Dave Williams, who does Front of House sound for La Dispute, Title Fight, Pianos Become the Teeth, Man Overboard, Deer Tick, and many other bands, is trying to get a work visa to come over from Australia and work in the US for a few years without having to go back & forth every few months. I recently caught up with Dave to discuss his profession.
How did you get hooked up doing front of house sound for bands like La Dispute, Title Fight, etc?
My first tour ever as a tour manager and front of house engineer was actually with La Dispute. Their first two tours of Australia were booked DIY with some good friends of mine who play in a fantastic band from Brisbane, Australia called To The North. I'd never heard La Dispute the first time they came over but went to a couple of their shows regardless and fell in love. By the time their second tour came around they were playing slightly bigger rooms and I ďhadĒ to be on that tour. I ended up convincing my buddies in To The North to let me mix sound and tour manage for them, and subsequently La Dispute as well and I guess here we are three plus years later haha!
They definitely didnít choose the "easy option" by keeping me working with them but I'm incredibly grateful they did. They're some of my closest friends, and I can't really say how much I respect them as artists - it's really nice to be on the road with a group of people who "get it", and are just a bunch of guys writing interesting and challenging music on their own terms.
I guess I've actually been really lucky having toured with a bunch of bands like that. My entire first two years of touring either stemmed from knowing La Dispute and their booking agents, or touring with other awesome Australian bands like Break Even and Fires of Waco.
Was this a passion you've always had or something you developed over time?
I started playing drums when I was 8 years old so music has been part of my life since I was a kid, but live sound is something Iíve grown to love. I played in some high school concert bands and jazz bands, and also had my own band that I used to record (poorly) which is when I first started liking the production side of music.
When I started attending an audio school, I had absolutely no interest in live sound. I really just wanted to make whacky sounds and record my friendís bands! Eventually I think I wanted to help my mixing chops get quicker so started mixing local shows in Brisbane - that was about seven years ago now.
The more opportunities I have to tour though the more I love mixing live sound. Some of the really cool creative stuff you can do in a studio youíre able to do live now, but instead of people listening to what youíve worked on through tiny iPhone ear buds you get it push it out a giant PA!
You work with a lot of bands that excel in different genres - how does the operation change from a highly energetic band like Man Overboard to a more fluid band with the soft-loud-soft dynamic like La Dispute or something that's just totally abrasive like Title Fight? How do you approach those type of sets differently from the other, or is there even a difference?
I try to mix every band with the goal of taking the energy that the artist on stage is creating and bring it to the audience so they feel like theyíre in the same room, part of the same experience and can connect with each other.
Thereís definitely a difference how itís done - sometimes it can be a lot of subtlety, and sometimes itís a big difference. On the European tour with La Dispute, Title Fight and Make Do and Mend in 2012 itíd be just simple things like eq-ing Title Fightís guitars to be a little ďmeatierĒ than Make Do and Mendís, or varying how Iím using reverbs on certain drum parts with La Dispute can help make the show a little more exciting.
I recently worked for a band called Deer Tick who are an awesome folk / indie rock kind of band from Rhode Island. We had seven vocal mics, five keyboards plus a Hammond organ and Leslie speaker on stage - of course the approach for these guys compared to someone such as Pianos Become the Teeth is totally different, but the end goal is always the same.
How much of a struggle is it transporting between the United States and Australia every few months?
I donít mind the actual travel; the worst thing has just been living in Australia, and then living in Michigan, and then living in Australia again over the last couple of years. Iím trying to put an end to that so I can feel like I have more of a home base! Seeing as Iím going to the beach about once every second day right now, I canít really complain too much when itís freezing up north!
Finally - you'll be touring with La Dispute while they are promoting their new album, Rooms of the House - how excited are you for this tour and have you heard the new album yet? What about it has hit you in a way that's different from La Dispute albums in the past?
Every tour with them is always awesome. Their super dynamic sound make them really fun to mix, and thereís always an exciting energy between them and the crowd that feels rad to be a part of. I have had a listen to the new record - I donít think itís really my place to comment to say anything other than Iím really excited for it haha! Thereís a new song of theirs on Sound Cloud somewhere, and I think if you pre-order the record you can download a track called ďStay Happy ThereĒ.