Dirty Vegas – ‘Days Go By’ Retrospective
English outfit Dirty Vegas found unprecedented success for an indie-electronic group with ‘Days Go By’ as it led them to the heights of the music scene with a #7 position on the Billboard charts and a coveted Grammy award in tow.
From its iconic breakdancing music video to the infamous Mitsubishi advert and a deeply entertaining DDRMAX2 appearance, ‘Days Go By’ held a firm grip on the public’s consciousness and its imprint on the cultural framework of the Y2K era remains today.
While remembered for its scorching momentum in 2002, it’s oft-forgotten that the cut was initially written in 1999 and released to underground fanfare in 2001, generating subtle buzz throughout the UK and slowly but surely attracting the attention of major industry players. With it thus being the 20th anniversary of its original release, we spoke to Dirty Vegas vocalist Steve Smith about the gestation of ‘Days Go By,’ its lasting legacy, and the duo’s work in the years that followed.
What was the creative process behind ‘Days Go By’? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember reading that it was originally written as an acoustic song?
Yes, the song was first written as an acoustic song back in 1999. It began its life being partially written on a beach in Ibiza, then was finished in London. Ben and Paul (Hydrogen Rockers) asked me if I had any songs they could work on while I was recording some percussion for them. They worked on the track, which needed a faster vocal recorded and the version you hear now was born.
When it was initially released in 2001, did you sense its hit potential? How did its momentum feel in the UK?
After that first session we knew we had something special together, so we carried on working on more music. In that time ‘Days Go By’ was getting a lot of airplay from Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1, and labels started to come to the studio. The track was released and was an underground success but nothing commercial came from it; it barely scraped the UK Top 40. But we were in the process of making the first album and felt very strongly about the music we were making.
The Mitsubishi advertisement obviously helped break the song into the mainstream – can you talk about the process of working with them?
The song was on MTV Dance all over Europe and a guy from the US ad company that worked with Mitsubishi was in his hotel room in Holland and saw the video. He went back to LA and showed his team [and] they all felt the track was the right fit for the next ad campaign for the Eclipse model. We saw what they had done previously with the styling of the ads and agreed for our song to be used. Within the first few weeks of the ad being shown on US TV, radio stations all over America were getting calls to play the song. An unknown dance track was now playlisted on US Commercial radio, something that hadn’t happened before!
The music video is a really memorable visual that’s stood the test of time – are there any moments from its filming that you remember standing out?
As soon as we read the treatment for the video, we knew it was going to be something very special. We shot the video in Downtown Los Angeles; the directors Rob and Leigh from Blue Source had worked on Fatboy Slim and many others, so we knew the work. One vivid memory is when we first saw the older breakdancer guy Byron going through the choreography on the streets of LA and cars stopping to watch. For our very first music video, it was incredible to see all this happening to our song.
I know that your debut album was entirely recorded before ‘Days Go By’ began to take off – did the success of the single influence you to revisit the record and make any tweaks? Or did you avoid letting it influence the body of work?
Yes that’s correct, the album was all done by the time things took off in the USA. There were no tweaks on the album tracks, but we did record a few alternative versions of songs, namely a version of ‘Days Go By’ with Steve Osbourne who had worked with Paul Oakenfold, Starsailor and Doves.
You guys found major commercial success between a #7 Billboard debut and winning a Grammy – how did it feel to notch those achievements so early in your career as Dirty Vegas? Did it set any expectations for your subsequent work?
Well, to be honest the early success was a huge surprise for us. Especially in the USA where dance music was still very underground. We had approached our music with acoustic guitars, traditional song arrangements…there was no Empires of the Sun, The Killers etc. So we didn’t know where we fit in musically. It was certainly overwhelming for our second album One – that wasn’t the best we could have done under the pressure of the first and constant touring. – but by the time we recorded Electric Love (our 3rd album) we really felt at our best.
‘Days Go By’ is still showing longevity with recent takes like the CamelPhat remix. How do you feel about the song’s lasting legacy?
It’s always such a complete honour when something like the CamelPhat remix comes along. The lads took the song to a whole new place and gave it a new lease on life. We released our Retrospective best-of album in 2019 and we had so many amazing new remixes of our songs. Never thought back in 2001 we would ever be releasing a “best of.”
From One to Photograph and singles like ‘Happening,’ you’ve continued to release killer material for two decades now – what’s your next move?
Wow, we are old aren’t we! It’s been such a wonderful journey over the years with so many highs and a few lows, but music just keeps coming. Myself and Paul speak every day, and when the moment is right a new single or even an EP will definitely appear.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to everyone that has supported our music, the listeners, the labels and cool sites like Data Transmission.