The band Nightlands is the brainchild of Philadelphian Dave Hartley, who actually grew up nearby in Frederick, Md. The band last came through DC in June 2011 after the release of their first album, supporting Sondre Lerche at the 9:30 Club in June 2011.
With second album Oak Island released in January, Nightlands is returning to DC to play at DC9 on Thursday, May 30. Tracks like “Born to Love” suggest lush progressive rock of the 70s, with the tone set by buoyant vocals instead of guitar solos.
Hartley talked to We Love DC about growing to love touring and being a perfectionist in his songwriting.
Mickey: You’re going on the road to support a new album! Can you tell us about it?
Dave Hartley: The tour starts Wednesday in New York. This will be our second tour, supporting Oak Island, which is the second record from Nightlands.
It’s a record that came out in January. We went on tour for a month. This is a shorter tour; it’s like a week and a half. DC is the second stop. We are looking forward to playing there!
We will have my four-piece band. We’ll be singing some beautiful harmonies and playing the songs from the record and some older songs and some new stuff I’ve been writing.
I’m really proud of the band and the way we are playing together right now. I think we are really good. It makes me look forward to the tour.
I didn’t always look forward to tours. Sometimes I make these records and they are very complex recordings, and I didn’t know how to play them live. I would get real stressed out about it. But we’ve gotten to the point now where the band is really good.
I’m really proud of the way it sounds, and I get excited about the tour. I never thought I would be excited to tour.
MM: When you say it’s complex, is that a deliberate thing? You write songs that are deliberately layered?
DH: I wouldn’t say that it’s deliberate. I certainly know what I’m doing when I record them. I actually oftentimes set out to do one thing, and it comes always comes out the way it comes out. It’s just the way I write music and the way I record music. I’m always striving to make a choral vocal sound. I don’t know why. It’s partially because I have a choral background and because I love things like the Beach Boys and big vocal blends.
It’s the way it comes out. I refuse to limit to my recording style to make it easier to play live.
I’m not going to make my recordings less dense or less layered just so that I can play them live more easily. Fuck that. I’m going to go in and use the equipment that I have, which is pretty simple equipment. I don’t have a nice recording studio. I’m going to use what I have, and I’m going to make the most beautiful thing that I can. Then, when it comes time to tour, I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure out how to do it.
That’s the way I work. I won’t make compromises.
MM: So for the second album, did this get easier for everybody?
DH: I think mostly it’s a function of allowing myself to change the songs to play live.
On the second record, the songs are a little bit more structured. On the first record, a lot of the songs are just one chord and these big choral things are happening on top. The songs lend themselves to being played live.
Also, I have changed some personnel in the band. The personnel fit the music a little better. That’s not to say my old band wasn’t good; it was great. Now I have a group of musicians all of whom sing beautifully and play their music beautifully. Anything I throw at them, they make it sound great.
It’s a matter of maturity too from my own perspective. It used to be that I would get freaked out about the prospect of singing in front of people.
I’ve always been in other people’s bands since I was 15. I’m 32 now, and I have my own band. It’s refreshing to know you can get better at something.
MM: Anything you are looking forward to while you are here?
DH: I’ll pick up a Washington Post! I grew up eating cereal and reading Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon and the Style Invitational. It’s one of the last major newspapers remaining and it’s one of the best newspapers in the world.
Nightlands plays first! Don’t miss out.