Every so often a new band hits the scene and immediately makes it onto your favorites list. Meet Danceland, a Toronto based outfit who might just be your new favorite jam band. Originally conceived as the Cherry Garcia Band, the band’s debut album ‘Pink Lem’ is the culmination of a long, strange trip for Danceland. The band’s founding guitarist and singer-songwriter, Joe Ferland, came up as a musician in the 1990s NYC music scene, playing in a variety of rock and pop-punk contexts, and earning a few record deals along the way. Eventually, the music biz hustle burned him out, but music came back into his life during the passing of his mother when he and his wife—his co-writer and co-vocalist Jale—found their way to Danceland.
The five-piece band is rooted in a timeless psychedelic Americana tradition, replete with fine, storyteller songcraft; sunny harmonies; lonesome pedal steel; stratospheric lead guitar passages; and a touch of Eastern mysticism. First out the gate is the album’s lead single “Don’t Act Surprised,” a driving acoustic number that evokes ‘American Beauty’ era Dead or contemporary artists like Railroad Earth or String Cheese Incident. “’Don’t Act Surprised’ is the story of my mother’s first marriage that brought my sister and brother into the world,” Ferland comments. “After listening to the stories from my mother and sister over the years, I came to the conclusion that my mother left her first husband partly due to postpartum depression and that is why I think there was never really a “this is what happened” scenario. I finally put into words and music a story that has haunted me for many years.”
We’re premiering “Don’t Act Surprised” today alongside an interview with Ferland. Read on below, pre-save the new album here, and be sure to keep your eye on Danceland this year!
GW: It’s great to meet you, Danceland! We’re really enjoying “Don’t Act Surprised.” What can you tell us about the new song?
Danceland: Great to meet you as well, and thanks! “Don’t Act Surprised” is one of the first tunes I started writing when the pandemic hit. as I laid in bed at night, the melody and song theme started coming to me. “Don’t Act Surprised” is about the breakup of my mother’s first marriage. my sister and brother were 3 years and 3 weeks old, respectively, when my mother left her first husband and moved back in with her parents. after listening to the stories from my mother and sister over the years, I came to the conclusion that she left him partly due to postpartum depression and that is why I think there was never really a “this is what happened” explanation. i finally put to song a story that has haunted me for many years.
GW: We hear you’ll be releasing your debut album ‘Pink Lem’ later this summer. How do you feel about finally releasing your first package of music?
Danceland: It feels uplifting, surreal, and satisfying. having not planned on doing original music when we started our cover band 4 ½ years ago, this release represents how anything can happen in life. this project has morphed into something that we had not intended and now we have this album and a bunch of other originals that we will be performing/recording. the songs keep coming!
GW: What can we expect from the album as a whole? Are there any themes or principles that tie it together?
Danceland: The songs on the album are an eclectic mix of tunes. a couple Americana songs inspired by my mother’s story, a folkie protest song inspired by all the fucked up shit going on in the world, a kirtan mantra because we practice Kundalini yoga, a funk-rock instrumental, and psych-rock influenced tunes. it’s a mixed bag of musical genres.
GW: Where did the title ‘Pink Lem’ come from?
Danceland: ahh, lol. My wife Jale (co-vocalist, co-writer) and I grew a strain of cannabis last year called pink lemonade. it is amazing! it was a lengthy process to grow and cure all the plants, but we had a great time doing it! when we were throwing around names for the album, “Pink Lem” came to mind one day as we were smoking it and it really fits the vibe of the project.
GW: We understand the band started as the Cherry Garcia Band, a Grateful Dead tribute band. Tell us about your history with the Dead.
Danceland: The Grateful Dead inspired me to be a musician. after I saw my first show, I knew I had to be playing guitar constantly to be able to get to a level where I could jam with other musicians. when that goal was achieved, going to Dead and JGB shows stoked the fire that kept me learning and playing. and more recently, we were inspired by the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago to form Cherry Garcia Band. we have had a great time playing tunes for this awesome community.
GW: How does the music or ethos of the Grateful Dead inform your songwriting or your approach to music and performing?
Danceland: I think the notion that “anything goes”, resonates with me. there is no blueprint to follow. there are many different types of music genres represented in the Grateful Dead catalogue. I have been letting the tunes come to me, get them on paper the best I can and then work through them with the guitar to let the tunes grow to where they need to be. and the live performance approach is the same. there is structure to each song, yet we like to break down that structure through different types of jams.
GW: What else can we expect from you this year?
Danceland: We are booking a fall tour for Northeast US and will be doing a bunch of shows here in Canada from now until the end of the year. tonight, we play a small “trips” festival an hour and a half north of Toronto. a bunch of great jam bands from the area will be playing over the weekend and we are excited to kick the whole thing off! we will also be going back into the studio this winter and will have another release ready next year at some point.