Trio Lady Danville formed in 2007 by two former UCLA a cappella boys and a musical theater major. Capturing the yearning harmonies and earnestness of college scene bands like Guster and Fleet Foxes, they've ridden that wave around the country, opening for Ben Folds, pop-punk band Jack's Mannequin and the kings of emo, Dashboard Confessional.
On stage they're irresistible. Guitarist Dan Chang is always wearing a bow tie, and teases his hair into a Bruno Mars-style up-do. Keyboardist Michael Garner looks like an athlete who accidentally discovered his musical talent. Scruffy percussionist Mathew Frankel, seated on a box drum, is all smiles. They perform tonight at Bardot Hollywood.
But behind the scenes they're all business. Without a manager or even a full-length record to their name, the boys somehow keep getting invited on tour, and their sampler CD has sold like crazy. Plus, they all have day jobs. Chang works full-time for a health care company, Garner does education administration, and Frankel — the theater major — stands in for “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest during lighting and camera set-up.
They're now recording that first album with help from producers Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry of WAX LTD in Hollywood. Lady Danville met “Wally and Xandy,” as they call them, through the L.A. band Family of the Year, which also worked with WAX on their EP “St. Croix.”
Lady Danville's production process hit a snag last November, though, when the boys were on tour with Jack's Mannequin in Canada. Driving across the hinterlands of Alberta after a long night partying and water sliding at the hotel, the band's van (which they dubbed “Brenda”) hit black ice and flipped upside down.
“It put us back a little bit financially,” Frankel confides. “And, quite frankly, it put us back creatively and emotionally.”
So the guys decided to release their first three completed songs as an EP, while continuing to work on the rest of the record. “We were just like, 'We need to get music out now,'” Frankel said.
On the cover of that EP, which the group will officially release on Valentine's Day, is a picture of Brenda, flipped over. The band is headlining KCRW DJ Chris Douridas' “School Night” series this week to promote the release.
Unlike a lot of artists that might not be able to do it all without a manager, Frankel says, “We have some business sense and we're organized and tenacious. We know those are the important qualities it takes to keep a small business together and that's what we are.”
It sure doesn't seem like they've let that road trip haunt them. Over beers, Frankel talks excitedly about the September night in 2010 when they first jammed with Ben Folds at Bardot in Hollywood, and how he called them the next day to go on tour.
Frankel shakes his head. “It was like it happened overnight.”
Lady Danville plays at “School Night” with Walk the Moon tonight at Bardot Hollywood, 1737 Vine St.