Early Day Miners frontman Dan Burton began his career in rock music the same way a lot of Bloomingtonians in the 90s did – through the power of a want ad.
“I answered one of those bulletins on a record store board for a band that needed a bassist,” said Burton. “I joined Ativin as a result of that. And when everybody graduated from college I started Early Day Miners. Because I stuck around and I needed a new band.”
Now nearing its 10th anniversary as a group, Early Day Miners has dramatically changed both its sound and its lineup, yet the band remains a heavyweight in the Bloomington music scene.
While Burton was a fan of rock music like Echo and the Bunnymen and early U2, he and original bandmates Rory Leitch and Joseph Brumley aspired to create something of a hybrid.
“I was really inspired at that time by composers like Brian Eno,” said Burton. “And trying to incorporate that into rock and roll music was the idea.”
The first several Early Day Miners albums were somber, delicate, and atmospheric, and quickly tagged as prime examples of the slowcore and post-rock genres of late-90s and early-2000s.
Louder, Faster, Stronger
The band’s most recent album, The Treatment, broke from the mold, with upbeat songs, brighter production, and more intimate subject matter.
“The majority of the focus has always been on the cinematic, and just inspired by place and landscape,” Burton said. “But with The Treatment, there was a real intentional inward turn. And I felt like I was finally in a point in my life where I was mature enough to write about myself. So it’s a very personal record for me.”
The shift in sound came with a new lineup. Early Day Miners had in the past experimented with anything from playing with three guitarists to performing with close to a dozen people on stage.
Now, Burton shares his Miners duties with bassist Jonathan Richardson, drummer Marty Sprowles, and guitarist John Dawson.
“I don’t think we need to have loose borders in the band anymore,” he said. “It was just out of necessity that we had ourselves as a cooperative, where people could join for certain tours.”
Part of this necessity came from Burton’s frustration with the transient nature of college town living.
“People are always moving here and then moving away, mostly because of the university,” he explained. “And it’s really great now because I feel like I’m playing with three people that live in Bloomington … It’s really refreshing to have someone tell you they’re not going to move to Williamsburg or Chicago or Austin.”
Not that Burton hasn’t felt those pangs himself. When Early Day Miners has a new album, the band typically tours for two months out of the year. The liberation of being released from Bloomington’s tightly contained art and social scene is something that fuels Burton’s creativity.
“There’s not all this extra baggage and skeletons in the closet of your past bands,” he said. “You’re a complete stranger so you’re judged completely on the music.”
Alabama-native Burton is especially drawn towards the New Orleans, where he has composed and recorded much of his music.
“I just find it an amazingly creative place, and musically it’s a huge creative source for me,” Burton said.
As Early Day Miners tightrope between the lure of the road and the comfort of community, Burton is both invigorated and soothed by musical collaboration.
“You know, songwriting just happens in so many different ways,” he said. “In the past I’ve often come up with arrangements and ideas and approached musicians about them. And that’s a fun way to work, too, but right now we’re definitely in the “everybody in the room coming up with ideas” phase.”