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Air Dubai signs with Hopeless Records

Julian Thomas at the 1STBANK Center during KTCL's Not So Silent Night last year.
Julian Thomas at the 1STBANK Center during KTCL's Not So Silent Night last year.
Aaron Thackeray

For the past few weeks or so, Air Dubai has been teasing a big announcement. We had a pretty good idea what it was (for as big as it is, Denver's still a pretty small town when it comes to some things, especially juicy gossip), and last night at KTCL's Not So Silent Night at 1STBANK Center finally shared the news. A little over a year to the date that the band graced the exact same stage as winners of the station's annual Hometown for the Holidays promo in 2010, Air Dubai revealed that it had secured a recording contract with Hopeless Records, who will issue the band's new album Be Calm this coming spring. In advance of Air Dubai's first headlining show tomorrow night at the Ogden, we spoke with Jon "Rhias" Shockness about the deal, why they chose Hopeless, home to incongruous acts like Avenged Sevenfold and the Used, and how the imprint signed the act without having ever seen it live.

See also:

- Tip sheet: Meet (the new and improved) Air Dubai, 12/10/09

- Review: KTCL Not So Silent Night 2011, 12/6/11

- Wunderkinds: Air Dubai is set to release its debut, Wonder Age

- Photos: A day in the life of Air Dubai

Air Dubai before headlining the Gothic in 2010. See full slide show: Shadowing Air Dubai.
Air Dubai before headlining the Gothic in 2010. See full slide show: Shadowing Air Dubai.
Samantha Baker

Westword: Fist of all, congratulations. Tell me how it went down.

Jon "Rhias" Shockness: They actually haven't even seen us live. We were in L.A. It was like our first show there, and someone was in the audience who was one of the friends from Hopeless. They were like, "Hey, you guys gotta check this band out." I guess they had heard of us before a little bit, but after that, it was just like, "Let's look 'em up," and they liked what they heard. So, I can't wait until they see us live.

That's crazy. So they just liked the record? They went straight off the record?

Yeah. We gave them our album, which was supposed to come out November 13, but we had to push it back, because they were like, "Let's just release it to your fanbase." So we pushed it back and gave it to them, and that's pretty much it.

So they're going to release it as is?

Yeah, yeah, as is.

Where did you guys record at?

We recorded in Austin, Texas, at Matchbox Studios.

Who engineered and produced it?

Dwight Baker.

How did you end up going with him?

I think it was through our management. They were just like, "Hey, we've heard of this producer, and we think you guys would be great with him." So...

How many songs are on the new record?

It's a ten-song album, but [there's another version that's] eleven songs as a bonus track on iTunes.

So what made you end up going with Hopeless?

I don't know, I think they just had our goals and ideas in mind. We have a really traditional...um, what's the word I'm looking for... I don't know, a different sound. So I think it's different for their label and different for us because we're not like anyone else on their label. So I think it's like a perfect fit. It's a challenge for them and us to kind of stand out and make our own name in the rest of their label.

So did you guys sit down as a band and talk about why this would be a good label for you?

Yeah, definitely. It's a big step for our band, and we want to make sure that we're going to the right place. You know, it was all like, "Let's really think about this. What are our options?" And this just looked like it would be a good move for us.

What, specifically, are your goals that you feel are aligned with theirs?

I think they just really respect our vision. Like, one of the things is that they didn't want to change our album or change our artwork. They knew who we were; they looked us up, and they liked it. And I think that's what's important to us. We've kind of set up our own thing, and that's kind of how our band has been, very, "Let's do it ourselves." And they respected that, and now it's like, "We'll let you do it yourself and we'll push you guys to that next step."

Now from the early days when you and Julian [Thomas] were first getting your feet, did you ever imagine that this is how far it would go?

Not at all. I mean, we're playing the Ogden on Saturday. It's like we started this at his [Julian's] house, playing beats off his old Mac computer. I don't know, it's gone way further than we could ever imagine at that time.

I totally remember when you were opening for the Pirate Signal at the Marquis years ago.

We had no idea how they heard of us or what we were doing on stage. It was very new for us.

I remember when you did "I Know How." You had won some studio time at Coupe, and you had done that song that reminded me of the Roots' "Coming to Break You Off." That represented this whole foundational shift for your band. When did you think you really started gaining momentum?

Honestly, I feel like it was right away. From our first write up in, actually, Westword was the first write up we actually got, and I think that was the thing. It was like non-stop from there. We were just like, "Let's just keep going and see what we can do for the band."

Jon Shockness (third from left) and the other members of Air Dubai.
Jon Shockness (third from left) and the other members of Air Dubai.

What do you attribute all of the band's growth to?

I don't know, I think it's just our desire to do something original, I guess. We really want to make sure we're staying consistent and keeping ourselves innovating. So I think that's been our drive and our force.

From the Early October until now, it's just a dramatic difference. You can just see the growth. You guys have really grown up as a band, both from a songwriting standpoint and also live. It's a pretty impressive progression. Do you look back and are you kind of amazed at how far it's come?

I mean, honestly, it feels like yesterday. When I think about how long it's been, it has been a long time, but then it's just, like, I still feel like we're in the very early stages of figuring out how to work together as a band. So it feels very new and also very seasoned at the same time.

More than a few people have compared your band to Travie McCoy and kind of that Gym Class Heroes sound. So going with Hopeless, that's more of a punk-geared label and kind of embedded in that Warped Tour scene. Do you feel like that has the ability to give you greater prominence with that crowd that's already somewhat pre-disposed to gravitating towards that type of music?

Yeah, that's like the best place for us. I think we'd do really well on Warped Tour. We're not Gym Class Heroes. We don't have that same sound, but I think our sound is accessible to a lot of people, and Warped Tour would be one of those crowds where we could go in and just kill it.

So, tell me, how did you sign with Red Light [Management]? They started representing you before you had a deal or anything like that.

We were looking for management right away when we started our band, and we heard that Red Light Management was a really good management company. It was just like, "Let's hit 'em up. Let's tell 'em what we're doing. Let's get them excited about the band." And that's kind of how it worked.

So you approached them?

Yeah, we approached them, and they came out to our shows.

Were they instrumental in helping you set up those showcases in L.A.?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. We're working together as a team making moves together, a forward motion -- let's keep this train moving. We wanted to get out, and they were like, "Let's see what we can do."

So what made you go with Hopeless, as opposed to going with a major -- I know you were in talks with a couple major labels. What made you decide to go with Hopeless over them?

I think it was just the timing and where we were as a band. We had a conversation with them, and they were just super excited about us and really receptive to what we wanted to do. It's more about who's going to be best for you and recognizing your vision than the major versus indie -- I don't think we really considered that too much. It was just who would care most about the band.

What's the length of the deal?

We have three albums total and then we can either decide to stick with them if we liked it or move on to bigger things. But I think as far as right now, we're completely in love with them.

So when is the album slated to come out?

I think it's going to be either March or April, spring sometime, definitely spring of next year.





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