Catch up with Dan Htoo-Levine, lead vocalist and guitarist for Dan & The Wildfire and look for the new album, Bull Moose, being released March 31.
How did the band get together?
Dan HL: So, Thom and I actually lived together when we were nineteen and I'd been playing in this other band for awhile and we were doing some things and that ended and Matt, the keyboard player, was at that point playing piano in the band so when that band broke up I went to the two of them, Thom and Matt, and I said, 'hey, let's start a band', and we did. We did the solo record which was just entitled "Nothing, Anything, Everything" and it was under my name, Dan HL, and we didn't end up getting Kyle and Sam until a little bit later and what happened was Thom was in college and he was doing his senior recital - we all went to Berklee, that's where we all kind of got to know each other - and a guitar player that he was playing with couldn't make rehearsal so he asked me if I could do it and I said sure - I almost didn't go 'cause I was kind of feeling lazy that day and I was almost like 'nah, fuck it. I'm gonna stay at home' - and Sam and Kyle were the drum and the bass players so that kind of all fell together really nicely so we reached out to them and kind of the rest is history.
Are there any artists whose work has affected your sound?
Yeah, I mean it's always changing, you know, we all listen to so many different things; The Allman Brothers, The Band is always a big one, Ryan Adams is big, but right now I'm really into kind of soul, neo-soul like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, but I also like Amos Lee and Allen Stone, that kind of stuff.
Do you remember the first album you bought?
I remember the first album I owned, it's embarrassing but the first Hanson album, Middle of Nowhere I think was the name of the record, that was the first album I owned. That was pretty awesome, I remember grooving to that pretty hard.
What words would you use to describe the band's sound?
Developed, for one. We've come a long way from where we were and we continue to keep growing. It's a tough one to answer because it's like, we describe ourselves as folk rock, but it's way more than that at this point, you know, it's got blues, it's got souls, it's got more of the heavier - not heavier I should say - but more of that rock and roll kind of sound. I think I just put it to another interview at one point as 'melting pot rock,' so I think I'm going to stick with that.
How does Bull Moose compare to your previous albums?
I mean, it's really different. We sat down and, with Smoke Signals, the record that is out now, we said we're going to do it all live and we're not going to do many over dubs. With this album, we still kind of took that concept of a live album and so we did record it live but we weren't afraid to kind of produce it a little bit and work out guitars and background parts and think about it a little bit more. It's definitely more of a developed, enhanced sound, I would say. It's kind of like Wildfire 2.0, which is pretty cool.
Is there a track you're most excited for people to hear or one you think will be most popular?
Everybody who has heard the album so far had a different favorite. People were pretty excited about "Buzzard". I think "Soul Shaken" is going to be the track that people are going to be pumped up about because it's a way different side of us than people have seen before; it's an electric guitar driven tune and it's got big horns and lots of stuff and it's a good one. I think people are going to be pumped up to hear that.
In one sentence, how would you describe the album?
The album pulls from all different genres and is diverse, but we're really proud of the fact that all of the songs work together and it really is our first record that we feel makes complete sense as an album from top to bottom.
Any recent releases you can't stop listening to?
Actually, the Beck album, Morning Phase, I bought that on vinyl and I love it and also the Hozier album is really, really good.
What do you want to say about your music?
They're not songs written for songwriting's sake, if that makes sense. The songs that we sing are thoughtful and well-crafted, but they're not inaccessible and they're not pretentious; they're honest and I think that's what people really like about the music that we're making, is that it's got the complexities that people are kind of looking for in music but it's also easy to latch on to and fun.