Paul Harris quit his stockbroker job to become a club DJ, so it's fitting that he struck instant gold with a bond.
That bond, of course, has nothing to do with finances, but rather the magic that occurred the first time he, singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Smith and producer Ben Harris collaborated in a studio.
"I was only gonna do some percussion on the track for the guys and I said, 'You know what, I got something that really sort of fits on that,' " Smith explained. "It was like an acoustic idea I'd had for a while, and it just wasn't working. [We put the two together] and that was it. Bang! We finished the first day in the studio and we thought, 'We can't wait to get back in tomorrow!' "
That first track turned out to be "Days Go By," better known in the U.S. as the music to the unavoidable Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial. The song has not only helped to revive popping (courtesy of the woman in the passenger seat), but it's also become a massive club hit. The song is currently #1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and #14 on its Top 40 Airplay Monitor chart.
Paul, Ben and Smith returned to the studio and continued to record 10 other tracks that would make up their debut album. Adopting the name Dirty Vegas (originally they were Dirty Harry, but had to change it for legal reasons), the trio signed with Capitol Records and will release their self-titled collection of guitar-laced techno on Tuesday.
"We're trying to not really fit anywhere. We're just kinda trying to do something unique," Ben said. "One thing will be popular for quite a short amount of time and then it will move on to something else. And if you're doing something very much in one genre, then you're going to go with it when it goes. So we're trying to be just individual, independent and make our own sound. There's been a few acts that have emerged from the dance scene, like Leftfield, Orbital, Underworld, and they've broken off and done albums and it kind of gives you that longevity. You can stay past that scene moving on and you become an act in your own right."
Dirty Vegas is similar to the landmark albums from the electronic rock hybrids Ben mentioned in that it goes in dozens of different directions without looking back, whether it be with Egyptian guitars ("Alive") or a Pink Floyd chorus ("Simple Things Part 2"). Smith's vocals, which have a classic British rock edge, also happen to be some of the best pipes to come out of a club act.
The trio credit their wide blend of styles with their willingness to try anything in the recording process. "Frankly, our music comes from a different source on every single record," Ben said. "We've started sometimes with just a vocal melody or a lyric. Sometimes it will start with a drum beat or a sound pod. You know, a cool progression. Really, the more varied, the better."
"Sometimes I can come into the studio and I might have something on the guitar from the previous evening and go, 'Oh guys, listen to this. You think we could do something with this?' " Smith added. "Or sometimes I'll come in the studio and Ben and Paul have been sitting there going, 'We've got this great beat,' and I go, 'Oh, I can really connect with that,' and the lyric ideas come from that. So it's nice for me, as a writer, 'cause everything I wrote had come from acoustic guitar, writing a melody line and the lyrics first. But doing on a production kind of thing in the studio, some of the ideas and some of the tracks on the album, I would have never wrote if it hadn't have been for some of the beats that the guys come up with."
Dirty Vegas had already chosen "Days Go By" as a single when a Mitsubishi executive saw the video in a hotel room in Europe. That person tracked the trio down and they agreed to license the song because they felt good about the company.
"I don't think we'd do a burger commercial," Smith. "With a car commercial, you know, Sting does it. Massive Attack. Fatboy Slim does it. I think it's changed because you've got cool directors directing the [commercials], so visually, you know they're really rich and colorful."
"In America, with your segregation of radio stations, you can't get your music to a massive audience at once," Paul added. "Everybody watches TV, and the advertisement gets every sort of person in one hit."
Maybe his business background is paying off as well.
Dirty Vegas will launch a U.S. DJ tour next month that will also include a June 12 stop on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." They will return with a full band for another tour in late summer.
Dirty Vegas tour dates, according to Capitol:
- 6/8 - Houston, TX @ The Roxy
- 6/15 - Oakland, CA @ Ibiza Hotel
- 6/19 - Kansas City, MO @ TBA
- 6/22 - Detroit, MI @ Motor Lounge
- 6/27 - New York City, NY @ South Street Seaport
- 6/28 - New York City, NY @ The Roxy
- 6/29 - Washington, DC @ Dream