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Even old lap dogs bay at the moon. That feral impulse is woven through our DNA – we all, sometimes, want to stomp and shout. Need to, maybe. That's why there's Dreaming Bull.
"We lay some pain on the stage," says Gabe Rowland. "Grab the devil by the jugular."
The band is a work of collaborative art by Rowland and Nic Capelle. It was a chance meeting between music lifers: Gabe's band opened for Nic's in Chicago, the two – Gabe from East LA and Nic from Western Australia – bonded over a mutual love of "dusty, old vintage gospel and lost blues." As they shared music and ideas for six months, mostly via email attachment, until it was time to consummate the partnership.
"On an ice-cold walk down Irving Park in Chicago," Gabe explains, "we decided: heavy gospel influence, a little garage-psychedelic... We always acknowledge those parameters," Gabe continues, "but the music takes on a life of its own. Once it gets dragged through all the early Van Halen records that are in your gut, it's going to come out modern."
So let's be clear: Dreaming Bull is a contemporary beast, replete with bass patrolling the deep trenches, crafty electronics and a pair of vamps singing backup. Their sound is increasingly prized by music supervisors. "No Use" added dramatic punch to the season finale of USA's "Suits." And that's not the only place you've heard Dreaming Bull without knowing it: "Get Things Done" soundtracked Carl's Jr.'s "X-Men: Days of Future Past" ad; "Dirty Girl" fit the vibe for FX's "Sons of Anarchy."
"No use" exemplifies their approach. The song begins with a Delta thumb-picking solo, Nic's slide echoing like ghosts from the crossroads. But that nostalgic
half minute is kicked out the front door by beat that's both funky and pounds
like your worst hangover.
Then there's the fervor of Nic's klaxon vocals. That's one of the secrets of this
band – they don't have to crank it to 11 to get loud. In conversation, Nic is soft- spoken and affable, but in front of a band, that guy is possessed of an unholy
howl – a former bandmate, the first time he heard it at full volume, called it
"When we practice I don't even use a microphone because my voice is so fuckin' loud," he says.
That human bullhorn is more than matched for power by the drums. Nic likens Gabe's combination of power and precision – knowing full well he's treading on sacred territory – to Led Zepplin's John Bonham. You get a sense of what he's talking about with "Feed Us." The songs builds off a heavier idea of what the '50s called a jungle beat. As Nic's wide-eyed wailing is layered between congregation handclaps and a low-end to unsettle your stomach. Live, they've been known to coax Mel Torme's "Comin' Home Baby" to heavy places without losing any of its jazzy pulse.
That's why anyone in vicinity of the stage is leaving the club spent and sweaty.
A lot of craft goes into what sounds like abandon. Gabe sat behind the kit for Moby and Fiona Apple and his own bands Momma Stud (Virgin) and The Peak Show (Atlantic), and is a go-to collaborator for Beastie Boys producer Mario C. Nic's first band won an international talent search when he was 20. His later outfit Capelle built a fierce following in Europe.
When they met, however, they realized they were missing something. "We have our own accomplishments as writers," Gabe says. "But in collaboration, the unexpected happens every single time."
"We do everything ourselves," Nic adds. "We record our own music, make our own videos, do our own branding... We have control. But our whole life is on the line."
"We take the essence of what is rock and roll," Gabe continues, "and deliver it with all the heart we have."
"There's a feeling of being overtaken by magic," Nic says. "Not to sound crass, but it's like a religious experience for me."
Dirty juke joint blues and gospel shouts to rattle the back pew run deep through rock 'n roll's genetic code. Something as powerful as the sacred and as fun as the profane? It's enough to make you stomp and shout. That's why there's Dreaming Bull.