Sting and the Police had “Roxanne.” Eric Clapton had “Layla.” Michael Jackson sang about “Billie Jean,” and The Killers declared that “Jenny was a Friend of Mine.” Kurt Cobain penned a tune that was “About a Girl.” Indie rock darlings Girls sang for “Laura,” and goth-rock pioneers Interpol bemoaned how “Stella was a Diver and She was Always Down.” So when Los Angeles-based indie-rock trio Daniel and the Dragon decided to name their debut album “Sophia,” it was in the same vein as countless other artists: a piece of music named after a girl. But the source of the name, in this case, wasn’t quite what one might expect.
“I only know one Sophia,” explains Dan Evans, the group’s bassist and lead vocalist. “My best friend Erik had a beautiful baby girl with his wife in December of 2010. I guess that, more than anything else, this record is for her.”
Evans, along with drummer Kris Brown and guitarist Jacob Moss, embarked on an exodus to record Sophia, which the band is self-releasing on February 18. Recording sessions began in Missoula, Montana in August of 2010, followed by additional recording and post-production in Los Angeles through November of the same year. Working in conjunction with veteran producer Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Records, the band committed 12 songs to a record without coming across a name that seemed to fit.
“This whole time, Dan’s keeping us updated on Erik’s baby back in Missoula, all the excitement and nervousness that went along with that,” recalls Brown. “We finally found out it was a baby girl, and when they decided to name her Sophia, I remember we all just sort of perked up at the same time. It was just what we wanted.”
Sophia, while technically Daniel and the Dragon’s second album, marks the group’s first serious move into the Los Angeles music scene. The 12 tracks showcase the band’s diverse ear for rock music, incorporating an experimental palate of organic and electronic textures. Initial cuts from the album brought comparisons to 80s acts like The Cure up to contemporaries like Cut/Copy and LCD Soundsystem.
“Recording was a great accomplishment for us as a band,“ says Evans, who had previously recorded a solo album under the Daniel and the Dragon moniker. “Working as a full unit in the studio gave us some great chemistry, got everyone on the same page. Taking that energy to a live setting has been exciting to say the least.”
“We don’t necessarily pick out a specific sound we’re trying to work towards,” explains Moss. “If we’ve got a good melody, we can build it into a song that incorporates all our musical tendencies into it.” Having several multi-instrumentalists in the band certainly doesn’t hurt: all three members traded places on various cuts on the record.
The twelve tracks utilize a wide range of acoustic instruments in addition to a number of different synthesizers. Evans, the primary songwriter, found inspiration in a hand-me-down Yamaha keyboard to kick-off the writing process. Debut single “Taking it Back” used the instrument to build symphonic arrangements out of clearly-dated samples, building up to the entrance of the other members of the band in a soaring, keyboard-driven bridge.
“That old keyboard has some of Dan’s family history in it, I’m pretty sure,” jokes Kris Brown. “I think his mom played it in a band in the 80s, it sure sounds like it.”
“Yeah, it’s my mom’s old keyboard, no shame in that,” laughs Evans. “She gave it to me so I’d have some company while living away from home in LA. It’s a lot of fun, and we got some great songs out of it, too.”
The band has plans to self-release Sophia on February 18, 2011, playing at The Motley to the View Coffee Shop in Claremont, California. In spite of the humble origins, the trio has lofty aspirations for the coming year. Additional shows are in the works for the greater Los Angeles area, leading up to tours up the West Coast to Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, and inland to Missoula, MT and Denver, CO.
“We’re trying to build as much exposure as we can right now, really work what opportunities we have and try to develop a fan base here in the West,” says Moss. “Our friends have been a huge support for us. We’ve had friends play instruments on the album, set up shows for us, take pictures, just about everything. We’re really lucky to have them.”
With Sophia poised to be released in physical form, the band is hoping an aggressive online campaign can get word-of-mouth buzz out before their larger performing plans are finalized. The new album, as well as older music and demos from Daniel and the Dragon, can be downloaded on a pay-what-you-want basis at danielandthedragon.bandcamp.com
“We just want people to hear the songs at this point,” says Evans. “It’s a bit of a long shot to ‘make it’ or something like that, playing music anymore. We’re not gonna keep our fingers crossed for something huge, but maybe with a little bit of luck we’ll get a chance. And really, that’s about all any of us would even ask for.”
The trio will look to get their chance in 2011. The record’s namesake might not be aware of a band singing songs in her name, but she’ll certainly be in the thoughts of Evans, Brown, and Moss as February 18 draws near: Sophianturns two months old just days after the album’s release.
Daniel and the Dragon presents their self-released album Sophia
The band consists of:
Dan Evans: vocals, bass, programming
Kris Brown: drums
Jacob Moss: guitar
Tracks of interest:
2. Taking it Back (debut single for the record)
8. Denzel Washington and the Half-Mile
John D. Robertson
Mixing and Mastering:
Mysterious Mammal Recording
Atwater Village, Los Angeles, California
Photography by Kerrin Smith
Digital Editing by Dan Evans
Sophia can be downloaded on a pay-what-you-want basis at danielandthedragon.bandcamp.com
For more information, contact the band at