Interviews & Features
Tom Dumont on new band union of No Doubt, AFI members
By Gary Graff
May 26, 2017
An alliance of AFI and No Doubt might seem odd on paper, but in Dreamcar it works like a charm. The group features AFI frontman Davey Havok with three members of No Doubt who aren’t Gwen Stefani — guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young. After Stefani’s latest solo venture put No Doubt on indefinite hold, the instrumentalists decided to stay together and began writing material, eventually looping in Havok. The result, as heard on Dreamcar’s self-titled debut album, hearkens to ‘80s New Wave — tuneful, hooky and with plenty of playing space for Dumont, even more than he’s had most recently in No Doubt. Dumont took a break from Dreamcar’s tour promoting the album to talk about building this new musical vehicle, as well as what the future might hold for No Doubt…
FGPO: So how did Dreamcar happen?
Dumont: Well, a couple of years ago Tony and Adrian and I were just thinking about the idea of trying to keep playing music together. I think the first time Gwen went solo, way back so many years ago, we all just kind of did our own musical projects separately. This time we just thought: “Look, we get along great, we have a musical chemistry, let’s try to keep it going.” And, of course, we needed someone to be the singer, and the first person we thought of was Davey.
FGPO: Just friends from the scene in California?
Dumont: Tony and Davey kinda travel in the same circles in L.A. We’ve seen him perform, and his band Blaqk Audio opened for No Doubt back in 2012, and we were fans of AFI and everything. So we took Davey to dinner and talked to him about the idea and said: “Let’s give it a shot.”
FGPO: Did you have musical ideas already?
Dumont: Initially it was just the three of us writing music together and we sent [Havok] four pieces of music and he immediately wrote to those. And those first four songs actually ended up making it on the record, and we just kept writing after that. It went well. It was fun. We quickly had kind of a chemistry and a musical common ground we were on, stylistically, and we just kept writing and that unfolded over another period of a year or so. And it got to the point where we wrote enough songs together that we realized: “OK, now we think this is a real band and we have an album here,” and we ended up getting a record deal and it culminated in the recording of the album last summer.
FGPO: There’s a very New Wave flavor to the music. How did you settle on that as Dreamcar’s sound?
Dumont: That’s probably the common ground between all four of us. All of us have a very different musical palette, and Davey, with AFI, comes from one world and us with No Doubt come from another world. But that ‘80s kind of New Wave, New Romantic sound was a place we could all feel comfortable in, I think, pretty effortlessly. So that’s what kind of guided us stylistically.
FGPO: Exciting or challenging to do something that different? Or both?
Dumont: You know what; the most unique thing about this Dreamcar project for all of us is that we were able to be creative and write these songs in complete freedom in the sense that this was a brand new band. There were no expectations. When Davey makes an AFI record or No Doubt makes a No Doubt record, you’ve been around for so many years; there’s just a ton of baggage and expectations that comes with that position. You have a record label, you have fans and everybody’s gonna hear it, so there’s a lot of weight on our old bands in that sense. And in Dreamcar we were starting brand new. We did this without anybody knowing about it. We didn’t have a record label, we didn’t have a manager, we didn’t have fans. And we just felt this incredible freedom from any of that, and I think that helped make it fun.
FGPO: What does Dreamcar allow you to do as a guitarist that’s different from No Doubt or anything else you’ve done?
Dumont: I knew this was going to be much more of a guitar album than, probably, the last No Doubt album or the last two No Doubt albums were. So I got to play a lot and have fun. I just enjoyed doing that over-processed ‘80s guitar sound with tons of echoes and flangers and choruses and using the guitar in that way, kind of a nod to my favorite guitar players like The Edge from U2, for example. It was just a lot of fun the whole time.
FGPO: What’s it like having a band with four dudes rather than three and a woman?
Dumont: That’s a good question. It WAS different. It was kind of like the beginning of a relationship and us and Davey getting to know each other through this process. For the most part, we have pretty similar sensibilities and a similar way of looking at the world, so we gelled personality-wise with Davey. Otherwise it wasn’t that different. In No Doubt, it was great always having a girl around in the sense that, as guys, it kept us from just turning into a bunch of knuckleheads. It kept us behaving nicely and respectfully all the time. It was a good, positive, respectful culture in No Doubt all the time and that actually kind of continued with Davey.
FGPO: What’s the challenge going to be to keep Dreamcar a going concern?
Dumont: That’s something we’re dealing with this year. The timing was not perfect with Dreamcar and AFI (this year’s AFI) albums being done about the same time, and Davey’s always made it clear AFI is his longtime priority, which his fine with us. So what we’re doing this year is just fitting in Dreamcar shows and little, tiny tours in the gaps in Davey’s schedule with AFI.
FGPO: Can you even think about what comes next in terms of songs or recording?
Dumont: Oh yeah. I think Tony and Adrian and I were just starting to talk about the idea of working on more Dreamcar music for the future while Davey’s on tour with AFI. We only released 12 songs but we wrote close to 30, and we could just go off the deep end and do things that were new and fresh and different. We could experiment without fear of going too far — but in the end the album isn’t crazy or avant garde or anything. But that freedom was kind of all over the album.
FGPO: Do you think No Doubt will do anything again?
Dumont: I definitely hope so. A lot of people have a misconception that No Doubt has broken up, and we never have. I think it’s very clear Gwen is enjoying her time on TV, and she made a solo album and toured last year. I think one thing our success and our long history has afforded us is the freedom for everybody to go and do their own projects. But we’ve never broken up, and I think there’s a very good chance No Doubt will do something in the future. There are no plans in light of that, but me and Tony and Adrian are having a lot of fun getting to play together again. We’re just happy to get on stage and make music.