It’s been a decade now since the rise of Dirty Vegas and “Days Go By,” the international house music smash that jumped to renown thanks to its placement on radio and in a Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial. Dirty Vegas frontman Steve Smith calls Scituate home.
It’s been a decade now since the rise of Dirty Vegas and “Days Go By,” the international house music smash that jumped to renown thanks to its placement on radio and in a Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial.
But fans of cultishly beloved musical acts tend to have long memories, so when the British house trio plotted a much-anticipated comeback two years ago, the response was massive.
“2011 was a crazy year,” Dirty Vegas frontman Steve Smith said. “We reformed the band, we put out an album (Electric Love) on Om Records, a West Coast label well known to electronic musicians. That was an amazing success – we hit Top 5 on the iTunes dance chart and we had songs from the album featured in everything from HBO shows to Lucasfilm productions and Heineken commercials. We toured the world again, too.”
The last time we caught up with Smith, who’s lived in Scituate for the better part of a decade now with his wife and daughters, was 2008. By then, he was three years removed from an amicable split with bandmates Ben Harris and Paul Harris and was releasing a solo album, “This Town.”
Fast forward a few more years however, and Dirty Vegas is not only back together but Smith has more solo work in the can, with another album now in production.
But about that Dirty Vegas reunion: with so much having changed in the music industry even between 2005 and 2011, Smith and his mates were wondering if there’d still be an appetite for the band. The answer, Smith found, was far and wide.
“Music travels farther than ever before – you can share it immediately with anyone with a Wi-Fi connection,” he said. “So we had requests coming in from places like Macau – crazy spots we’d never been to before. In Beijing, people were outside our gig with posters to sign. It was really good. The first time we’d toured the world heavily, it was a whirlwind. This time we really got a grasp of being onstage in all these places, thousands of miles from home and having people know the music.”
Smith will spend most of July away, starting with dates in Brazil, but things will settle down a bit more next month. While he hasn’t yet booked much in the way of live dates for his solo project, Smith will be playing new music during Brewster Productions’ Acoustic Nights Summer Concert Series at Plymouth’s Hedge House Lawn on August 10.
“It’s been bubbling away for a while now, and this year it felt right to do it,” he said of the new album, for which he recently traveled to Spanish party island Ibiza for inspiration.
“I lived in Ibiza many years ago. It’s a very creative place,” Smith said. “So I had a bunch of songs and I went back there in March and at that time of year it’s almost like New England can be – almost like a ghost town. It’s a very seasonal place. So I tapped into that energy and isolation a bit and I think some of the songs have ended up reflective in a very positive way. Dirty Vegas has always been big energy, anthemic-type songs. These are a little bit quieter. There’s an electronic pulse to them but they’re not really 2 a.m. type songs – more sitting around the pool type things.”
Smith has been working with PledgeMusic, a crowd-funding service similar to Kickstarter or Indiegogo, to support the album’s creation. PledgeMusic was appealing, he explained, because as a platform it’s focused solely on musicians and allows many things some other services do not, such as pledger refunds, coverage of transaction costs associated with a project, and acceptance of international pledges.
“I’d like to get it out and just see where it goes,” he explained. “We had [money] pledged from London, Boston and Los Angeles, places you’d think it’d be, but I looked at the orders the other day and I saw Romania, Greece, the Czech Republic, Finland.”
The music also showcases his Boston ties, Smith feels. He’s been using Brighton-based Zippah Studios and sourcing local musicians and producers as much as possible.
Smith still agrees that a sleepy South Shore beach community isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a British house and electronic music veteran putting down roots. But the Boston area, he says, is in the hearts of him and his family.
“In 2011, because I was away for like eight months, the wife and kids were kind of like, we’re lonely. So we all went back to the U.K. for seven months, and pretty much buttoned up the house and shut everything down,” Smith said. “But it wasn’t for us. We came back and grabbed that New England life again and we’ve gone with, storms and everything. Boston’s been tested – the storms, the bombing. The resilience of the people is amazing. There’s just something here that connects with me. I come from London, one of the great cities of the world, but this is just a very inspiring place.”
Dirty Vegas has new music coming this year as well, Smith said, though the band plans to be more selective in how it tours going forward.
“Touring’s been a fantastic thing for us, we just want to plan it a little better now,” Smith said. “We’ve all got wives and families, but when you’re away from home, there are only so many hotel rooms you can do. The shows we love. The traffic jams, the immigration control, the stuck in the rain in a cab in Bangkok and no time to even go to the hotel or pick up food, we do not love.”
Indeed, much as changed since “Days Go By” – not least that many of the sounds Smith and his bandmates love are now decidedly mainstream, in the form of the loosely defined electronic dance music (EDM) movement.
Smith said it’s a tricky question whether widespread embrace of EDM – in which international DJs command seven-figure fees and sell out stadiums and massive nightclubs in Europe and Las Vegas – is good for a band like Dirty Vegas. “We were before that. ‘Days Go By’ preceded a lot of that and I think it’s cool that there’s a time now for that music. I love guys like Skrillex and Avicii and stuff and look, they’re selling out stadiums,” he said. “If I’m honest, we’ve been around and we’ve seen things come and go, so I wonder how long this is really going to last. Electronic music is finally having its big moment, so I guess if kids are getting into it, maybe they dig a little deeper and they go and discover the underground stuff and what’s been around since long before they started marketing EDM.”