Years go by, and still we think of that Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial. You know the one, with the girl in the pink Kangol hat popping and locking in the passenger seat:
The moody club jam in that 2003 commercial was “Days Go By,” which soon became an unlikely U.S. top 20 hit for the British dance trio Dirty Vegas. Musicians Paul Harris and Ben Harris and vocalist Steve Smith had eclipsed (no pun intended) their brethren back home, showing fellow artists a new way of promoting their work through licensing music to advertisers.
“Nowadays music doesn’t really sell,” Paul Harris told me in a phone interview. “People download it for free. So you have to look at new markets and income streams. When we got that Mitsubishi ad, we were one of the first electronic artists to have their music used in a commercial. It introduced dance music to a lot of people in America.”
However, after the success of “Days Goes By,” their 2004 follow-up album One was a sales disappointment and a critical disaster. “We had to make a record that was commercial,” Harris says. “We kind of lost our way. We lost our roots in dance music.” The trio disbanded in 2005, working separately and together on-and-off until they officially reformed in 2008.
But it wasn’t until this past April, eight years after their initial stardom, that they released their third album Electric Love, which they have been supporting with a North American tour. The New Order-influenced blending of guitars with dance beats returned to fashion during Dirty Vegas’s hiatus, and Electric Love could, at times, pass for indie rock. “Ten years ago, there weren’t bands like Phoenix and The Killers, and we’ve sort of incorporated [those influences] into our sound.”
Nevertheless, Dirty Vegas still consider themselves very much a dance trio, and they are reveling in the current Gaga-fueled popularity of “four on the floor” style beats. However, Paul Harris, having tasted success and seen it wane, takes a mature resignation to the fickle nature of the public. “It’s kind of a 10-year cycle. This year, all the kids want to be dance artists, and radio will get oversaturated with dance records. People will get bored of it, and next year everyone will pick up guitars.” By straddling the line between dance pop and rock, Dirty Vegas have hedged their bets pretty well.