By Lori Smerilson Carson – South Florida is known for many treasures like their beaches, restaurants and music. In particular, a hard rock band called Dayride Ritual. Locals have been able to see this extraordinarily talented band in many venues over the past several years. Their first self-titled record was released in 2012, followed by their second Waking Up Screaming released in 2016. They have presently returned to Power Station Recording Studios in Pompano Beach, Fl to finish their third album which shows promise of topping their previous and highlights their amazing musicianship and abilities.
Catching up with Lead Vocalist, Percussionist Michael Vaughn, Bassist Dave “D.T.” Thomas, Guitarist Jose Antonio Mena and Drummer Corey Gillmer, just after they spent the day recording backing vocals for most of the new tracks, they revealed details about the upcoming LP, recording at Power Station Studios, their inspirations, secret to their success and what fans can look forward to.
Ohio Music Experience: How is the recording going?
Michael Vaughn: So far so good. We got background vocals on seven songs done out of ten. Tomorrow, to finish up and then little ear candy tricks and what not and we’re done.
Ohio Music Experience: Is there a theme or what inspired the songs on the album?
Vaughn: Yeah, It’s a good question. Nothing like a common thread through it or anything like that.
Dave Thomas: Not really. Each song has its own individual theme.
Vaughn: There are dark moments. There are happy moments. There are some quirky moments. It’s a typical Dayride record, (he chuckled).
Ohio Music Experience: Corey, you just flew in from Philly last night, right?
Corey Gillmer: Yes, I did. Caught the late flight in. So, it’s a tiring morning to say the least.
Ohio Music Experience: I would say so. So how did this work in the studio with the current situation. Did you use both studios for the vocals?
Vaughn: No, just the live room.
Ohio Music Experience: So, you guys went in separately or how did was that done?
Vaughn: Well, we did maintain social distance, even though there were more that one of us in the live room singing on the mic. You know, someone else is there standing by just coaching and what not, and giving another ear to let us know what we’re doing right and wrong, but at the proper social distance.
Ohio Music Experience: Which microphone did you use?
Vaughn: You know what? I don’t have the name of it. All I know is, I’m in love with it and I will never record with anything else ever again!
Ohio Music Experience: This is your third studio album. Did you use at Power Station Recording Studios for both previous records?
Vaughn: No, actually we recorded the last album here. The first album was done, Dave tell the story.
Thomas: The first album we had someone gracious enough to kind of give us some console, some recording equipment, and we basically got that for free, and we just hired the engineer to mix on it. So, the first record was a little bit more home grown, but we wanted to be a paying client because we tend to be a little demanding and picky, so we felt more comfortable doing that with somebody we’re paying then the favor angle so to speak.
Vaughn: Yeah, we wanted the client experience.
Ohio Music Experience: What makes Power Station Recording Studios stand out to you besides the expertise and the high standard equipment? What would you say drew you to Power Station?
Thomas: Before we did the last record, we were trying to drive around to different studios and meet different engineers, and we wanted to make sure they would come and hear us first play live as opposed to just showing up, and everybody that we met either wanted to change us or change some songs. They wanted the drummer to not hit as hard, and we were kind of really apprehensive, and then when Rob (Roy, Producer, Co-Qwner with Tony Bongiovi) came out to hear us, he said, you’ve got the best drum sound in Florida. He wants to catch lightening in a bottle and don’t change a thing, and then once we saw the physical space and his approach to us, it was a no brainer from there going forward.
Ohio Music Experience: Tell me about some of the new songs. What inspired them?
Vaughn: Ok. Well, first one that comes into my head is we have a song called “Around Again” and basically you might have heard someone say this before that, ever guy says he want an insatiable girlfriend until he finds himself an insatiable girlfriend. Ok, so, you be careful what you wish for because you just might get it, and that’s basically what this song is about. You can almost say from the female perspective. That’s “Around Again.” On the darker side, we have a song called “Close Your Eyes” which to keep words short, is basically obsession, stalking and a murder suicide, (he laughed). Yeah, It’s the kind of stuff you play around the holidays.
Ohio Music Experience: It’s a feel-good song, right?!
Vaughn: It’s a feel-good song, exactly!
Ohio Music Experience: So how does the writing come about Michael? Are you writing all the lyrics or Dave’s putting down the structure with Corey and Jose writes the riffs? How does that work with Dayride Ritual?
Vaughn: Someone comes in with an idea, whether it’s, I have an idea for a lyric or Dave has an idea for a riff or Jose has a riff, comes in and we basically build it from the ground up.
Jose Antonio Mena: We kind of jam for a bit and see what comes out and then sit down and rearrange the parts, and discuss it and jam a little more, and then the song is born from that. Some are a little harder to come together, but there are a few that just, we just jammed and some of them fell into place.
Vaughn: Some of them just fell into place, yeah, absolutely!
Mena: Some of them fought us a little bit.
Vaughn: (laughed) Yeah.
Ohio Music Experience: How did the band come together?
Mena: I just got a call one day from Dave because their other Ecuadorian guitarist had left and he heard about me from another friend of mine.
Thomas: I think a drummer that we were jamming with back in the day. He was talking about how he had a friend that he can’t find anybody good enough that he wanted to play with and then when we were auditioning guitar players, miraculously, I remembered his name and tracked him down and called Jose up and as soon as Jose came out, he lit it up and it was a good fit.
Ohio Music Experience: Did you all have formal training?
Mena: Formal training, I mean a little bit when I was a kid. I went to conservatory to learn how to read and all that, but once I started on the rock and roll path, that was all out the window.
Ohio Music Experience: Did you play piano in the conservatory?
Mena: Piano yeah. Classical piano.
Ohio Music Experience: What about the drums Corey? What drew you to play the drums?
Gillmer: So, my dad is still a drummer. He had me playing before I could walk. There’s actually a funny story about my dad’s band would rehearse in my living room and as a two, three-year-old kid, I would sit on his lap and I would not let them rehearse until I got to play a little bit of the drums. I actually never had a formal lesson in my life. I’m completely self-taught. Just kind of Listening to him, listening to other drummers I looked up to and just kind of honing it that way. Just kind of figured out what I can do and how to get better.
Ohio Music Experience: Who would you guys say are your influences? You said Jose, once you heard rock and roll, but who was the rock and roll band or person?
Mena: Guns N’ Roses.
Ohio Music Experience: Cool! What about Dave and Corey, Michael? Who would you say?
Thomas: What got me into it I think early on, I kind of traveled the path of The Beatles which led me into Kiss. I don’t know how it led me into Kiss, but I was a huge Beatles fan as a kid, and then I started getting into Kiss and that led me down into the rock and roll, and eventually you know, probably like Jose and Corey, you get into more accomplished players and more progressive players. You try to become a little bit better of a player and then you know, you always got to be conscious of a singer and a vocal. So, you try to find bands that can kind of match some playing and keep conscious of melody and a singer.
Gillmer: I’d say the two drummers for me that come to mind when I think of influences are Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden and Shannon Larkin of Godsmack. I’ve always tried to combine their preciseness and If I can get something to go within a live spectacle, that is Shannon Larkin. If you’ve ever seen a Godsmack show, the guys arms flailing all over the place. So, trying to combine the two is definitely where I got my start and my influence.
Ohio Music Experience: Great combination. Michael, who would you say? I know you you’ve previously mentioned Led Zeppelin.
Vaughn: I mean, all your standards. Robert Plant of course is God. Yeah, but I was raised on Kiss. My brother came home with KISS Alive! one day and it changed my life forever. So, I mean Paul Stanley is my hero. Paul Stanley is the reason I’m a musician, but Robert Plant as I said. David Lee Roth, Rob Halford. My favorite, favorite, favorite vocalist though, is the late great Ray Gillen from Badlands. Yeah, I could listen to that guy just endlessly.
Ohio Music Experience: What is it about his voice that appeals to you?
Vaughn: I think Ray Gillen had it all. He had power, he had melody. He had soul. He had range. He had a little bit of grit when he needed it. There was just basically nothing that the guy couldn’t do and he always looked good doing it too. So, that also helps.
Ohio Music Experience: You previously mentioned that you were looking forward to putting down the vocals that you did today. How did that all come about, the way you all work together?
Vaughn: All the lead vocals were already done. Today was all about background vocals, and we all had ideas. We all did our homework and we all brought our ideas in and we hashed ‘em out and decided what works for the song ‘cause that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about a spot light or anything like that. It’s all about the song and that’s what counts.
Ohio Music Experience: So, what is your goal for the record? I know you guys are kind of wrapping up with the band and you wanted to get this record finished.
Vaughn: I think, correct me if I’m wrong fellas. I mean, we’re finishing this first and foremost for us because we have so much invested into the music already. If somebody would hear something that they liked and something was to happen, that would be awesome! Right now, with Covid (19) and everything else, there are no shows going on, but in the future if somebody heard something and an opportunity came along, I think we’d all agree to step back into the groove and do it.
Ohio Music Experience: What would you say is the bond with you guys?
Vaughn: Dave and I have been together for nine years now, through several guitar players and several drummers. We have a common work ethic when it comes to music. We’re into the same stuff. We think the same. Several times we’re thinking the same thing at the same time. It’s scary, and then sometimes there’s the creative tension that makes great stuff.
Thomas: I think part of having the success of a long-term musical relationship is the openness. The ability to say any opinion you want, but more importantly, if your partners don’t like it, you have to be ready to let it go and move onto something that, you know, fight for your ideas. You know, it takes a certain type of relationship to push your ideas. If it doesn’t work, you move on to the next one, and just the communication and the ability to communicate about it without getting your feelings hurt or getting pissed off. Not a lot of people have that luxury to have a relationship to where you can talk through things and trust me, not every conversation, we’ve had a few that have gone to, what the fuck are you talking about? What were you thinking? That’s happened before too, but I welcome that. I told Michael and I told everybody, I don’t want anybody to always agree with me and feel free to speak your mind, and I think once you have that, with Jose and Corey too. Once you have that open dialogue, that’s where the good stuff comes from.
Vaughn: Never take it personally. It’s all about the music. Nothing is ever a personal attack. If somebody doesn’t like something, it has nothing to do with the person. It has to do with the idea because at the end of the day, you got to do what’s right for the song.
Mena: Yeah, but we get along.
Thomas: Yeah, we do well.
Gillmer: We like each other sometimes.
Vaughn: Yeah, we do, kind of, yeah.
Ohio Music Experience: That was cute! You guys have also had some great experiences. You’ve opened for L.A. Guns, you’ve played with Winger, Fuel,
Vaughn: Johnny Winter, who else?
Thomas: Well, we’ve played a lot of good shows and I think those are the opportunities in this market if you get the chance to open up for some nationals, it’s a cool opportunity to finally play in front of a lot of people. Michael and I had the luxury, not with Jose and Corey, but some friends asked us to play in New York for the CBGB Music Festival and you know, I always welcome if you can walk in a room with three or four hundred people, have no clue who you are and have them standing up cheering for you and you know, selling thirty CD’s in a night. It’s a good day, and those are good shows that we’ve had together.
Vaughn: Yeah. When we opened up for Johnny Winter. You’re talking about a hard-core blues crowd. OK? In most circumstances, it wouldn’t be an easy sell. We had people rockin’. They loved us by the time we were done.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s awesome! What would you say makes your shows stand out?
Vaughn: You know what? When you’re playing live, you have to remember that you’re a musician yes, but you’re also a performer. You have to entertain the eyes as well the ears. No one ever says they’re going to hear a band. Everyone says they’re going to see a band. So, you have to put on a show as well, and we do. There’s a lot of energy when we play live and we feed off the people’s energy and they feed off of ours.
Ohio Music Experience: So, there’s that tight interaction that you strive for with your audiences, right?
Vaughn: oh yeah. Once I got a wireless mic (he laughed), I’m getting people going. Whether they like it or not, they’re going to respond. Usually during the shows, I mention it at one time or another. I say, if you like what you hear. Tell a friend. If you don’t like it, tell two.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s awesome! What would you advise an up and coming band?
Vaughn: Don’t! (he laughed). I’m only kidding.
Mena: What I’d say is, if you’re in it to make money or something like that, don’t get in it then. If you like making music. Go for it!
Vaughn: That is the most important thing.
Mena: The best stuff that you can create. Get together with likeminded people and just make the stuff. Do it just to feel good. I mean, the reward is the creation of it itself, right?
Mena: Some time when I went to New York, there was a bunch of kids, they wanted to become famous guitar players. I’m like, I don’t know if that’s the right approach. You want to play. You want to make all this music. You want to be the best, but it seemed like they had it in their head, they were going to become the next Jimi Hendrix and that’s a cool thing to have, but I don’t know if you’re going from that angle, do you want the fame or you want to make the music?
Vaughn: There you go. Well said.
Ohio Music Experience: That is good advice. What comes to your mind when you’re writing a song? Do you feed off of everyday experiences or something you see or hear?
Vaughn: Well, coming from a lyrical standpoint, inspirations all around you. I mean I’ve written songs from everything from getting laid, to losing your faith in God. You know, inspirations all around you.
Ohio Music Experience: What about music wise?
Mena: For me it depends. Sometimes there’s an emotion and I just start moving around the guitar to see what comes out, and sometimes I just go stupid and just try to write something too difficult to play.
Ohio Music Experience: Dave have you always played the bass?
Thomas: Yeah, I’ve never been a guitar player or anything else. I’ve always gravitated to the bass and drums section and I think it’s an art in itself, you know what I mean? Your kind of the glue between the melody of the vocal and the guitar and the drums, and for me, I really listen to every nuance of the drummer. The kit, the snare, where it’s at ‘cause it’s part of my connection with the drums and I take a lot of pride in that to be honest with you. A lot of bass players are just strumming along with the guitar player. I mean, I do that a little bit too, but my main focus is, if I can play the songs with just bass and drums and Jose and Michael go out and sound bad ass with just the two of us playing, then I’ve done my job. That’s something that I really like to do as a bass player.
Ohio Music Experience: Is Paul (Kronk, Chief Engineer) working with you guys?
Vaughn: All day long.
Ohio Music Experience: I know the Power Station engineers are really good about a strong bass/drum foundation and layering in guitars and vocals. What do you feel has been super helpful to your band and what you’d pass on to another musician to record there?
Mena: Paul, I realize that he knows music and that’s a big plus. He’s not just an engineer. He plays guitar, he can sing, he knows what a chord is. That is one of the most valuable things, I think, and he’s just open to ideas and you know, we give him input and he’s just very easy to work with.
Vaughn: Real easy to work with.
Mena: He won’t shut down an idea, even if he thinks it’s crap. He’ll run through it and see if it’s worth it. He knows what he’s doing.
Thomas: Yeah, super talented guy at the end of the day.
Mena: He knows what he’s saying.
Vaughn: And he’s a cool guy besides that. So, you know, he knows his stuff and he’s just comfortable to be around.
Ohio Music Experience: Do you think that’s really helpful in bringing out the best versions of yourselves as musicians?
Vaughn: Absolutely, because you have to feel comfortable in the studio to be creative. If there’s any kind of tension in the air, it’s going to take away from creativity. If you’re not feeling the guy behind the board and he’s not feeling the band, it’s not going to work.
Ohio Music Experience: Are you guys going to possibly make any videos with these new songs? Any other upcoming things that fans can go to your Facebook page and see to look forward to?
Mena: I’d like to do some videos.
Vaughn: Yeah, we’d like to get around to it. Whether it’s going to happen or not, we have to play it by ear.
Ohio Music Experience: How would you say south Florida influenced the band?
Vaughn: South Florida used to be a great place to be in an original band. Used to be a great network. Used to be a great scene. Now, unless you’re playing covers, no one wants to even know you. It’s very sad because there’s a lot of talent out there. There’s a lot of talent and they spend their time learning other people’s music rather than creating their own. I don’t get it.
Ohio Music Experience: What about the music scene in Philadelphia Corey?
Gillmer: Yeah, the Philadelphia rock scene and even the metal scene isn’t all that popular. What surprises me is the underground scene of thrash and like hard core punk in Philadelphia is way bigger than people would even imagine, and I know firsthand because my dad was a drummer, you know, hard core punk band and in Philadelphia. Those bands actually do way better than some of your more mainstream classic rock bands because there’s such a large underground market.
Ohio Music Experience: Do you have a title for the album yet?
Thomas and Vaughn: We’re getting close.
Vaughn: We have a couple of ideas that we’re still talking about. We’re going to fight about it and whoever wins the fight will come up with the name for the album.
Ohio Music Experience: When is the projected release date?
Thomas: We’re getting really close. I mean, it’s going to probably take maybe another few weeks because the studio has got to get the balance, the time, the financial aspect of it. So, I’d like to say by the end of the year. I know that’s a few months, but I think that’s possible.
Vaughn: Just in time for Christmas!
Ohio Music Experience: Was there anything else you wanted readers to know about the band?
Thomas: The one thing I wanted to make sure that we got across is that when we started this record, I wanted to do everything. There’s no limit. There’s no rules. You know, we wanted to write what we wanted to write. What felt good, and we opened up a lot of the doors in our mind and even in the studio. Like we kind of told ourselves that sometimes you’re focused on hey, how are we going to do this live, or what are we going to do, and this record, we’ve added more sections. We’ve added cello sections. We’ve added violin sections. You know, a lot of backup vocals. We’re just really making a record that we can be proud of for ourselves, and I’m glad that we did because it feels comfortable to say, hey, can we add a string section here or how about a trumpet section or how about this, and everybody’s game and Paul’s game for it and it feels good to have that. Just no rules. If you like it and it works, let’s do it.
Vaughn: If it feels good, it is good.
Thomas: That’s it.
Ohio Music Experience: Who’s playing those instruments?
Thomas: The monkey magic.
Ohio Music Experience: That’s cool. I love when they do that stuff.
Thomas: Paul’s pretty creative. Like we were saying earlier. We throw out ideas and if we say we want to try this, he figures out a way to accomplish what we have in our head and there’s really no limits to what we come up with, you know? If we suggest something to Paul, if it’s an instrument that we don’t play or have anybody that we can pay to do it, he figures out a way to get it through, either virtual instrument or pulling up keyboard matches, and even though we don’t have a keyboard player, if the idea is there, we’re going to try it.
Ohio Music Experience: Anything else you want to add?
Vaughn: Support local original music.
Vaughn: Remember something. Every band that people like, at one time was a local original band. Without their support, it’s never going to happen.