‘Awake At Dawn’ is the name Auckland six-piece dDub have given their long awaited first album. It is a milestone for the members of the hardworking group who have spent the past six years defining their sound; moulding elements of rock, roots, reggae, dub and ska into dDub’s own distinctive blend.
An unwavering commitment to their live set and an almost constant touring schedule has made dDub a favourite at outdoor festivals up and down the country, steadily growing their profile. All the while dDub have relied upon the DIY ethic, self-funding their singles (most notably 2003’s summer anthem Give Up Your Love), videos, tours and the creation of ‘Awake At Dawn’.
I caught band vocalist and lead guitarist Derek Browne for a chat whilst he was taking brief respite from yet more touring in support of the new album.
“We’ve just finished doing seven gigs in the past week with more coming up as well. It’s been a journey, the past 18 months, from when we began recording the album.”
The lead up to that Browne says, was dedicated to “… honing our live set and developing our sound. It’s been an uphill… not battle, but a constant grind.”
Along the way positive reception to their singles and videos provided just enough encouragement for the group to keep going. Give Up Your Love won them the Best Indie Video gong at Juice TV’s 2003 awards and Give It Some saw them finalists in the same category last year.
“Anything that happens [of that nature] is fantastic and encouraging. When you spend so many hours putting yourself and your energy into something, good feedback really helps. You do have to be supported by the people.”
I picture a wry smile crossing Browne’s face as he concludes, “Y’know, I’ve had times with that support and times without and I don’t have to tell you which is better.”
Student radio has been behind dDub for since those early singles were released. Current single The Flow is also receiving a hefty amount of play on these stations throughout the country.
Wellington’s Inca Studios was chosen for the initial recording sessions for ‘Awake At Dawn’ before the group relocated to Auckland’s Eden Terrace Studio. Stu Newman, a good friend to dDub, and not long returned from overseas, was happy to take on mixing and engineering roles.
“Stu was fantastic,” lauds Browne. “He wanted to come on tour with us just to get involved and be more integrated with our sound.”
The album’s title, he says, tells the story of their lives through the time in the studio.
“Months were spent getting into the studio at 8pm and finishing up at 8am. It was a cool experience but I wouldn’t want to do it that way again. Trying to get stuff done during the day… our body clocks were just fucked!”
No surprise that over the six years dDub’s line-up has seen band members come and go. Browne reckons this has broadened each member’s musical scope and served to ensure their songwriting process is a collaborative one.
“Having played with lots of different people has helped to make our sound and our songwriting more expansive and has really solidified us as a band. Every song has a place for each members input.”
Due to this he adds, “… our songs are full and dynamic, always changing and never still”.
As I jot this point down, Browne offers his definition of dDub’s musical style, firm in stating that “… it is not traditional (reggae/dub), it’s more uplifting and fast-paced. Not so much ‘have-a-pipe-chill-out’, we are more rock/roots,” he enthuses. “We put thought into every section of each song as opposed to sitting on one thing throughout a song, as is common in other styles.
This is evident throughout ‘Awake At Dawn’ with songs varying in flavour and style from the rock/dub inspired opener I See A Sign. Current single The Flow does just that with its infectious horn line and also features backing vocals from Caitlin Smith.
No Smoke provides a pleasant change in pace with its flamenco-inspired guitar intro giving way to a well-blended rhythm and the finely crafted Give Up Your Love displays the group’s ability to nail down songs that translate well to wider audiences. ‘Awake At Dawn’ is a complete and rounded album that succeeds in summing up the dDub experience.