Live in the Atrium
Dylan Gardner, Madi Spies
1011 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA, 95060
Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 16 and over
Waker was founded by childhood friends and songwriting duo Chase Bader (vocals, acoustic) and Conor Kelly (electric guitar). The group mashes soul, rock & roll and funk into an eclectic, danceable sound, focusing on songs that aim for the heart, head… and feet.
Originally known as Koa, Waker was christened in late summer 2016 following the addition of drummer Dave Czuba and organist/pianist David Crutcher to the already talented lineup of Ryan Ladd (bass), Alex Mathews (sax) and Ryan McClanahan (percussion). With a name that stems from the line, “Getting close to bedtime, time to wake,” in their song, “Fever,” the intention has always been clear: to “wake people” with their music. In a short amount of time the band has already conquered festival stages at ACL, Hangout, SXSW, Firefly and Wakarusa. They’ve toured with JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, Galactic and The Wailers, and recently recorded a session for Audiotree Live.
Since the release of their 2015 EP the band has continued their nonstop regiment of touring and writing. Look for new music in 2017.
Waker is an experience meant to be shared with others.
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Dylan Gardner is the kind of inspired artist who comes along rarely, possessing sophistication well beyond his years. His earliest memory, musical or otherwise, is of playing maracas onstage during a performance of "Hang on Sloopy" at the age of four with his dad's band. Gangly and bespectacled offstage, Dylan is a self-described "music nerd." He collects classic '60s rock albums (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors are particular favorites). He owns a thousand vinyl records. He can play every Ben Folds song ever written. Squeeze's Argybargy was on his recent Christmas wish list. He discovered Howlin' Wolf at the age of 10. He is prone to saying things like, "I cut my teeth playing blues bars in Illinois" and it's actually true. Did we mention that Dylan is 18?
So when Dylan Gardner signed to Warner Bros. Records in August 2014, on the strength of his independent album Adventures in Real Time and the 2.7 million Spotify plays its lead-off track "Let's Get Started" had racked up, it was, for any young musician with a sense of history, a dream come true. "I love Warner Brothers with a burning passion," he says. "Historically, the Warner family is the greatest American label for the kind of music I listen to, everyone from The Everly Brothers to Prince. Oh my god, then there's The Kinks, Hendrix, The Ramones, The Rezillos, Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Paul Simon, Van Morrison … it's insane."
Before Dylan made Adventures in Real Time, he studied the greats. "I delved into what made The Beatles' songs so good," he says. "I delved into what made Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson so good. I delved into what made Sam Cooke so prolific. It was like, 'I'm going to dissect everything they do. What's their philosophy? How do they write?' I still do it. Right now I'm studying the hell out of Del Shannon."
These days, young artists have an almost uncanny ability to draw from the past in their music because the past is so freely available through the Internet. In the wrong hands, that knowledge can be abused. However, in the right hands, like Dylan's, it can be truly inspiring. On Adventures In Real Time, he shows how it's possible to transcend your influences to create something that's truly your own. His songs burst with fresh-faced energy — all unbridled passion, high-spirited melodies, and a musical eclecticism borne out of love for his pop-rock predecessors. In a sense, he is fulfilling his destiny. It was unlikely that this kid was going to grow up to be anything other than a musician. "I always wanted to be a musician, I just didn't think it was possible," he says. "I remember, when I was nine, telling my friends, 'Yeah, I'll probably have to be an architect.'"
Dylan was born in Aurora, Illinois, and raised in Plainfield until his family moved to Arizona in 2010 (They now live in Los Angeles). His father, Mark Gardner, owns a music store in Naperville, Illinois, that sells and rents instruments and provides lessons to locals, and was also the bassist in '80s power-pop band The Kind. Dylan started out playing drums, like his older brother Mark (who plays drums on Adventures in Real Time), then picked up piano until the whole "'sitting up straight" thing got boring, and eventually took up guitar because of Jimmy Page. "I had a T-shirt that said 'Jimmy Page Changed My Life,'" he says. Then when Dylan was 14, he discovered Ben Folds and didn't get up from the piano stool for a year. (Ask him what his favorite Folds song is if you really want to make his head explode. "I can't pick just one," he moans.)
After the family moved to Arizona, Dylan built a studio in his bedroom (laptop, Pro Tools rig, MIDI keyboard, drum programming machine), put all his clothes in his parents' room, and turned his closet into a vocal booth. He even moved in an upright Baldwin piano that he got at a Goodwill store for $40. "I talked them down from $80," he says. "Someone had covered the 'Baldwin' logo with a sticker, so they didn't know what they had."
He wrote 100 songs and handed them over to his manager, who said, "There's an album in here somewhere." Dylan kept writing and by September 2012, had demoed the songs that would eventually appear on Adventures in Real Time. Dylan's manager sent the track "I Think I'm Falling For Something" to John Dragonetti (The Submarines, Jack Drag), who added bass, drums, and additional sonic texture, and sent it back. Impressed, Dylan enlisted Dragonetti to co-produce. (Dylan, not at all surprisingly, pored over the techniques detailed in Brian Kehew's 500-page tome Recording The Beatles, before the process began.)
The songs on Adventures in Real Time are about Dylan's dreams, goals, and aspirations — "this big vision of how great life can be," as he puts it. One thing Dylan always knew was that "Let's Get Started" had to be the opening track. "It's me saying 'Let's get going, let's do this. I've been writing songs in my bedroom. I'm ready.' I wanted it to be my first hello to everyone who listens to my music."
Last year, Dylan put "Let's Get Started" on Spotify, which included it on a popular playlist called "Smart Is The New Sexy." Suddenly, the track caught fire. "I was at Panda Express and I decided to check my Spotify," Dylan recalls. "This was a few weeks after it came out. 'Let's Get Started' had 80,000 plays. I started watching it like a hawk. It was going up 20,000 plays every day. Then it hit a million. Then it hit two million. It's about to hit three million."
It's hard to predict where Dylan's talent will take him next. (He will hit the road for a West and East Coast tour in early 2015.) In April, he posted a YouTube video of himself performing snippets from every track on Side Two of Abbey Road on different instruments, under the hashtag "DylanBrokeUpTheBeatles," which attracted a host of positive comments. One woman summed it up perfectly when she said: "This kid has joy in his voice."