On an afternoon earlier this week while coming back from a rooftop photo shoot at the Sony Tower overlooking Madison Square Park in Manhattan, musicians Davey Havok, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont get out of the elevator on their floor, leaving in their wake a frenzy.
“Oh my god — were they in No Doubt?”
Yes, it’s been over 20 years since “Tragic Kingdom,” the band’s third album, put them on the map with songs like “Don’t Speak.” And while lead vocalist Gwen Stefani has now gone her own way — most recently as a judge on “The Voice” — the enthusiasm for the band (and its members) has clearly not died.
The men of the group — Kanal, Young and Dumont — have spent the past three years putting together an album in secrecy with new frontman Havok, of bands AFI, Blaqk Audio and XTRMST, for a new group called Dreamcar. The finished product, a namesake debut album of Eighties-leaning pop-rock songs, was released March 12; the band performs in New York tonight.
“The whole thing was an opportunity for us just to create and have fun,” says Havok, seated around a picnic table on the Sony roof with his bandmates. “We were doing it on our own, in isolation, in secrecy — no industry involved, no past confronting us, no expectations internally or externally. It just allowed us to create.”
The foursome first sat down three years ago to ask Havok to join them “on this musical journey,“ Kanal says. “We wanted to keep playing together because we enjoy playing together so much.”
“I think the original seed was planted in 2012, when No Doubt and one of Davey’s bands Blaqk Audio played a show together,” says Dumont. “We all were attracted to the stage to watch Davey perform. He was magnetic.”
Keeping their existence under wraps allowed them to sidestep the pressure of what the “new No Doubt” might be.
“We didn’t know what it was going to become, so we wanted to maintain that purity, without having expectations placed on us,” Havok says.
“The times that we’ve been the most successful in the pursing of our art have always been those times when we just follow our muse at the moment,” Kanal adds. “When you’ve been doing music for a long time, you realize that the best stuff is always created in those circumstances.”
As for the name? “It’s evocative, but it’s evocative of different things, depending on the individual,” says Havok. “It speaks of the idyllic and it speaks of freedom and the perhaps unattainable. It gives you a wash of nostalgia, or [something] futuristic.”
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