Dean Back is happy to be home in North Delta for the holidays, with a hit song on the radio and big tour plans for 2018.
After Christmas, the Theory of a Deadman bass player will fly to Michigan for a pair of casino shows with the band, but the trip will be a quick one.
“I get to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home this year, which is good,” said Back, a founding member of TOADM along with singer/guitarist Tyler Connolly and rhythm guitar player David Brenner; drummer Joey Dandeneau joined in 2009, eight years into the band’s playing days.
It’s been an exciting fall for Theory, who released a change-up of an album called Wake Up Call, which includes “Rx (Medicate),” a song that seems to be hitting the right notes with fans of rock/pop music.
“It’s looking like it’s the biggest song of our career right now,” Back said in a phone interview this week.
“I mean, it’s been 16 years and here we are with probably our biggest song.”
The official video for the song has been viewed more than 18 million times on Youtube, and the track is getting played on several Vancouver-area radio stations, among others around the world.
The song, which deals with prescription drug addiction, was written by Connolly following his divorce, he told Billboard.com in an interview posted in July, when the video was released.
“I went and saw a therapist and the first thing she said was, ‘I want to put you on some Beta blockers or some sort of anti-depressant stuff,’ and I’m like, ‘No! No way! What? How is that the first thing you want to do?’ Connolly told the website.
“I just feel like something’s wrong and I felt like the song needed to be written and people needed to hear it. It seems like every week something terrible is happening. I mean, Chris Cornell…and when we shot the video for it, all these directors we talked to were like, ‘Oh yeah, I had a huge prescription drug problem, so this hits home,’ and all that stuff. So it’s a really important song and I’m so happy we get to release it first.”
Wake Up Call was recorded at London’s Kensaltown Studios with Swedish producer Martin Terefe, who has worked with Jason Mraz, Mary J. Blige, Train and other hitmakers. The band spent close to seven weeks in England’s largest city early last year, in a departure from their normal way of doing things, on several levels.
“I think Tyler was starting to feel a little bit stale writing songs on the guitar, because he’d explored so many avenues on that (instrument),” Back said. “So a lot of the focus for this record was piano for the songwriting, because he’d bought a grand piano a couple years ago and he’s been slowly teaching himself to play piano, so that had something to do with the change, too.”
Thank you @Spotify & all the fans for the support you have shown "Rx (Medicate)" & the rest of our new record WAKE UP CALL. Looking forward to 2018! 🤘🏻🤘🏻
Listen to the #RockThis: Best of 2017 feat. @portugaltheman @foofighters @ColdWarKids & more here: https://t.co/oO7Ry92oou pic.twitter.com/9ZEfbAUIRI
— THEORY (@TOADM) December 14, 2017
With finished demos in hand, Back and the others knew the songs represented a new direction for the band.
“The last four records were all recorded in L.A. with Howard Benson, the producer we’ve used, and I think we all collectively decided we needed something different,” Back explained. “We sent the demos out to a wish-list of producers, and (Terefe), who’s done a lot of stuff we’re fond of, he came back excited to do it. We got on a call with him and we didn’t know much about him, so we asked him about coming to L.A. but he was telling us about this studio in London where he worked a lot, and asked if we would consider going there. We were all like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it, let’s totally get out of our comfort zone, go to London and work with this new producer, a new team, and try something different.”
Theory of a Deadman took a liking to the comfortable Kensaltown studio, and it shows on Wake Up Call, loaded with the sounds of a confident, veteran band that took some chances this time around.
“Recording there was a really cool experience,” Back said. “Most studios we’ve worked in are dark and dungeon-y and you don’t know if it’s ten in the morning or ten at night, with no sunlight, and there’s always an isolated vocal booth and everybody has their sort of area, but that studio was all windows, a huge giant room. The drums were isolated, but we recorded while sitting on couches, in kind of this real organic atmosphere.
“When we got over there,” he continued, “I think (Terefe) was excited to do a rock n’ roll record, because he writes a lot of singer-songwriter, more pop-leaning stuff and not a lot of rock stuff. But we get there and said to him, ‘No, we’re doing what you do, we’re looking for your influence here.’ And it was great, he was so hands-on. We’d jam the songs in studio and he’d pick up the guitar, a bass, a piano, whatever, and he got in there, rolled up his sleeves and joined us.”
This time in studio, TOADM also did away with its usual pre-production routine.
“Traditionally, before we’d go in the studio, we’d spend two weeks together working on the songs, making sure they’re tight and arranged exactly how we want them, and then we go in, press record and play,” Back noted. “But (Terefe) did not want that at all, and the fact that we had never played any of these songs together – everything was via email just sending ideas back and forth – he was like, ‘Nope, you guys aren’t playing any of that until I’m there, and we’re going to hit record as soon as everything starts, and everything is going to be recorded.’ So that was really cool, and allowed us to flesh out the sounds of the songs, the arrangements, with everything being recorded. That was a leap of faith for us with Martin, that he knew what we he was doing, because it was definitely not the way we were used to doing things.”
These days, Back remains the only “local” resident among members of Theory of a Deadman, which began life in basements of North Delta at the turn of the millennium. Brenner now lives in Tennessee, Dandeneau in Las Vegas and Connolly in Los Angeles.
“My roots are down here pretty good, and all my friends and family are still in the area,” Back explained. “It helps a lot, when I’m away and travelling as much as I do, that my wife and kids have a strong support structure here. So if we just up and moved somewhere, that wouldn’t be as easy. Everyone is close, it’s great. It’s familiar and it’s what I know.”
In 2018, Theory of a Deadman’s plans include a tour of Western Canada that begins at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom on Feb. 25, following some U.S. dates and, probably, followed by concerts in Europe and the U.K.
“We found out that with ‘Rx,’ our strongest market for streaming is Paris, France, so there’s a huge demand for us there and in Germany,” Back said. “So we’re going to go there, and we haven’t been there in probably 10 years, I would think. It’s pretty neat what this song has started to do for us, opened up a lot of doors in markets that we haven’t been to in awhile.”
As for getting together with the band, that’s not always easy, Back said, with the musicians living in different corners of North America.
“There’s not much rehearsing with us anymore,” Back noted. “You just make sure you know your parts. If it’s a tour, we usually get a day or two of pre-production before we kick off, but we’ve been playing these songs for so long now that there’s not a lot of rehearsing that’s needed. And with the new songs, we’ll get out on the road and start jamming those during soundchecks, to get them all tight, and then we’ll start playing them live. That’s how it is now.”