Everyone knows a Dave. He’s the friendly larrikin from high school. The mate that gets everyone home safely after a big night. The postie that’s always up for a chat. The old bean who you see at the beach every day. “There’s lots of awesome Daves around,” says Noah Church, musician, songwriter and noted Dave enthusiast from Newcastle.
For Noah, Dave wasn’t just a great name for a bloke – but the perfect moniker for his band. “Everyone has a mate called Dave that’s a bit of a legend,” he explains.
Before Dave The Band, there was The Dynamics, an outfit formed in high school by Noah and drummer Gabe Argiris to win a battle of the bands. They covered ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ but didn’t get past the auditions. Still, The Dynamics continued on, cycling through a revolving door of bass players until they found Max Tuckerman.
In 2013 they changed their name to Dave, and later to Dave The Band to avoid confusion with the English rapper. Noah works at the local supermarket and plays rugby for the Hamilton Hawks; Gabe works in a cafe and moonlights in a few other bands; while Max works at a brewery on the central coast of NSW. “Max has been in the band for maybe four or five years,” says Noah. “Now it feels like this is Dave. We’re set and we love playing together.”
One of Newcastle’s best kept secrets, Dave The Band cut their teeth playing relentlessly at local institution The Lass O’Gowrie Hotel, where they developed a passionate following. They became such a fixture on the live scene, Joab Eastley from fellow Newcastle outfit RAAVE Tapes started to feel like he was seeing them everywhere. “At one point it seemed like they were playing three shows a week, and people always showed up.” There’s a reason for that. “We don’t say no to gigs,” says Noah, laughing.
The Lass has seen its fair share of bands over the years, but few have been as raucous, loud and high energy as Dave The Band in full flight. “We have a reputation for being really loud and really fast,” Noah explains. Debut album Slob Stories shows a different side to his songwriting, however, tempering the urgency of tracks like ‘Fine!’ and album opener ‘Ultrahard’ with more introspective moments like ‘Sadsack’ and ‘Footy Socks’. “I wrote the lyrics for ‘Footy Socks’ when I was pegging my washing one afternoon,” Noah says matter-of-factly.
And that’s pretty typical of a Noah Church lyric. He’ll often write in situ or in solitude, either out on the surfboard or alone in his room with his guitar. The initial spark for album centrepiece ‘Brave’ came together when Noah was surfing at sunrise in Sri Lanka. Surrounded by coconut trees and pink skies, he penned the lines: “In the morning the sun stood on the sea/The reflections drew a line directly to you and me.”
“It wasn’t a typical Dave banger,” he explains, “but it was song that meant a lot to me and I wanted to be able to play it with the band.”
‘Ultrahard’ – a song about massive highs and crushing lows – had a similar genesis. “I was surfing overseas and it just popped into my head,” Noah recalls. “There was a guitar where we were staying and it just came together real quickly, in like 10 minutes. That’s usually how the best songs come together for me.”
To capture the brain-to-page intensity of Noah’s songwriting, the band worked with none other than Steve Albini – the acerbic mastermind behind classic records by Pixies, Cloud Nothings, and Nirvana – at his Electrical Audio studio in Chicago in 2018. How did three self-confessed slobs from Newcastle end up in Chicago with a legendary producer? Easy. They just sent him an email.
“If we could have one person in the world record us it would be Steve Albini. So I just emailed the studio, they replied, gave us the dates, and told us to pay a deposit and it’d be locked in. We just did it.”
They spent four days in total at Electrical Audio with Albini capturing the band’s raw honesty and encouraging Noah, in particular, to be vulnerable and drop the veneer. ‘Where You Are’ is the first time Noah decided to record a single vocal take. “Normally I would sing it twice through to give a chorus effect. When I suggested singing it a second time, Steve said in his deadpan way, ‘Or you could not double everything’, so we stuck with the one take.”
The whole experience pushed the band well outside their comfort zone. And you can hear that sense of desperation and catharsis on a track like ‘Fine!’, which ends with Noah yelling “it’ll all be fine” like he doesn’t mean it at all. “Because the album was such a big investment, I had to emotionally invest myself into these songs,” he explains.
Adding to the emotional weight of the album, Noah says he’d often think of old friends back home; some of whom had been going through a rough time. “Maybe this time I wasn’t worried about someone hearing it or knowing what it meant.”
As for the title, it’s a play on ‘sob stories’; a slip of the tongue from Gabe that stuck in the most perfectly apt way. “We’re three slobs from Newcastle who went to America to record an album, and I like to think most people can relate to these themes,” Noah says. “We’re all slobs dealing with this stuff together.”