If you're innately wary of kitschy band names and rambling titles, you may have already given up on Dear and the Headlights. Just know that skeptical eye you're casting isn't lost on the band, which just may be returning that sentiment.
Less than a minute into "I'm Not Crying. You're Not Crying. Are You?," from the group's new record, "Drunk Like Bible Times," vocalist Ian Metzger derides both the music journalist ("Some local loser with a tape and a badge / Wants you to answer from the list of pointless questions to ask") and the blasé showgoer ("A sea of blank faces straight to the back / Aggressively mediocre in every single way / Yet you're the only reason they came").
A trifle indelicate, yes, but it's probable that Arizona's Dear and the Headlights is feeling a bit misunderstood. For starters, "Drunk Like Bible Times" has a decidedly different direction than the band's 2007 debut, "Small Steps, Heavy Hooves." Where "Drunk" is a rock-oriented, trend-right indie record with tight instrumentals and strong melodies, "Small Steps" is a little, well, emo.
" 'Small Steps, Heavy Hooves' was kind of an accumulation of five years of writing songs, so rather than being a tight, cohesive sort of thing, it's more spanning," keyboardist Robert Cissell said. "With this record, it was around six months from writing the songs until the record was actually released."
PUNK AND HARDCORE LABEL
Furthermore, Equal Vision Records, for those unfamiliar with its catalog, is largely a punk and hardcore label, so the addition of Dear and the Headlights' to its roster is more than a little unusual.
"We're kind of the black sheep, huh?" Cissell said. "Our producer, Bob Hoag, had recorded some other bands that were on Equal Vision prior to 'Small Steps,' so he gave it to them, and their A&R guy really liked it. It's a different sound for them, but they're all super-stoked about it."
In support of "Drunk Like Bible Times," Dear and the Headlights is on the road again. This time, instead of supporting former pop-punk tour mates like Paramore and Motion City Soundtrack, they're traveling with New Jersey's Steel Train, and they're optimistic about the match, which rolls through the metro for an 8 p.m. Thursday show at The Conservatory.
"We're all looking forward to this next tour. The crowd that we bring and the crowd Steel Train brings are the kind that enjoy the show as a package," Cissell said. "On some other tours, we were trying to win over a crowd not specifically into the type of music we play. It's always good to play for a bunch of kids, but this tour will be very complementary."
So, all frustrations aside, Dear and the Headlights are ready to put on a show. As Metzger sings at the end of "I'm Not Crying," "If you have to keep singing / Then singing should be fine / And if it ain't what you had pictured / Then yeah, that's about right." "Becky Carman