…Over the last decade, DC native John Davis earned an impressive reputation within indie rock circles with his bands Q and Not U and Georgie James. While the former channeled much of the DC music scene’s storied musical legacy into its records, the latter seemed like a radical departure for Davis into electro-pop territory. With his unrepentant desire to follow his muse wherever it may call, Davis seems to have maintained something that most who follow fleeting trends have long since surrendered: integrity. With his new outfit, Title Tracks, Davis leaves behind the sounds of Georgie James for a vintage guitar pop sound that could have easily landed them on the roster of Stiff Records circa 1977. We recently spoke via telephone with John Davis from his DC home as Title Tracks prepares to release their debut album, It Was Easy, on Ernest Jennings Record Company and head out on tour in support of the album…
The Buddha Den: Following the demise of Georgie James, to what degree did you seek to depart from or retain elements of that band? What did you feel would be the defining feature of Title Tracks?
John Davis: I think that when we started working on these new songs, I wasn’t really…I didn’t have an agenda. I think it was just that I was gonna write whatever I wanted to do and not worry about anyone that I was collaborating with because it was just me. It was good for me to just be able to do whatever I wanted and not worry, “Well, we’ve got this song and I don’t hear keyboard or piano in it. How are we gonna do this?” Or, “I don’t hear a second vocal.” Maybe things that I had to worry about in the past. In this case, I just didn’t care about that. I’m just writing whatever I want. I knew it was gonna sound fairly different from Georgie James, though not dramatically, not quite as big a difference between Title Tracks and Georgie James as there was between Georgie James and Q and Not U. As much as I like Georgie James, there were things about it that I was never that comfortable with, so I was kinda happy to be able to move on, dump some of those things, and just do something that was completely on my own. I really like collaborating with people within a band and other writers and stuff, I think it’s something I’ll definitely do again. Just for now though with the album I did and the album I’m working on now, I’m still really enjoying just doing things by myself.
TBD: So you’re already working on something new for Title Tracks on your own?
JD: Yeah, I started writing more songs again. I’m finishing up some of the different parts and fragments I’ve had floating around for a little while that I didn’t use. I’ve had a fair amount of off time like from the road and such for the past six months to a year. I had sorta hoped to use that time a little better, meaning that I’d hoped to write more songs but I just didn’t really spend as much time as I should have. Now I finally started focusing and getting some songs finished and I’m really excited about the stuff I’ve been able to finish so far and the direction the songs are taking now. It’s something that I’m even more proud of.
TBD: Title Tracks started out by putting out the “Every Little Bit” 7” single on Dischord Records. How did that come about? Did you feel that connection with Dischord helped raise the profile of the band at such an early stage?
JD: I’ve worked with Dischord before, with my old band Q and Not U, three records and a bunch of singles, it’s an easy label for sure. I’m friends with Ian [Mackaye, Dishcord Records founder and leader of Fugazi] and the people there. I knew I wanted to get a single out first and have something available out there. I recorded those two songs and talked to Ian about it over a period of a couple of months, he was willing to do it. That was pretty much it: I know them, I’m friends with them, and wanted to work together again on that single and we did and I’m really glad that it came out on Dischord. I just really wanted to get a single out and have something out for this new project that would be available to people because I knew it would be a little while before the album was gonna be out. That was pretty much it. It was just a really natural fit working with them again.
JD: I actually didn’t really know them at all before this album. My booking had suggested I send them the record after I’d finished it. He thought they would like it. So I said, “OK” and sent it to them. They did like it and they wanted to put it out. I talked to them and it turned out that the guy that works for the label was somebody that I interacted with repeatedly over the years in various ways. He used to do a webzine that I knew and he used to work at CMJ and he had promoted a show that I had played, so it was just kinda funny there was all these ways that we had already interacted in the past. The more we talked and hung out, the more I go to like him and the people at the label. They’re really, really enthusiastic about the record and about the band. It’s probably the most enthusiastic response I’ve ever had from a label in my years of putting out records. It was just really nice to feel supported that way. I’ve always felt supported by the labels that I’ve been on, but these guys in particular just seem really, really excited.
So yeah, I didn’t really know them, but we’ve gotten to know each other over the last six months or so and I’m really glad I’m working with them on this record. I feel really lucky to have met them and be able to get to work with them. I’m really satisfied so far with the way it’s been.
TBD: So I’ve seen three different release dates for the album. When does it actually come out?
JD: We’ve had to change it repeatedly because there’s been some issues with the distributor. I the vinyl and the digital will be out on February 9 and then the CD will be in stores on February 23. We’ll be selling it at shows though and I think DC stores will have [the CD] on February 9.
TBD: The timing of this tour is impeccable hitting the road really hard right as the album is released. How much coordination on your part and with your label and your booking agent to get the timing of the tour right as the album was coming out? Was there a plan to maximize the impact of that?
JD: Definitely. There was definitely a plan. We hadn’t really been playing many shows over the last few months because it was like, “Let’s just wait until the album is available.” With Georgie James, we toured a lot before we had an album out. We worked really, really hard for like a year, year-and-a-half, before the album finally came out in terms of touring and flying out to the West Coast and playing shows, all this stuff where we had no album to sell. So if somebody liked us, they still couldn’t really go buy anything. It put a real strain on the band because we spending a lot of money to go do all these things, but we weren’t really bringing in much money. We decided [with Title Tracks] to just hold off until we had the full-length available. We can sell it at shows, it will start getting around. I think that’s something we learned from the Georgie James experience.
[This tour] was definitely a coordinated thing. We knew the album was coming out in February, so we knew we could hit the road and start playing because we’ve all been very excited t about getting out and playing again. We haven’t toured in at least a year-and-a-half, and that’s pretty strange for me considering over the previous nine or ten years, I would tour for a lot of the year. It’s been really awesome being home, having this amount of time to spend at home, but I do miss playing music every night and that’s what tour provides you. It gives you the chance to be playing music every night in different places, and see places, and there’s a lot I really like about that. So yeah, it was definitely a plan to get this album out and hit the road right at the same time.
…tune in tomorrow for Part II of our interview with John Davis. Have a listen now of the track “Black Bubblegum” from the Title Tracks debut, It Was Easy…
MP3: Title Tracks “Black Bubblegum”
Download audio file (Black_Bubblegum.mp3)