DAVE CAVALIER WILL MAKE A CIVILIANAIRE OUT OF YOU

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Let me tell you straight away that if you’re unfamiliar with the work of Dave Cavalier then you’ll be forever thankful for today. Dave’s music is truly and without a doubt fantastic and so unlike anything you’ve likely ever heard, you’ll feel like you’re almost discovering a whole new genre of music today, one that is as challenging and complex as it is groovy and easy to get hooked on. That kind of balancing act is tough to pull off, and it’s a mark of a greatly talented musician that can offer something fit for both casual listeners and hard-core melomaniac music nerds alike… and he pulls it off making it as cool as all hell to boot.

Dave’s latest album “Civilianaire” is -by his own admission- his best work yet, so for long-time fans and newcomers alike, this interview will shed some light on all the ins-and-outs of this striking new opus while giving you a glimpse into this mind and creative process.

So What exactly *is* a Civilianaire? why is that the name of your album?

To me, a Civilianaire is somebody who gets genuine joy out of the simplest things in life: good friends, thoughtful experiences, and those inspiring moments that are hidden in the mundane. The perspective isn’t new, but it reminds me of some sort of modern nirvana, a kind of contentment that’s truly in opposition to the more material parts of our daily lives. It was a mindset I didn’t have at all when I started creating this album, all caught up in life being half empty and just having a hard time with gratitude. I was feeling lost, like so many people were at the onset of the pandemic, so I retreated to my studio with no intention of writing an album, I just started dumping inspiration into my laptop. Since I didn’t expect any of it to see the light of day, I not only stretched myself creatively in new ways but I got really personal on a new level, too. The process of making the record turned into a really transformative chapter of my life. When the world stopped, so did we. I was forced to slow down, focus on the things in my life that were actually bringing me joy, and through the music, worked through some really complicated emotions. In those two years, I became a father, got sober, and got my head right. So ultimately, the idea of Civilianaire is this headspace I try to hang onto now and strive for. Through all the struggle and conflict outlined in the stories of the record, Civilianaire is really what was at the end of the tunnel for me after doing the work and finding my way through a dark time. It encompasses where I’m at today while the songs reflect the journey of how I got here. 

Not every album has a concept or narrative to it, but there’s usually one common thread joining all songs together. What is that thread here?

Tension. Each song has a certain degree of conflict, whether it’s between characters in a song or an internal struggle narrated lyrically as a personal reflection. As I mentioned before, I was using this music a vehicle to figure out some really difficult and complex emotions at the time, like my struggle with sobriety, so whether it was addressed directly in songs like “The Hold” or indirectly in songs like “Running With the Devil,” it’s always there. I did my best, however, to still package all of this tension in something you could move to. No matter how light or heavy the storyline, there’s always a groove to carry you through it. 

There’s this very unique blend of musical elements to most songs, something that reminds one EDM as much as it does rock music, it feels difficult to label. How would you describe it all genre-wise if at all?

I’ve been described in the past as a “Soul Infused Alternative Rock Artist” which is I think is a fair characterization for some of the newer stuff. I grew up in Chicago obsessed with the blues and until only very recently, I’d always considered myself an Alternative Blues Artist. Nowadays, Blues hardly feels like it’s really evolved into something new, with BB King or Robert Johnson licks rehashed and recycled over and over again. I would constantly ask myself things like “If Nine Inch Nails made a blues record, what would that sound like?” I wanted to take what I knew in my soul as Blues and experiment with how you could redefine it into a more contemporary sound. I called in LA Blues for a while, the idea being this classic sound tied to modern production elements you’d hear from any SoCal act accompanied by a laptop on stage. I love so many genres, however, that experimentation ultimately led me to a sound for this record that may not necessarily be Blues, but I’d like to think captures that blend of elements in a way that does feel new. Thankfully, I’m also proud of how authentic and real it feels as well, not manufactured or forced, which has always been so important to me.

Again, it’s a very fascinating and unique sound, who or what would you cite as your major inspirations as far as this particular work goes?

I listen to a lot of Jacob Banks, Leon Bridges, Chet Faker, Adele and Kimbra, but I’m still obsessed with artists like Radiohead, Ray Charles, Massive Attack, James Brown, Muse and the Mars Volta. I’ve never stayed too tied to what’s trending in music as much as I need to listen to things that really grab me, either because they feel totally new or because the emotion is undeniable.

Tell us more about your headspace going into this album. What did set out to achieve for yourself as an artist once you decided you ought to release these songs?

After spending months just capturing ideas and experimenting, I started to realize I felt really excited by the music I was making and became more willing to entertain the idea of actually releasing some of it which, again, was never the intention at first. During the pandemic, we had out covid pod which was made up of a small but incredible collection of friends who came by for dinner once a week. One of those nights, I pulled my drummer, Shane Considine, aside and said “I’m going to play you what I’ve been working on, and you just tell me which ones inspire you and that you’d want to work and I’ll finish them.” I probably played him fourteen songs, but the nine best that came out of that discussion ultimately became the album. At the time, the only goal was to make the record we wanted to make. No compromises, no trying to fit things into a box, just make something we loved and would want to listen to. I think we did that.

How do you feel this work stacks up to your previous releases? what’s different for you as an artist now that makes this new sound possible?

This is the best work I’ve ever done, I’m confident in that. Not necessarily because the quality of the work is any better than some of the things I’ve done in the past but because of how personal I allowed myself to make it. When I used to write, I always had some other goal in mind outside of myself that had to do with how accessible the lyrics were, or how sellable a hook was or if it fit my brand. All that business bullshit. It watered me down in subtle ways I didn’t even realize at the time. With this record, I produced it all on my own, so there was no musical compromises. If I liked a tone, I kept it. If a section wasn’t working, I cut it. If I wanted to rip a guitar solo, I did. What came out of it in the end, was a real reflection of both myself and the emotional state I was in at the time, which was tumultuous for the majority of the recording process. I was in pain, I was drowning it out with alcohol, and the songs began to create this world of dangerous swagger and tension that felt a lot like that sense of invincibility you get after one too many, right before the world reminds you how fragile you really are. That was me at that time and this record captured it. Looking back on what committing to the creative process in that way did for me both personally as well as musically, has completely altered how I approach songwriting now.

When you began working on this, you originally had no intention to show any of the songs to anyone. What made you change your mind?

When I began experimenting with ideas at the very beginning, I don’t think I really valued my ideas all that much. That invisible pathway inside me that artists use to channel ideas from somewhere else and guide them into the world was clogged, nothing felt right. Slowly, I chipped away and broke down those walls, gradually getting to something more meaningful I could be proud of. I began to share those ideas with my wife and friends and over time, I built up the confidence in those productions to not only flesh them out into full songs, but believe they offered something of value to other people too. That was the turning point when the idea of releasing the music became a reality. 

This makes me wonder if you have some secret songs stashed somewhere that you’ve refused to share with people, and what would take for you to release them.

I absolutely do. Tons. I do my best to let songs take on a life of their own after a certain point. Some need more time to grow and bloom while others seemingly enter my brain already complete. I do my best to return to the unfinished stuff to see if now is the time to add or subtract to evolve it. Most times, however, a song wasn’t finished because it served it’s purpose in the moment, maybe helped me exorcise some emotion, but that was all I needed. That’s a good reminder for me because not all music needs to be made to be released. By keeping some things for yourself, you maintain the joy of creating it. I know what it feels like to lose that and I don’t ever want to lose that again, so I protect it now. I let the songs tell me by how they make me feel when I’m listening if it’s time to work on it more, to finish it or to just let it go. I think most times though, it’s the unfinished ones that unlock and idea that ends up showing up even better in an entirely different song down the line. Songs are like memories, they all influence what we do in the future.

If you had to pick your favorite songs or at least the ones you’re the proudest of in this album, which would they be? I’m thinking “The Hold” is a big one, right?

“The Hold” wasn’t actually the most important to me when planning to release began, I just found it to be a really interesting track people seemed to latch onto so I rode that wave initially. Over time, however, talking about “The Hold” meant talking about the inspiration for the song which was my struggle with sobriety. Opening up about that struggle for the first time publicly, unbeknownst to me, would become one of the most cathartic and empowering things I’ve done. I’d always avoided the topic to not feel like some rock cliche, but that’s ignoring an important aspect of my story, of who I am and how I became a more fulfilled person as I stand here today. Talking about my experiences in AA was helpful, but owning that part of my life and being open to talking about it to people who may not understand what alcoholism is, how it feels to be affected by it, was really powerful. I felt like I finally let people truly see me, no more hiding or posturing. Scars and all, “The Hold” is maybe one of the best songs I’ve done that both musically and lyrically captures how difficult a particular period of time was for me and after turning that experience into art, I’m just so proud I was able to do that.

Any plans to turn any of the singles into music videos? quite a lot of them have a very cinematic slant to them!

Yup! “The Hold” official music video drops the day of the album, 3.18.22 and we have some fun content rolling out shortly thereafter as well. One of the best things outside this record I’m also really, really excited about is that I’ll be scoring another short film this upcoming month and have a great relationship with Warner Chappell Production Music to help get some of this music into film and television so we can really see how mediums clash to create something even more magical and affecting.

You’re all about Live shows, but you’re also dealing with early-stage fatherhood responsibilities. How soon do you think can we expect to hear these tunes with you up on a stage?

Live shows is where you truly see the music move through me. It’s an entirely different art form to me than studio production, but equally if not more enjoyable. I have an incredibly supportive wife who knows how important music is to who I am, so thankfully she’s been there so daddy can still take the stage. We performed Civilianaire for the first time live the day after the release of “The Hold” for a special show at The Peppermint Club here in Los Angeles, but we have every intention of getting more dates on the calendar locally and maybe even outside of Los Angeles.

Lastly: You got anything else planned for the immediate future we haven’t touched on? perhaps a message for the fans?

I’m really excited to work more with film and television just to explore how my writing evolves in the context of other mediums, whether it’s songs off the album or custom work. Other than that, I’m looking forward to performing the new album live and sharing more stories along the way. The more I’ve opened up in my writing, the more people have opened up to me after listening. That may seem obvious from an outsider’s perspective, but it’s such a vulnerable experience that it isn’t as second nature as you might think. Metaphors aren’t always to serve our creativity, sometimes they just hide the literal stuff we’re too scared to admit out loud, ha. I’m so much more open now and I’ve learned a lot from doing that. I plan to stay that way and hope it creates even more connections with music fans in the future. End of the day, that’s what its all about.

 

Story: Samuel Aponte Photos: Courtesy of the artist

 

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