Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Dance Yourself to Death’s debut CD

'70s swagger meets '80s hedonism

LOVE THEM. Dance Yourself to Death?s Johnny Ryan, Carmen Elle, Susan Gale and Jen Markowitz. Credit: Sorrel Scrutton

Critically acclaimed rock darlings Dance Yourself to Death (DYTD) are ready — not just for love, as the title of their full-length debut asserts — but to take 2009 by storm.

With their recently released video, We Are All Made of Stone, in circulation, the foursome kicked off the new year in Munich, Germany at the famed Queer Beats festival alongside the likes of Peaches, Stereo Total and Scott Matthew. Later that month JD Samson’s (Le Tigre, Men) killer remix of DYTD’s Sea of Love hit the airwaves. And on Jan 27 DYTD’s hotly anticipated album, Ready for Love, finally dropped.

The follow-up to their much-lauded 2007 self-titled four-track EP, Ready for Love boasts an aggressive lineup of hook-laden rock that brilliantly blends ’70s swagger with ’80s hedonism. The LP is freakishly consistent — from the yearning throb of White Bed to the climactic urgency of Midnight Affair.

“As we built our repertoire we only kept the songs that we considered worthy of a studio recording,” says Jen Markowitz (vocals, bass). “We didn’t hang on to any filler songs or B-sides. If it didn’t sound like a hit, it wasn’t making it into our set or onto an album.”

Back in March 2008 Markowitz and fellow founding member Susan Gale (vocals, drums) along with Carmen Elle (guitar) and Johnny Ryan (keys) hit the studio. With the help of coproducer and engineer Lorne Hounsell (Cuff the Duke, K-OS) the band members rolled up their sleeves and learned the art of production.

“Producing the album ourselves was a big challenge that came with great rewards,” says Gale. “Having that kind of relationship with our material gave us the ability to foresee the final product. We’ve always been a DIY band so handing off production duties to anyone wouldn’t have felt right.”

Ready for Love’s polish reflects DYTD’s commitment to mastery, and its evocative mix of brawn, vulnerability and playfulness evinces the emotional landscape that accompanies nine months of studio time. “Because we were working on the record over such a long span of time — pretty much every weekend and many weeknights — the studio became an escape for us,” says Markowitz. “Between Susan and I we had a breakup, a new relationship and a death in the family. The studio gave us an outlet where we could open ourselves up creatively as a means of coping with what was going on in our personal lives. Good things and bad things — moments of love, grief, passion, happiness, independence.”

It’s a celebratory album and the cause for jubilation is greater given the stretch of uncertainty that Markowitz and Gale experienced when cofounding member Nina Martinez departed in 2007, post-EP.

“It was a big challenge and a massive adjustment,” says Markowitz. “Rebuilding our band made Susan and I a tighter writing unit, really close friends. We proved to ourselves how much we’re willing to put into this project.”

Enter Elle and Ryan. “We meshed immediately,” says Gale.

With a CD release party just around the corner DYTD is already working on new material that sees Markowitz and Gale engaged in their signature collage-style songwriting approach: Gale belts a chorus into Markowitz’s answering machine; Markowitz responds with a pre-chorus; a few days later, when they get one another on the phone at 3am, they hum out a verse and nail the song.

Lyrics get pieced together similarly. “It’s become standard practice for me to hand Susan a sheet of paper with a song’s lyrics and a red pen so she can scratch out a ton and give the song a little more rhythm, negative space to bring out a few choice words,” says Markowitz.

“It’s possible to get a lot done as a DIY band today,” Gale says. “We’ve managed to put out an album and an EP independently through online distribution and we’ve built up a fanbase by working really hard to make sure our music is out there.

In Munich, Gale says, “We walked onto the stage to find ourselves standing in front of a fully attentive audience of 1,500 people — many of whom knew the words to some of our songs. It was the biggest, most enthusiastic crowd we’ve ever played for.”