Lady Danville

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Hometown: Los Angeles
Band Members: Michael Garner (vocals, keyboards), Dan Chang (vocals, guitars), Matthew Frankel (percussion, vocals)
Album: Operating EP
For Fans Of: Death Cab for Cutie, Guster, Simon & Garfunkel

The members of Lady Danville have beaten the early retirement fate of many collegiate a cappella vocalists by morphing into an L.A.-based trio that singer/keyboardist Michael Garner describes as “vocal-centric indie pop.” It seems that old a capella habits die hard: “At the heart of it, the vocals are still at the front [of our music],” he says during a recent call from his car, navigating the L.A. streets just before rush hour hits.

Garner’s just left his day job in education, and just as surprising is that Dan Chang, Lady Danville’s guitarist who shares lead singing responsibilities with Garner, has a job in health care, and percussionist/vocalist Matthew Frankel just got involved with an Internet startup. Their jobs must be very flexible given that they’ve been touring like crazy since late 2010, opening for seasoned performers Ben Folds, Dashboard Confessional and Jack’s Mannequin.

“We’ve toured with people who we respect and have loyal fans. The first major tour we went on was Ben Folds, who was one of my influences,” says Garner. Lady Danville had opened for Folds at a little club called Bardot in Hollywood on a Monday in 2010, where they jammed together on two songs. “It was definitely one of those magical musical moments,” Garner says. The next day Folds asked them to join him on a fall tour that began at the Rivieria in Chicago. “I’m not a big crier, but I did get emotional that night,” he says.

The band’s sound has evolved in the past two years, says Garner. “We sound more like a band than this little acoustic thing.” The fun, breezy pop tunes remain, but the music fills out larger venues much better. Now, Chang plugs in his guitar rather than going all-acoustic, and Frankel uses a full drum set than just a solitary cajón (box drum).

It’s a far cry from UCLA in 2005 when Chang, Garner and Frankel were all members of the university’s Awaken a Cappella, which also boasts Sara Bareilles as an alum. The following year, Garner and Chang launched a side project mikey g and dan from danville (both hail from Danville, Calif., though they met at UCLA) with Frankel officially joining the band in 2007.

They renamed themselves in honor of a favorite kindergarten music teacher that Chang and Garner had, albeit two years apart. And in a Twilight Zone moment, the teacher turned out to be Frankel’s aunt. (Insert theme music here.) While Lady Daville has only released three EPs—most recently, Operating, earlier this year—their music has earned attention through a number of media placements, including the song “Cast Away“ on MTV’s The Real World: Washington D.C., and “Love to Love” on Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Real World: New Orleans. The online mockumentary series Dorm Life (on Hulu) and the independent documentary Craigslist Joe have also tapped the trio’s music for their respective soundtracks.

Garner admits that the band made a few management mistakes, including being stuck in a dead-end production deal. After a tour accident in the Canadian hinterlands last year, which totaled their beloved van, Brenda, the trio reassessed their lives, music and business deals. Garner recalls, “We said [to the former management company], ‘Let us do what we need to do. Let us out or no one’s going to win.’”

They won their freedom, and Lady Danville is now independently working on a seasonal EP project. They’re recording four EPs with five songs each that will loosely coincide with the seasons: More upbeat, pop music for summer; a darker, indie rock sound for fall or winter.

“With all the touring, we didn’t get to focus on the recording,” Garner says. “More important now, it’s just about getting our music out there.”