While lazing on a sunny afternoon recently, I got a call from Dave Davies, who is touring this spring to promote his latest album. Sounding chipper and relaxed, he presented an easy-going counterpoint to his sometimes brooding older brother, Ray, with whom he founded The Kinks — one of the most heralded British Invasion groups — more than a half century ago.
Known for unforgettable classics such as “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night,” “Lola,” “Celluloid Heroes” and “Come Dancing,” the band disintegrated in the mid-1990s after long-running and infamous sibling feuds. Since then, Dave Davies suffered a debilitating stroke but recovered sufficiently to release several albums, the most recent of which, Open Road, appeared a year ago.
The record is notable for a couple of reasons — he worked especially closely with his son, Russ, who helped write and produce the album. Moreover, the collection of songs — some of which he’ll play April 7 at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair — arguably sounds more like a Kinks record than just about anything else Davies has created in many years. And he admits striving for that sort of feeling.
“Yes, I think the main thing I wanted was to get into pop songs,” he said. “We had worked before on a couple of projects that were sci-fi and experimental. So this time, I wanted to do more songs based on life’s experiences and ideas and feelings. There was no agenda, though. In terms of sound, Russell produced the album, so a lot of the difference is down to him, although we arranged it together.”
Indeed, the album is very much a collaborative effort that is reminiscent of the uniquely Kinks mix of poignant ballads and memorable melodies that made the band legendary. The title track, about a longing for the road, feels like one of their mid-70’s rockers. But Davies also reflects a lot, sounding grateful on “Path Is Long” and wistful when having a drink with an old school friend on “Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
Davies says that, for the most part, working with his son was rather easy, and also much like working with his brother.
“In some ways, of course, it’s different, but there’s a similar approach that’s very natural and intuitive. So that’s all familiar but,” he adds with a raucous, almost mischievous laugh, “without the arguing.”
The arguing is something that frustrates Kinks fans. No one is getting any younger — Ray Davies will soon turn 74 and Dave Davies is 71 — and there is a nagging question that trails them wherever they go: what will it take to reassemble the band?
Rather than ask the obvious, though, I opted to ask Davies how much might it matter to him to work with his brother again.
“It does and it doesn’t really,” he says. “Obviously, if we can do something and meet and talk it out and get some ideas for music, it’d be nice to try to do something. But it’s not essential. I’m quite happy working on the projects I’m working on.
“But we’ve been talking. I’ve been in the states, but when I go back (to England), I’ll call him and see how he feels about things.”
Meanwhile, like a lot of vintage musicians of his era, Davies is looking back as much as he is looking ahead. And so while rummaging through Konk Studios, he spent time listening to songs he recorded from the 1970s and decided to resurrect them. The end results will appear this summer on an album, called Decade, of unreleased songs.
“This is stuff I never thought of as important before, but when we started to listen, we realized we could have an album,” he said. “A few had to be fixed up. You know, writing lyrics for a song that didn’t have any, or embellishments, such as adding a bass part. We obviously had to fix some bits, but we tried to keep it true to the original work.”
This prompts me to ask about Kinks archives and the possibility of releasing still more material from the vaults, such as treasured concert recordings or other unreleased tracks that failed to make a decades-old boxed set called Picture Book or any of the deluxe editions of their classic 1960’s and early 1970’s albums. Dedicated followers of fashion can never have too much music, you know?
“Well, I’m not actually certain yet. This is part of the discussion we’ll have with Ray when I get back,” he says, sounding uncertain but eager. “Maybe we’ll make fixes to songs that were never finished up properly, that we’ve got on tape. There’s quite a lot of stuff to listen to and edit and see what we have. So we’ll sort through that, I hope. There is a load of stuff from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and even the ‘90s.”
Meanwhile, Davies is enjoying the latest leg of his current tour, which takes him and his band — featuring Dennis Diken of The Smithereens on drums — through the Northeast this spring before he returns to England.
His setlist, by the way, includes some Kinks favorites as well as more obscure Kinks songs buried on older albums and a few of his recent tracks that blend in quite well, both musically and thematically.
“My life really is an open road,” he says. “But I like the turn it’s taking.”
Davies performs at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, April 7 at 8 p.m., with Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne opening; visit outpostintheburbs.org. He will also be at City Winery in New York, April 2 at 8 p.m. (with Stephanie Manns opening) and April 3 at 8 p.m. (with Alex Guthrie opening); visit citywinery.com.
For a chance to win two tickets to the Outpost show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight April 3 with the word “Davies” in the subject line.