Rodney Browning Cravens:
DISHWALLA are marvels for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their ability to write music that elevates the personal to the universal. Their signature sound, a swirling blend of softly curved melodies and seething, amp-joy guitars, is rich with images that connect with subtle emotional power and stunning musical clarity.
The Santa Barbara-based band made quite the splash a few years back with Pet Your Friends, a provocative mix of pop savvy and soulful rock grind. Fueled by the smash hit single, "Counting Blue Cars," the album blazed onto the pop charts and blanketed rock radio, while also garnering heavy play on MTV and VH1. The group toured extensively in support of the record, including jaunts with Sheryl Crow, Blind Melon and the Goo Goo Dolls, while also appearing on nationally televised programs such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
Recalls vocalist J.R. Richards, "After a slow start, things just happened all at once. I remember playing at the Billboard Music Awards and realizing how far we had come. The year before, we were still working day jobs or going to school, then there we are playing on this television show in front of millions of people with guys like L.L. Cool J and Rod Stewart sitting in the front row. It was completely surreal."
"It was unbelievable," laughs bassist Scot Alexander. "I remember looking into the audience at that show and watching Santana nod his head to our song. That was cool."
Santana wasn't the only one moved by DISHWALLA's sound: When all was said and done, their critically-acclaimed debut had sold more than a million copies and earned them a Billboard award for "Rock Song of the Year." Simply put, they had arrived.
In 1998, the road-tightened quintet expanded on the promise of their first album with sophomore disc, And You Think You Know What Life's About. Unfortunately, in an industry where timing is crucial, the album was released in the midst of the much-publicized merger between corporate music giants Universal and Polygram, the latter being the home of DISHWALLA's label A&M Records. "It was a frustrating situation because everything involved with the album was beyond our control," says Richards. "We did the only thing we could, we stuck it out and moved on."
The band maintained momentum through touring including a performance at Woodstock '98, and by contributing songs to a number of soundtracks, including The Avengers ("Truth Serum"), Stir of Echoes ("Stay Awake") and American Pie ("Find Your Way Back Home"). In addition, they recorded a stunning rendition of "Policy of Truth" for 1998's Depeche Mode tribute disc, For The Masses. Explains Richards, "We learned to distance ourselves from the business and keep it separate from the creative aspect. Like the early days, it was all about playing and making music."
That brings us to the present, and the new album Opaline, DISHWALLA's first recording for new label immergent Records. ""People are drawn to DISHWALLA's music because of the emotion and insight of their songs," says Mark Mazzetti, immergent's Senior Vice President of A&R. "Like their first two records, this album is rich in its lyrical content, tone and melody. I believe the new songs will captivate DISHWALLA fans and appeal to an even broader audience."
Produced by Gregg Wattenberg (Five For Fighting, The Sopranos), Opaline reveals a band with renewed vitality and a range that's been broadened without compromise. "They've got so much more soul and depth than the average rock band," says Wattenberg. "There's some great piano parts on here, more acoustic guitars, and J.R.'s singing is intense. It's definitely their most mature record yet."
"Working with Gregg was a great experience," says Richards. "We had co-produced the first two records, so the idea of handing the production reigns completely over to someone else was a scary prospect at first. But Gregg brought an objective ear and offered an insight on arrangements and ideas that were key in realizing our songs."
During the album's pre-production phase, a new approach to the creative process developed. Says keyboardist Jim Wood, "One of the first things we did was strip everything down to the rhythm tracks and the vocals. If a song sounded good like that, then we started adding things to the mix."
"You can walk into a studio and make any song sound good," adds guitarist Rodney Browning Cravens, "But that doesn't mean it's a good song. Our goal was to find the soul of each song. Once that was achieved, everything just fell into place."
Opaline also marks DISHWALLA's first recording with drummer Pete Maloney (Tonic, Josh Clayton Felt), a former session player who joined the band during their last tour. "Pete is an amazing drummer who can play just about anything," says Cravens. "He adds a whole new dimension to our sound." Maloney recalls, "I remember seeing these guys live a few years ago and being blown away by J.R.'s singing and their strong sense of songwriting. I jumped at the chance to be a part of that."
Opaline is an album that gets everything right, combining sharp wordplay, sprawling sing-along melodies, lush textures and bombastic, gut-bucket backbeats to overwhelming effect. "We've definitely tried to grow with each record," says Richards. "Over the years, I've been through a lot both personally and professionally, and as I grow emotionally, I find it easier to tap into feelings that I didn't or couldn't before. "Somewhere in the Middle," for example, is written about a past relationship. I wanted it to end, but the other person was so damaged I was worried about how they'd handle the pain. I thought the torture of ending it would be worse than the day-to-day grief I was going through, so I stayed in it until I couldn't anymore. "Every Little Thing" is about wanting to help a friend who can't help herself, and the frustration in realizing you have to let people figure things out for themselves."
Richards penned a good part of the album's lyrics during a trip to Atlanta last year. "I went there to try and get away from everything and just focus on creating," he says. "Ironically, the first thing I wrote was "Home." Mazzetti comments, "For me, the benchmark moment on the album is the song "Home," a truly beautiful song that takes you on a most memorable journey. The lyrics, melody and the arrangement are perfect, one of those very special songs that will move you for a lifetime."
Opaline's emotional centerpiece is the heart wrenching "Candleburn," a beautifully sculpted song of haunting grace. "I wrote that last summer after coming across a roadside shrine in Los Angeles on my way to rehearsal. For four weeks I would pass this candle filled shrine twice a day, and yet I never saw the person who tended the shrine. In the middle of LA, which can often seem so fucked up and twisted, here was something so real and touching it was intense. I built a picture in my mind of the person who went out there every single day to light all these candle, and then at midnight would come back to blow them out."
"When Morning Comes" is another soul stirring song that Richards wrote the day after a group of UCSB students were run down in Isla Vista, CA. "I went to the site the next morning and found a memorial already there with flowers and candles in the street . I realized that even in times of tragedy the beauty of life never seems to be forgotten," Richards says. The album's title track "Opaline" represents the idea of wanting to escape from ugliness to beauty, "which is what this record has become for us," Richards adds.
That DISHWALLA has stayed unshakably true to its muse and passion for melodic warmth speaks volumes about the band especially in an era when rock is determined to be in-your-face, yet remains emotionally distant. "At the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you're and we are," says Alexander. "I don't think we've ever fit into the current niche and to be totally honest that's fine with us, we know who we are."
This is the official bio found at Dishwalla.com