Dance Gavin Dance vs. The System of Grammar

Music is a universal language. The simplicity of listening to a group of instruments and vocals can result in a complex mood change, or even help create a memory of someone/something significant. A strategic rhythm set to a beat can get stuck in your head in an instant. The magic of a symphony in an auditorium can give you goosebumps—especially if you’re listening to John Williams or Stephen Sondheim. Luckily, today there are several other ways to listen to music other than live. Whether you’re looking for country, rock, pop, indie, folk, opera, metal, or post-hardcore, music will always be powerful. However, in this case, we’re only going to narrow the vast subject that is music down to one genre and one band.

The subject: Dance Gavin Dance. The adjective: post-hardcore. The collective noun: band. Established in 2006, in Sacramento, California, Dance Gavin Dance consists of five members: Tilian Pearson (clean vocals), Jon Mess (messy vocals), Matthew Mingus (drums/percussion), Tim Feerick (bassist), and Will Swan (lead guitar). This band contains a lot of attributes towards grammar, not only with their lyrics but with the group members themselves.

To further explain what “messy” vocals are–they’re vocals that are “screamed” into the microphone. They create an intense effect on the lyrics and exaggerate (or italicize), their meaning. By switching between messy vocals and clean vocals, the band creates different rhetoric altogether.

Usually, the messy lyrics would consist of primarily utter nonsense, but when Jon Mess screams them, they somehow seem to fit. For instance, in their song “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” the line (or should I say a sentence): “Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll go to sleep when I leap that jeep,” is screamed by Mess (CITE). Even with the rest of the context, it’s unusual:

“[Jon Mess] I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. (Mess)

[Tilian Pearson] Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky.” (1)

When you listen to the lyrics, they come off a little easier. Also, since the “screamed” lyrics aren’t entirely necessary for some of their songs, Jon Mess’ portion would/should be surrounded by parentheses.

Tilian also partakes in partial “messy” singing. He often switches back and forth between the two when it’s necessary, but he isn’t the “messy” vocalist because he doesn’t scream. His way of choosing either way of singing would be the perfect example of a slash in grammar.

The simple act of singing and playing their guitars/drums would be their verbs. They play their guitars, drums, and bass. They sing/scream their lyrics. The names signed on their instrument cases are an example of apostrophes because they’re possessive. Also, in brackets next to their part on their lyric sheets, there should be the bands’ names.

While each member plays an essential and vital role in the band, Tilian and Jon are the direct objects because they’re always front-and-center. The rest of the group are indirect due to them playing in the background and supporting the singers. However, musically, each instrument couldn’t stand alone, or else this wouldn’t be a post-hardcore band (since they can’t stand alone musically, this would be an example of a conjunctive adverb).

Dance Gavin Dance has changed a lot since 2006. They’ve gone through several members over the years. The band cycled through Jonny Craig and Kurt Travis before Tilian came along in 2013. Before it was just Will Swan, he played alongside Sean O’Sullivan back when the band began; before there was Tim Feerick on bass, there was Eric Lodge. These weren’t the only switches over the bands lifetime, but we’re only going to focus on the 2018 edition of the band. Coincidentally, there hasn’t been a change in their role-call since 2013.

Before their sets, the owner of the venue announces the band, which would be an example of metadiscourse. The owner informs the audience who’s up next, and Tilian tells the audience what song they’re going to play. These announcements would result in the venue owner or Tilian being considered as the appositives due to them explaining who’s next or what song is up. Along with these announcements, a colon would be placed on the general admission ticket or flyer announcing the set: “The Black Sheep Presents: Dance Gavin Dance and Chon, featuring Eidola and Vasudeva.”

Most of the bands’ cohesiveness (or when all the words in a sentence link together to give the sentence more meaning), is when the members are all playing together. For their music to make sense and stay in rhythm, they must agree with one another. Each member of the band must make sure that their hands and mouths are playing/singing in coordination with each other. In general, all bands must follow this rule, or they wouldn’t thrive and continue to gain fans. Coincidentally, the coordination between the band members results in a hyphen. They’re used for word division, yet they also combine words. In this case, they’re combining the members. Without cohesion or coordination, Dance Gavin Dance’s music wouldn’t be able to create the symbolism they have, which would result in a lack of underlying meaning in their music.

For instance, in their song “Here Comes the Winner,” there’s plenty of symbolism behind it if you read between the lines. The song was released in 2016 when the presidential election was going on in full force. One of the verses (or clauses) in the songs suggests that all the public figures were lined up on a stage to win the hearts of America. They incorporated a few political statements within the messy vocals, and altogether they made everything agree.

Another line that could be used to show symbolism is a verse from their song “Inspire the Liars”:

“So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode.” (CITE)

This verse is towards the end of the song, and it symbolizes the “cult-like” mentality of some of the religious groups in society. It suggests that some of the religions result in “blind” followers and that people will follow anything that interests them.

Throughout their songs, there is a known-new contract. As you listen, you begin to learn the choruses (the known) and are gradually introduced to the verses (the new). In this “contract” they also created ties into their listeners’ expectations, (or readers expectations). Their fans expect their set to flow together and their music to keep with their usual style, (or the way they establish their overall mood or meaning). To keep the contract and the expectations of their listeners up-to-par, the band also needs to keep their (sentence) rhythm.

Rhythm is among the top qualities every type of band needs to know. If one instrument/singer is off-beat, then the whole group is off. The bands’ rhythm would be where the punctuation would set in. Their music breaks between lyrics could be considered as semi-colons because they create a new mood. The breaks between their songs would be considered commas due to the literal breaks between independent clauses (or songs). The line, “Are you ready?” would end in a question mark, and their lyrics all contain quotation marks around them because they’re direct quotes coming out of their mouths.

The choruses could pass as a predicate. They’re the primary voice in the song, and they contain verbs that state something that they’re doing or are going to do. For instance, in “Inspire the Liars,” the chorus represents an antithesis (by showing opposition in one sentence), and a predicate: “Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie” (3). The chorus states that if you want to know the truth about something, then you should ask them even though they told you they’d lie. So, why ask them in the first place?

The choruses could also represent parallelism because they’re repetitive and show importance throughout the song. Their parallel structure is consistent throughout all their music when it comes to how often their choruses are played.

If Dance Gavin Dance were to break down, it would result in over-excessive songs with minimal lyrics or meaning—which could also serve as a run-on sentence, (or in some cases a comma splice).  Luckily, to decompose the system a little, music breaks (or their form of semi-colons), can help divide up the extended run-ons or potential comma splices.

Musically, the band creates a solid post-hardcore sound altogether. While they’re not the only band in this genre, they are certainly unique in their own way. Since 2009, they’ve had a significant impact on my life. A big part of the reason why I got into Dance Gavin Dance was that of their unique song names and unique verses. It’s part of their style and their voice. Actively, they sing these lyrics with pride and create their overall rhetoric by doing so. Dance Gavin Dance proves that music is universal with their take on the genre they’ve been placed in. With their careless demeanor and their relatable lyrics, this band really puts the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” to good use with some of their songs.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Mess, Jon. I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(1) Pearson, Tilian. Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(2) Pearson, Tilian. So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

(3) Pearson, Tilian. Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.

 

The Black Sheep

Standing outside.

Shaking.

It was the middle of February 2017 in Colorado, and we were third in line at the door.

Our email said to be at general admissions at 5:00 PM to check in, but we got there at around 4:45 PM. It wasn’t until almost an hour later that the ticket guy for The Black Sheep came out holding our VIP lanyards and passes. My fiancé and I were frozen, our hands were turning red and I could almost feel my leg hair growing back. The man holding the laminated pieces of paper in his hands came up to us. After we told him our names, we were sent off into the line leading to one of the most iconic nights of my life.

After they opened the doors to The Black Sheep, they led us in a single file line through the door. “Just put one foot in front of the other. Don’t shake, don’t let your anxiety come out,” I thought to myself while I proceeded to follow the line in a semi-circle in front of the band. The girl behind me fangirled with me about touching Tilian and shaking all their hands. We couldn’t believe that Dance Gavin Dance was right in front of us.

After the first two groups finished, we walked right up and shook the hands of Will Swan, Andrew Michael Wells, Matthew Mingus, Jon Mess, Tim Feerick and finally, Tilian Pearson. They were all there, in-the-flesh.

The ‘camera guy’ was just an employee of The Black Sheep who used the fans’ cell phones for the photos. He instructed us to squeeze in the middle between Matt and Jon so we could get a picture with the group. I got to touch the drummer and he put his arm around my waist, while the man holding my phone counted down so we could prepare ourselves for the photo. It was such a euphoric feeling, being that close to a band I’ve loved since 2010. I couldn’t believe they were right in front of me, in the same exact room. My inner fangirl was jumping for joy and I could hardly contain myself when we took the picture, collected our VIP merchandise and walked away from them to rejoin the line.

The second time around, one of the employees of The Black Sheep told us we could get our things signed and just chill out with the band until it was time for the concert to start. My fiancé and I went right up to each band member and had them sign my Instant Gratification record cover, and my fiancé’s’ VIP pass. In order, we went from Will to Matthew, then to Tim and Andrew, and then Jon. We saved Tilian for last, because frankly I’ve had a massive teenage-girl-like crush on him since he joined the band five years ago. When I walked up to him, I managed to hide the inner fangirl fairly well. Tilian signed my record and my fiancé’s pass, just like the others, but we made sure to get an individual photo with him before we went off to get IDed and get more merchandise at the booths. I was still in awe that Tilian, along with all the other members, were just so chilled out and honestly some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

After we put our merchandise in the car, we decided to head back in to watch the concert that was about to start up soon. We were standing by the bar in front of the merch, when I met my (even though I didn’t know it yet) best friend Stephen for the first time.

We all stood around for maybe thirty minutes before Eidola, band one of four, came on stage. We were still standing by the bar, when we saw that the touring guitarist for Dance Gavin Dance was also Eidola’s lead singer. Which we kind of thought back and realized it was a little weird that we got him to sign our record, but we just shrugged it off.

We weren’t entirely sure what band was going to come up next after Eidola and the second band were done performing. The whole tour was called Robot with Human Hair vs Chonzilla, so it could’ve been either band coming up. All it took, was Matthew Mingus walking to sit behind the drums to realize that Dance Gavin Dance was in fact, next. The crowd went wild and we managed to get a little closer to the stage.

As soon as the band started playing, these little teenagers started a mosh pit and my fiancé, his coworker and I, were right in the middle until they shoved us onto the edge. It was my first time in a bar, and my first time at a concert where there would be a mosh, so it was kind of overwhelming but fun nonetheless.

During the concert, all I could focus on was Tilian. I didn’t think it was possible for him to be better than what he was in person, but on stage he was fantastic. Tilian and Jon coordinated their vocals so well, and I recorded practically the whole show. The feeling of being in the same room as them was so euphoric and surreal. I didn’t want them to stop playing, but as soon as the final note of the last song hit, they left the stage and we left for pancakes.