Shiny Toy Guns have embarked on a tour in support of their new album III, out today (Oct. 23) in the United States. Not only does the album mark the group’s first new record in four years, but it also heralds the return of vocalist Carah Faye Charnow, who was the female singer on the band’s first album, We Are Pilots. (Shiny Toy Guns recorded a second album, Season of Poison, without her.) In returning to Shiny Toy Guns, Charnow has reunited with male vocalist and guitarist Chad Petree, drummer Mikey Martin and of course keyboardist Jeremy Dawson.
Dawson took some time out on the road in New Mexico, where it is illegal to talk on the phone and drive, to chat with We Love DC about getting the band back together and injecting the drama of the ’80s into their music.
Mickey McCarter: How is it going?
Jeremy Dawson: Good! We are slowly creeping across New Mexico. We are moving our equipment to California. We were doing a YouTube thing and soon we will start the tour.
MM: I’ve had a few times to meet you in the past and I’m always struck by how authentic you guys are. I really mean this as a compliment. I saw you in Baltimore for the first time some years ago and my friends were getting pictures with Carah. You walked up and said, “There are beers in the green room. Want to have a beer?”
JD: (chuckles) It gets lonely out there.
MM: You think your ability to talk to people and relating to people shows up in your music at all?
JD: Absolutely. I would say way over half of our stuff deals with relating to people — not on the new record so much. Sometimes you write a song about what’s happening to you or what’s happening to someone really close to you. Or sometimes you write a song about someone you never even met. You maybe just observed someone and wrote a song about it.
MM: As for this new record, everyone is pretty excited that Carah is back. How does it feel to be reunited? Is it a healing thing? Is it an empowering thing?
JD: Definitely both of those things. It’s an empowering thing and it’s a healing thing. It’s a new beginning. [Pause.]
Hey, do you know? Can you talk on the phone while driving in New Mexico? I don’t know what the law is!
MM: I can Google it. [Googles.] It isn’t legal! Are you okay?
JD: Yes, just give me a moment. [Pause.] I’m back!
MM: Cool. I was watching an interview you guys posted on YouTube and it seemed maybe Carah had left the band initially because of all of the pressures of touring and being on the road all of the time. So you had to do something different.
JD: It wasn’t exactly like that. All of those things caused other things to happen that weren’t real. It wasn’t like, “Oh crap we have been touring too hard. Let’s take a break.” We began to assume things that weren’t actually true about ourselves and about each other. That’s what started it.
MM: So you’re back with Carah. You have a new album out today. Might we expect this new album to reflect a path set by the first album? Your second album was very different than the first album. The second perhaps had a harder edge than the first? So what would you tell people to expect when they listen to the third album?
JD: We are back on the path. If Pilots was something that pointed in a direction like a compass, we are going in that direction. We certainly are not recreating anything we did in the past, but we are continuing to push it forward.
MM: Any favorite new songs on the third album?
JD: We all have our own favorites. The one we love to play live the most right now is “Fading Listening.” My personal favorite right now is either “Mercy” or “Somewhere to Hide.” It varies. But we rehearse 15 hours a day and we play everything over and over. So we haven’t listened to our own music a lot right now.
MM: When we see you in concert, does Carah perform songs off the second album [which featured vocalist Sisely Treasure]?
JD: Oh, yes. Definitely.
MM: Are they different? Do they sound different?
JD: We didn’t arrange them differently but her vocal interpretation of that stuff is her own. We love it! You have to see it.
MM: I want to ask you a bit about influences. You have a very glam rock edge. You have a very symphonic edge. Have you been influenced by anyone in particular in the writing of this new album?
JD: There’s been a lot of new music floating around us lately constantly. Everything happening around music has been the base. There wasn’t a monumental artist or record that triggered this album. Rather it’s been a very much personal thing to make this album. We didn’t say, “Let’s do this,” or “We should listen to this because it’s so awesome!” It’s very very personal.
MM: So no modern influences?
JD: We draw some inspiration from Depeche Mode if anything.
MM: You’ve covered Depeche Mode previously. And you’re always up for a good conversation about ’80s bands. Do those bands serve as influences?
JD: They are an influence. But it is more of the approach that people took on music back then. It’s the approach that we are taking now. It’s really dynamic and dramatic. You have a choice — you can be dramatic or not. We choose to be over-dramatic. The music dives and swells. We use a lot of technology. We put that all into a song and we write the best song we possibly can to be true. We try to go to the wall to be cinematic. That was an approach adopted by everyone in the ’80s — not just in new wave or synth-driven music. Look at what rock and roll was doing. Everything was so dramatic. We implement this drama into our stuff. And it sounds like the ’80s. It is dramatic like the ’80s. Everything was dramatic — hair, film, music. Everything! Does that make sense?
MM: I totally understand. What’s next for Shiny Toy Guns? You have a new album and a tour. What happens down the road?
JD: We go to the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada. We have a humungous number of remixes coming out. We have more than two years of work coming up based on this record.
MM: And there will be a fourth album and a fifth album and so on?
JD: Absolutely! We will do some cool stuff in between but everything is focused on III.
MM: Sounds great! I’m looking forward to the show at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Monday.
JD: Let’s fill the place up in DC and make it a party!