NEW YORK (AP) — Ten studio albums done, the Dave Matthews Band finds itself in a good place, maybe even at a new beginning. “The band is really gelled right now,” said singer-songwriter and guitarist Dave Matthews. “We’re all, at least for now, shining favorable lights on each other and laughing a lot and enjoying making music together.”
The seven members—including new keyboardist Buddy Strong—released the 12-track album “Walk Around the Moon” on May 19, the band’s first studio album since 2018—and plan a summer tour. “We’ve come to this place in an interesting way, but it wasn’t unnatural,” said Matthews. “We’ve had some good fights that probably would scare people but with the goal being that we could find some common ground. And I think we did.”
“Walk Around the Moon” is a varied set, with the tracks veering from small and intimate to brassy and political, with a filthy groove propelling “Break Free,” a nostalgia-tinged and brooding “Monsters” and the band absolutely cooking with “The Only Thing.”
Most of the songs were written during the pandemic, with members sending audio files to each other, which may explain why the sound is so eclectic. They didn’t initially plan for an album; it sort of just happened. “I look forward to taking this band together in one room to make another record,” said Matthews. “I’m jumping the gun because having made 10 does feel like, if nothing else, we haven’t found anything better to do. Everyone could probably find a gig somewhere else. So it says something that we haven’t left each other yet.”
The jam band, with their mix of funk, folk-rock, jazz, blues, and pop, are hoping to add to their catalogue of seven No. 1 albums and hits like “American Baby” and “The Space Between.” The pandemic hit the Matthews household at a chaotic time—his daughters starting college and his son starting high school. The Matthews family was lucky to be able to escape into the woods near his Virginia home.
That inspired the title track, a psychedelic trip into a forest. “It’s blue and it’s red/Found a new door inside of my head/How could I go to bed/Think I’ll walk around the moon instead,” he sings.
Another album highlight is “Madman’s Eyes,” a powerful song about gun violence, with the lyrics “Don’t sacrifice another child/It’s not black and white/’Less you’re looking through a madman’s eyes.” The issue hits close to home: Matthews noted that there had been a shooting at a local public school and that his daughters have lost friends to gun violence.
“How is it possible that it is wrong for me to want to make my children safer in the world?” he asks. “I don’t understand how anybody with a straight face can tell me that I’m somehow against freedom if I think there should be more control.”
Matthews has been dismayed as the culture lately seems to be taken over by loud talking heads on TV or online making issues absolutes—clear right and clear wrong. “I think all my life I’ve felt like there’s much more gray in the world,” he said. “Everything is more nuanced than that. We’re not always good and we’re not always right.”
The Dave Matthews Band won’t waste any time hitting the road. On album release day, they kicked off a tour in Texas that will take them to more than 20 states. It concludes with their annual three-day Labor Day weekend celebration at Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state.
What exact songs the band will play live is always in flux, but Matthews said he feels the group is at a new beginning and that there’s a greater possibility of bringing old music back. “Everything is kind of new. We have a somewhat new perspective looking at each other, and I feel like we’re a little more versatile than we have been,” he said. “I feel very lucky when I walk on stage right now. And hopefully that inspires some confidence in the audience as well.”
While he admires younger artists who incorporate dance into their concerts, Matthews will stick to his herky-jerky shuffles, what one critic called “nerdy dad-rock dancing.” “When I see Taylor Swift, I think it’s really cool when the show is such an incredible performance like hers. And I love all the synchronicity and all this unity, which I hope we have some of at least musically speaking,” he said. “But it makes me quite sure that we definitely don’t want to bring any dance steps into our performance. We should just stick to, at least some way, with what we know.”