BWW Interview: Will Van Dyke of STEREO DAWN ALBUM RELEASE CONCERT at Feinstein's/54 Below
It's a classic tale. Boy meets boy. Boy likes boy. Boy asks boy to be in a band with him. That's the way it was for Will Van Dyke and Chris Dwan (yes, D-W-A-N and not sunrise, as you think you read). Dwan, a Broadway musical theater actor and Van Dyke, a Broadway musical director, met one day and found a kinship that lead to a friendship. As is often the way of the show folk, Will and Chris discovered an artistic partnership while playing the cabaret nightclub 54 Below, and that fortuitous discovery gave way to a new band, Stereo Dawn, with the two men acting as songwriters creating music for group, as well providing lead vocals. The creative juices flowing, the twosome found themselves with so many songs that there was no place to go but into the recording studio.
"Off The Ground" is the resulting cd by Stereo Dawn and it just dropped on September 27th. The cd is cause for much celebration, so Stereo Dawn will be having a party - that is to say, they are having a concert at Feinstein's/54 Below on October 6th at 9:30 pm. Amidst the excitement of their very first cd release, I got on the phone with Will Van Dyke to talk about what it takes to form a new artistic partnership, create a sound for your band, and what the heck the name Stereo Dawn means.
This interview has been edited for space and content.
Will, you are one half of the duo that makes up the band Stereo Dawn. Is it just you and Chris Dwan or do you have other band members who play with you?
It's just Chris and I who write the songs but there are four other people who play instruments in the band. They're musicians that I've collected in my travels over the years, working on Broadway.
I love collecting musicians, they're the best thing to collect.
What is the significance of the name Stereo Dawn?
It's kind of a funny story. It's not just to confuse people about Chris's last name more, because he already gets it confused all the time between Dwan and dawn. But we wanted something that was sort of like a throwback to the groups of the early 2000's and late 90's but also captured the essence of... we both really love space, we both really love supernatural things like that... We were looking up constellations and different missions and we sort of had all these words and that's how Stereo Dawn morphed into a thing.
I've heard it said that all bands have weird names, do you think there's any truth to that statement?
Weird names! I think so! I think it's a fun creative activity for people who write music to then think of a band name. I don't know how to describe it other than it's like it's almost harder than writing a song. Brainstorming like "What if it was this?" or "What if it's this?" and somebody says something and you're like "Oh that's what it should be" and that's what happened for us, too. If you look at band names they are really random.
How did you and Chris discover that you had the makings of a band, rather than just a good friendship?
He and I had done a show at 54 Below, for him. He had a solo show a couple years ago and he had written an original song for that. Then he was doing this Christmas concert last winter and he wanted to write an original Christmas song, which we did, and we had a lot of fun. Then he approached me and said he wanted to do another solo show at 54 Below but he wanted it to have more original music in it. We wrote a song and it was.. I thought it was really good. Then we wrote another song, and then I had written something and I was like "Hey do you want to write this with me?" and after we had written three really great songs I said to him "I've always wanted to start a band, how would you feel about starting a band instead of just doing another solo show?" He was totally on board with the idea. That's the genesis of how the whole thing came about. We just kept writing, it happened really fast,we just wrote all these songs. Then we were figuring out what we were going to do with them and I said "I really want to record these." That's how the album came about, and the show that we're doing on Sunday -- the album release.
Do you both contribute music and lyrics or is it one on words, one on melody?
It goes back and forth. Every song is a little bit different. The first few songs we wrote Chris wrote all the lyrics, and then I started contributing to that a little bit. We sort of go back and forth on voice memos and things like that. He'll have a melodic idea, or I will, we just sort of go back and forth. At this point it's pretty organic. There's no real definition of who's doing what. But definitely Chris writes the majority of the lyrics and I do the majority of the musical things that are happening.
When you were making your group's sound, was it a conscious decision to model it after the boy band sound?
Yes, that was definitely what inspired us to start writing music. We wanted to play with that and give it a modern click, a contemporary now sound twist to that. I do think there's something about that period in time, in songwriting, of really strong hooks and really strong melodies and harmonies, that some people are still doing. But music changes and morphs and we're trying to use that model of strong melody and strong harmony, to bring that to contemporary melodies of today.
So the sound comes in the writing of the songs, not in the orchestration and arrangement?
I think everything starts with the writing. The story that we're trying to tell, the larger melodic idea - and then the arrangement has 100% to do with that but that's more like messing around in the studio and messing around with the guys and the girls in the band, who play with us.
A friend of mine was working on a cd and one day she called me and said "I just realized I'm recording a country cd" - have you ever had a project surprise you in that way?
All the time! I write musicals too and this is something that happens all the time, in doing that. Jeff Talbot and I were working on a show, and I remember when we were writing it, we thought it was one thing and then it became this other larger idea about life. That creative energy, I think never limiting yourself or your creative brain always leads you to what you're supposed to be doing.
Your first cd "Off the Ground" has just been released, what are the steps you're taking to get it off the ground?
Well, e're doing this concert on Sunday, we've been promoting it wherever we can, on social media and things like that. It's on Spotify - Spotify has a lot of outlets to promote new music, so we're really trying to lean into that and get it on as many playlists as we can. And just get the word out there and get people to listen to it because we're really proud of it.
What do you folks have planned for Sunday night?
We are going to do pretty much the whole album top to bottom and then we're doing a few covers that are not on the album. But from the era from which the album is inspired!
Will Stereo Dawn be playing out any time soon?
We hope to, we're going to figure out where else we can play, you know what music clubs can have us. We're a larger group when we perform because it's five musicians and back up singers and Chris and I both sing. So finding spaces that we can really do that...
What band would be the perfect band for Stereo Dawn to open for?
That is hard question (laugh) that Chris should answer! (laugh) Um! I don't know! I would love to open for Alanis Morrisette because I think that we have like a similar vibe and she is definitely of that era. I'm sure Chris would have a very different answer but we're both inspired by different artists.
To learn more about Stereo Dawn's October 6th concert at 54 Below please visit the Feinstein's/54 Below Website
Follow Chris Dwan on Twitter and Instagram at @blackdwan
Follow Will Van Dyke on Twitter @WVDmusic and Instagram at @wvdmusic