Dallas Smith, frontman of theplatinum rock band Default, knew that something needed to change before the groupstarted work on its third record, One Thing Remains.
“I mean, to think back to when we started six years ago, to get here to a thirdalbum is amazing,” says the singer, who initially joined the Vancouver band in 1999 atthe behest of his high school buddies Jeremy Hora and Danny Craig. “But we wanted to get a little heavier this time, yet keep our melody, too. That’s what our first record[2001's The Fallout] did so well. And at the same time... we were really open to differentideas for the first time, both musically and lyrically. We sat down, discussed what had happened to us over the last few years on the road, went over what we heard and saw,and went from there.”
The first thing to change was the recording process. After devoting most of its six-year existence to touring, the band spent a full year at home, writing songs at eachothers’ houses and testing out new ideas. Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, who initially discovered Default on a demo tape and took the band on tour in its early days, swungby to hear some tracks and offer his help. So did Marti Fredrickson, a frequentcollaborator with Aerosmith. Most importantly, after an extensive search and a few false starts, the band discovered the producer they’d always been looking for: Bob Marlette.
“Bob’s worked with everyone from Tracy Chapman to Black Sabbath to a bunch of jazz groups,” says Smith. “We liked the idea that he had a experience with a widespectrum of music.” He laughs. “Besides ... he knows how to make a REAL rock record.We may not trying to be a metal band, but the way Bob works, even our ballads have balls now, you know?”
For guitarist Jeremy Hora, it was a perfect match. “I’ve never done so many guitar parts on an album in my life,” he admits. “But then again, I always say that everythingwe do starts with the Jimmys: Hendrix and Page. So for me, working with Bob washeaven.”
The final result, One Thing Remains, both re-establishes the band’s melodic rocksound, yet expands on it in new and unexpectedly exciting ways. No, the group did notsuddenly decide to wear matching outfits or plunder the catalog of Gang of Four and Joy Division; instead, the guys simply worked on their dynamics. “Hiding From the Sun”sports an aggressive guitar assault that does their Pacific Northwest heritage proud,while “The Way We Were” shows off a powerful new vocal range for Smith, who was somewhat of a novice singer when he started with the group six years ago.
The album’s two standout tracks, meanwhile, showcase the band’s depth and range. “Count on Me,” the first single (co-written by Kroeger), is an upbeat, anthemic trackthat’s already hit it big on rock radio ... even before the song’s official release. “It’s avery positive song for us, and it gets away from the relationship-heavy lyrics that we’ve been doing for so long,” says Smith. “Chad, and Bob, too, really helped us expand ourworld view on this album.”
But the band also performs a 180 degree turn on the opening track “All isForgiven,” a lush, mid-tempo rocker with a shimmery guitar sound that, at times, recallsan early 90s U2. It’s a departure for the band, and Smith is damn proud of it. “We changed that song a million times,” he remembers. “In some ways, it doesn’t sound likeour band, but it’s my favorite song on the record, and I wanted to lead off with that. Itwas important to me.”
Default plan to spend at least the next year or so on the road, as they did with theirtwo previous records, The Fallout and Elocation. A video for “Count on Me” is in rotationon all the major video outlets, and the band has tentative plans to hit several major festivals and radio shows over the next few months. And while other bands that startedat the same time have already crashed and burned, Default seems to be at its peak.
“It’s a cliche, but everyone says on your third album you grow up,” says Hora. “Butyou know what? It’s true, at least in our case. And hopefully, you get better as you goalong. Our eyes were really opened up over the last few years, and that’s really reflected here. I’m more excited than I’ve ever been.”
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