An interview with Dane Erbach of Grave Danger

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Read Time:9 Minute, 48 Second

What do you get when you mix everything spooky, humor, imagination, puns, Ska, and Goth? You get “Skath” band Grave Danger!

This six-piece outfit features everything you’d expect from great Ska music, with a side of cryptozoology drawing inspiration from The Aquabats, Oingo Boingo, Streetlight Manifesto, and more.

So, let’s dive into some “skath!” Check out their new single, “Specter Inspector!

Anthony:
Dane, thanks so much for doing this with us! How have these past couple of years been for you?

Dane:
I would say the past couple of years have been weird. Between the pandemic, job changes, moves, expanded families, and so on, life has been busy — but busy can be good, and bad. One thing that’s good for us is that this musical project becomes a kind of refuge from real life.

Anthony:
Let’s start easy — Where are you from? Who’s who, and who plays what?

Dane:
I’m Dane, and I play drums. Dave is sort of the mastermind behind the songs and plays a lot of instruments — guitar, bass, saxes, organs. My wife, Emily, plays the synth that sounds like a theremin, and her siblings round out the horns — Andy plays trumpet, and Margaret plays trombone. And, of course, our friend Chris has been singing with us lately.

Anthony:
What got you guys into music? What were your first memories of wanting to play in a band?

Dane:
I met Dave in high school as freshmen band geeks. We knew of each other but weren’t really friends until his band played with my band in our basement. If I recall, he played most of the set with just his boxers on. Dave and I have been in bands together on and off since, and Chris has been in most of them too. Really, all of us (except Chris, who was a choir nerd) were band kids in some way and came from musical families, but each in a different way. For example, my dad was always in bar bands playing covers, and his band would always rehearse in our basement growing up. Being that close to music made me want to play in a band too — it just felt right.

Anthony:
Where did the idea for a band about spooky Ska songs come from? It’s definitely a niche sound, but it’s wonderful. Escape from Skull City is great, and Ska is a genre I’ve been on and off with, but it’s always fun to hear!

Dane:
During gym class, Dave and I would make up fake bands. One was called “Throbbing Reaper,” and basically consisted of us just hitting our instruments as hard, and violently as we could. Our Hair Metal band was “Live Wire.” Grave Danger started as one of those stupid ideas — although we had long since graduated. We were full-on adults when we came up with the idea of combining Ska and Goth into one word — Skath! I think it was probably five or so years ago that we actually decided to try writing some music for fun. Dave has been churning out punny songs that involve macabre, and cryptozoological references since, and we’ve all worked together to fill up the songs.

Anthony:
Since we’re in spooky season currently, what influences your music most? Horror movies? Shows?

Dane:
Our favorite Ska bands definitely inspired us. I know Dave loves Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto, and a large handful of us are into The Aquabats. But we drew a lot from Oingo Boingo too, a band that incorporated Ska, Punk, and a lot of other styles to create something so strange, and serious at the same time. In some ways, they are sort of our spiritual guide even if we ended up sounding a lot more like Less Than Jake.

Anthony:
From a Ska perspective, who are your influences and favorite Ska artists/bands? I personally only know the bigger names like Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish, and such.

Dane:
Dave turned me on to a lot of band that would become my favorites in high school, especially Dance Hall Crashers, and Less Than Jake. I have him to thank for that. Chris and I share some favorites too, including Goldfinger, and Rancid. Some of my favorite Ska or Ska-Punk bands are either very straight third wave bands — bigger names The Bosstones or Save Ferris, smaller bands like Slow Gherkin, Mustard Plug, or the Planet Smashers — but I have a soft spot for weirdo Ska-inspired bands, like The Blue Meanies, and this Chicago band that was called Hot Stove Jimmy. I could keep going, but it’d get boring.

Anthony:
So, you just released a new single not long ago, “Specter Inspector.” I don’t know why, but I get some Scooby Doo vibes from this one. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process for writing this one as well as your other songs?

Dane:
Dave writes our songs, and his process usually involves getting up super early before his family wakes up, and chipping away at songs until they feel right. He sends us a demo version of the song, and we all contribute our parts one at a time. I record my drums in a studio but everyone else pretty much records at home. All those goofy puns and weird stories are Dave’s brilliant dad’s sense of humor. I can’t take credit for anything but the rhythmic feel of the song.

Anthony:
With the release of “Specter Inspector” is there going to be a new EP released soon?

Dane:
I don’t think there’s an EP on the horizon now — just “Specter Inspector,” and another single coming soon (and I’m pushing Dave to do another, but he might only be vaguely aware of it at this point). It’s easier to write a few songs at a time, but a full-length is something we want to do first. 

Anthony:
This should be a fun question — What equipment do you work with? I love learning all the different instruments people play!

Dane:
Cool question, but I’m not sure I can answer for everyone! Like, I’m not sure what brand of horns everyone plays, unfortunately. But I do know Dave has a Gibson SG and plays into a Dual Rectifier head with a Mesa Cab. Some of his guitar tones come from that amp and some are from modeling amps. I’m pretty sure he plays a Walworth bass, and an Ampeg combo amp. 

My drums are a smaller boutique brand called Chicago Drum Company in red sparkle, but I have a Pearl free-floating snare. All my cymbals are Zildjian — a K Custom ride, a medium ride, a Z Custom crash, and A Custom crash, and new beat hi-hats. My pedals are Tama Iron Cobras. Oh, and I use Vic Firth drumsticks — bolero SD-2s.

Anthony:
You can tell this is a passion project by people who just love doing what they’re doing. How much fun have you had playing live with this band? It seems like it would be a blast!

Dane:
Here’s the funny thing: We’ve never actually played in the same room together! This project started as a way for Dave, who was living in the Bay Area at the time, to keep musically connect to some of us in the Chicago area. Now that he has moved back, there’s a possibility that we’ll get in the same room sometime — though, Dave plays so many instruments that we might have to find some ringers. Honestly, though, we have fun just throwing tracks back and forth, and building the mystique of the band. We take it slow and do it when we’re able, which means that the band is never really a burden — just a fun way to collaborate with friends and family.

Anthony:
Is it safe to assume you guys are into horror, cryptids, and all that? Have any of you been to any spooky places, ghost tours, haunted locations, true crime locations, and such?

Dane:
I’m a big fan of spooky stuff, anything paranormal. I have a whole shelf dedicated to books about hauntings, UFOs, cryptids, and all that. I’m even sort of writing a novel right now about a kid who’s looking for the Jersey Devil. During my bachelor party, my brother brought me on a ghost tour of famous haunted places in Chicago. Every male member of this band went on that trip with us. I think Chris and Andy feel the same way. I know for a fact that Emily has had a couple of interesting dreams — she and I are going to visit a medium this weekend to talk to her about some of them. Recently, Dave told me that we may differ on our beliefs of the paranormal, and I’m so mad about it that I’m willing to throw him under the bus here.

Anthony:
Outside of the band, what do you do? What are some of your passions outside of music that may or may not influence your music?

Dane:
Most of us are parents — and the ones who aren’t are aunts and uncles, so, being with our kids are pretty much our biggest hobby. In some ways, it influences our music too since we want it to be music that our kids like too. I will try not to speak to much on behalf of my bandmates, but Dave is a programmer, a pretty good cartoonist, and reads a lot; we talk a lot about books. Chris and I have a podcast together called Rock and Roll Brunch where we talk about music, and he’s in another band called The Throwbacks (I know that that’s music-related, but most of what he does it music-centered). Andy is an avid gamer (video games or table-top), and Margaret plays multiple instruments for different community bands; she also produced plays at our local opera house. Emily is a serious crafter and makes all kinds of nerdy trinkets, and cross-stitches. And I write a lot. I’m an English teacher, but also an aspiring novelist, and a fading music journalist.

Anthony:
What does the future of Grave Danger look like?

Dane:
Somewhere down the line, we will probably get in the same room together, and try to play some Grave Danger songs, but it’s hard to tell if we could ever get our crap together enough to play a show. There’s been a lot of talk about it. Until then, we’re going to keep writing singles, and EPs. Hopefully there’s an LP in us, and we have the time to put something together.

Anthony:
Where can people find your music?

Dane:
http://gravedangerska.bandcamp.com is a good place to start. We try to keep pretty active on social media too.

Anthony:
Lastly, thank you so much again for doing this with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add or say that we may have missed, or didn’t go over?

Dave:
I think that covers it! Because of the strange project that Grave Danger has always been, a collective of family, and friends, it sometimes feels like we’re not a “real” band, so, I appreciate you giving us time to tell our story.

Interested in learning more about the music of Grave Danger? Check out the link below:

Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/a-m-radio-archives/

About Post Author

Anthony Montalbano

Anthony Montalbano grew up in New York and North Carolina. Anthony is a baker by day and a contributor to the Vinyl Writer cause by night. With a passion for podcasts, Pop Punk, video games, and more, Anthony brings a unique and fresh perspective to the team. Anthony's column is a catch-all for the things he loves most, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
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