Title Tracks is the latest project from John Davis, the former drummer of Q and Not U and one part of Georgie James. The band is based in Washington, D.C., but Title Tracks doesn’t sound like your typical D.C. band. The debut full-length, It Was Easy, showcased a well-balanced blend of stripped-down sunshine pop and catchy, late-’70s punk-infused rock in the vein of Elvis Costello or early Joe Jackson. Here, Davis discusses his new band, the current state of the D.C. scene and the future of Title Tracks.
Where does Title Tracks fit into the music scene in DC?
I’m not sure. There isn’t exactly one thing that binds all the bands together in D.C. other than we live there, know each other and play shows together. In the past, there used to be more of a common identity with bands, but there’s less of an easy handle or identity now and more of an attitude like, “We’re all here, and we’re all trying to build something different.”
I can’t think of a single band in town that sounds like us, though. I can’t think of another band in D.C. that sounds like True Womanhood or Imperial China or Casper Bangs, either. There are all these new bands in town, which is exciting because they are all starting to tour and get their first records out, and it’s cool to be at the beginning of something new.
D.C. has been characterized for a while by bands that contained a socio-political undertone to their music. Do you think the D.C. scene today is purposely trying to move away from that?
I think there was just a period where the anchors of the traditional “D.C. scene” were gone or were on hiatus. You had Positive Force and bands like Fugazi and all the other socially active bands that drifted for a while when Fugazi went on hiatus, and then bands from the ’90s and the early part of the decade, like Q and Not U, Black Eyes and El Guapo, all broke up and moved on, which caused a few years where people were just seeing what was going to happen next. Personally, I always have found it important to keep some sort of community aspect of it alive — like benefit shows or events that promote what’s going on around you in D.C. For a while it seemed that really wasn’t important anymore and that it was just turning into any other city. However, there are huge amount of benefit shows happening now and shows in alternate spaces. So it’s definitely come back really strong this year, and it’s really cool to see all the motivated people who are ready to do something D.C. both musically, creatively and in the community.
Do you feel like Title Tracks is a “D.C. band,” or is that too stifling of a label?
No, we’re totally a D.C. band. That is something that is really important to me. I grew up in that area and have been a part of that scene since I was almost 14, so that is definitely apart of who we are. And whenever we play a show, we make sure to tell people where we are from because it’s my favorite place in the world. I’m proud of the culture that comes from D.C., and I’m proud of the music that comes from there.
Title Tracks’ full-length, It Was Easy, came out on a Brooklyn label, Ernest Jennings Co. How did you come to that decision?
I talked to Dischord about doing the record shortly after it was finished. However, they have kind of been in this phase where I think they don’t really want to take a chance on new bands right now in hopes of avoiding the fate of bands like Lookout! and Touch and Go. Ian MacKaye said something to me about how the bands on Dischord on the past have essentially entrusted them with their music and that it’s their duty to keep the music in print and not just go out of business or fail to afford to continue putting out their releases. That really meant a lot and made sense to me. I can’t speak for Ian, but that is the take that I got. Which is why they did the Title Tracks single but maybe didn’t feel like they weren’t in the position, at the point, to be adding new bands. But Ian was super supportive of me finding a new label.
For the most part, you played all the instruments on It Was Easy. Do you foresee yourself continuing this trend in the future?
I’ve never had the opportunity to play all the instruments on an album, and I really wanted to do that at least once, so that was the case with It Was Easy. The next record will include the band that I am currently touring with, though. But I continue to write everything, and I can’t see changing that right now. And as long these guys are OK with that, then I don’t foresee things being any different.
How do you see Title Tracks evolving?
The songs that have been written so far are drifting away from the lighter pop stuff that I was more into with Georgie James and then spilled over a bit into Title Tracks. At the moment, though, I don’t see continuing in that direction but instead going into some slightly harder-edged stuff. However, I have yet to write everything, and I definitely don’t want it to be one dynamic on the record. I am sure there will be some variety. It definitely won’t be as poppy.
Do you feel your desire to be the exclusive writer behind a record is part of the reason why Georgie James split so suddenly?
To be honest, some of the songs that ended up on the Georgie James record, I ended up writing myself anyway. Some were written with Laura [Burhenn], but probably five or six I wrote on my own. That was the first time I had ever done that. So that showed me that I could do that, which gave me the confidence that I could do a solo record. Also, I didn’t think Georgie James was going to continue much longer, so I just got started immediately on Title Tracks. I can say, though, that the Georgie James break-up definitely had impact that pushed me even more into wanting to work by myself and, in the case of It Was Easy, to write an entire record on my own.
Do you ever see yourself getting behind an instrument in another band again opposed to writing music on your own?
I think I probably would. Things change from project to project, and it all just depends what I want to do and where I am. If I want to shift things a bit, I can myself doing that. Especially since I really like playing drums, I can see that happening again in the future.