Before they buckle down to the task of recording their third album, Adelaide’s prime purveyors of Americana Leader Cheetah are taking one last quick sprint around the place. Michael Smith catches up with guitarist Dan Pash.
Dan Pash, who's been living in Sydney since Leader Cheetah recorded their second album, last year's Lotus Skies, in the Harbour City towards the end of 2010, is back in Adelaide. It's just before the first of three final shows the band will be doing before getting stuck into writing and recording the band's third album. Apart from working up some of the new material they'll be including in the set when they do those shows, it's giving them a chance to remember some of the older songs fans have requested – they've invited fans to suggest a setlist via Facebook – and rearrange a few others.
“That's sort of the idea behind this tour,” he explains. “It's meant to be something different – new material, new arrangements of some older ones, you know, that type of thing, just sort of mixing it up a bit.
“The way things have happened in the last year, the band hasn't played a lot, but there've been a couple of tours where it's just been myself and the other Dan, our singer Dan Crannitch. The two of us had been touring just as an acoustic duo form of the band and did a couple of tours earlier in the year, one with a Canadian band called Yukon Blonde and then again with a Canadian called Dan Mangan and we've got another one coming up June, July with Busby Marou. What those shows give us a chance to do is play to some people that wouldn't have heard us before and still sort of get around the country and get the name in front of people, but also it gives Dan and myself time on days off and downtime when we're on tour to just work on new stuff. So we have managed to work up a fairly solid template as far as new stuff is concerned.”
Crannitch has suggested elsewhere that he felt that his songwriting was starting to feel a little safe, so for this next album, he's moving out of his comfort zone.
“That's fair to say,” Pash admits. “I mean it is still fairly early days but we toured a bunch of times last year, basically playing pretty much the same setlist and we were promoting the album and were pretty well drilled as far as that material. So I think the thing we wanted to do with this tour, both for the audience and for ourselves, is just to really open things up. I think Dan's probably right in saying that we did get a little… safe?” he laughs. “We keep coming back to that word I suppose. It was a little bit safe – it was a very detailed kind of album; the material, we had our stuff down to the fine details – and what can happen with that is you don't get the room for those kind of spontaneous, fresh ideas that sort of come bubbling through.”
This tour will see the band embracing some of the acoustic approach to the material the two Dans explored in their extracurricular tours as a duo, mixed in with the full band along with violinist Tom Spall.
“We've had a violinist a couple of times before. There are a handful of songs from the first [2008's The Sunspot Letters] and second albums that have a violin in a fairly prominent role in the arrangements, so we have done it before but again we're going to get him out for a few different tracks this time and just let him loose really. He's an engineer here in Adelaide and recorded the very first demo we ever did back in 2007; really excellent musician.”