Both singer Chris Dwan and multi-instrumentalist/background vocalist Will Van Dyke said “Bad Idea,” their latest single, was written with Adele in mind. When the men headed into the studio, they wanted to relay “the struggle you feel when you want to do something you know isn’t the best,” Dwan said. The result is a piano-and-guitar-driven ballad with a tinge of country, with wistful lyrics that hint at a love gone wrong.
Stereo Dawn unveiled “Bad Idea” as both a single and a music video (watch it above) on Friday. The track arrives just four months after the release of the duo’s debut album, “Off the Ground.”
Together, “Bad Idea” and “Off the Ground” are the sonic byproducts of a kinship that began in the audition rooms and rehearsal spaces of Manhattan’s theater world. Dwan made his Broadway debut in 2015’s “Finding Neverland” and can currently be seen in the off-Broadway revival of “Little Shop of Horrors,” starring Jonathan Groff. Van Dyke, who also happens to be the music director for “Little Shop,” has written extensively for the stage and TV.
In spite of their theatrical roots, both men share an unabashed love of pop music. Dwan names Kelly Clarkson and Justin Timberlake as favorites, while Van Dyke leans toward Elton John and Alanis Morissette.
As it turned out, differing influences and artists of choice didn’t impede the pair’s ability to achieve musical alchemy. They first teamed up for the 1980s-influenced “Two Hands/One Pocket,” a song featured in Dwan’s 2017 holiday concert, “A Pop Star Christmas.” From there, Van Dyke said he and Dwan “never stopped writing,” and some half-dozen songs later, the idea of Stereo Dawn ― a band meant to evoke nostalgia for the ’90s and early 2000s while still sounding current ― was born.
“On stage there’s a kind of safety net because you know what’s coming next, but in the studio, we are fully driving the Stereo Dawn ship,” Dwan said. “That brings a freedom you can’t always experience in theater.”
The project has been especially gratifying for Van Dyke. He is best known for having worked on the Broadway smash “Kinky Boots” as a music director, but nonetheless sees his trajectory as a somewhat accidental one.
“I grew up on classic rock, while living through the pinnacle of boy band realness,” he said. “I didn’t ever know how I was going to fit into the musical theater mold. … Chris pushes me to go further than I ever have musically. It’s really a great outlet for my own musical voice, not focused through a theatrical lens.”
While still in its relative infancy, Stereo Dawn has been steadily garnering buzz around New York. (During the September release of “Off the Ground,” Playbill cheekily proclaimed the pair “the gay pop duo you’ve always needed.”) The men expect to release more new music this spring and, if all goes to plan, will embark on a tour later in the year.
Describing Stereo Dawn’s vibe as a balance of “tongue-in-cheek optimism with that big city, pound-the-pavement angst,” Dwan sees the duo’s music as a celebration of “our friendship, our loves, our loses and what it means to have a true partner-in-crime.”
Van Dyke echoed those sentiments.
“It doesn’t suck writing and performing with your best friend, because you know they’ve got your back no matter what,” he said.
Watch Stereo Dawn’s new “Bad Idea” music video at the top.