Dennis Lloyd on Coachella Debut, Creating Outside the Typical Album Format: ‘I Want to Tell a Story’


Multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer Dennis Lloyd took on his first Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival on Sunday (April 14), bringing his dynamic live show to the tented Mojave Stage.

The Israeli musician prides himself on the energy he displays onstage at every show, but this time, fans got a bonus, as they watched Lloyd pull off a familiar rock star moment. “This is the first time I smashed [my] guitar,” he tells Billboard minutes after his set. Between that and a cover of Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time," Lloyd proved he’s worth taking the time to see at the fest — and beyond.

Below, Lloyd talks about touring, how he's aready planning his next move — though his EP Exident just dropped on April 5 — and what he has in store for weekend two.

You just performed at Coachella for the first time. How did that go?

Oh my god, the energy was crazy. Like, I did not know what to expect, but to see like 10,000 people singing and dancing, like, "Holy shit there's so many people here!" I was like, "Okay, that's fun." And eventually I broke my guitar! I used to throw it sometimes, but this one, I just smashed it.

How were you feeling going into the set?

This morning I told all the crew, like, "Guys, I know it's Coachella but you’ve gotta be calm. Because, like, I can't stand it. So I just put on headphones all day, I was listening to Nirvana, Audioslave and just getting into my zone. Going on stage, I [had the] same feeling that I have before each show. Like, I'm very happy about it.

What's your typical backstage ritual like?

Usually just doing some stretches, vocal warmups. I'm trying to preserve the energy for the stage and be very calm. I'm a very calm person.

You're very calm right now, I was going to say, for someone who just got off the stage at their first Coachella.

You need to be — I don't know if you call it "stable," but like, in your mind, you’ve got to be very focused.

What else have you gotten to do or see at Coachella?

I went to some parties, but I didn't like it too much. I don't think it's my vibe. I'm a dog person that loves to travel, and suddenly you put me in a party, and I was like, "Uh oh, I gotta go."

How has tour been going?

I’ve been touring North America, and this time I came back to some cities like Seattle and San Francisco and Los Angeles. To see the growth [has been amazing]. I don't have a goal of playing in front of 10,000 people or 100,000 people, it's about seeing the journey and the progress. Like how each show, you have 200 more fans or 400 more fans. It's just fun.

What songs have been the favorites when you play them live?

"Never Go Back." "Aura" is also going really good, and in the shows, like we play "GFY" and it's just like, the crowd is nuts. I think everyone hates their exes, so they just like put their fingers up and, yeah. [Laughs]

What has been a really cool sing-along moment for you?

I think the strongest song for me on the set is "Leftovers." It's a very emotional song and it's just me and the guitar. I got so many messages from fans that it changed something and it helped them getting over depression or even worse stories, and to see these people at the show crying and singing with me — that's the meaning of music, you know? My interaction with the crowd is, I think, one of the most important things in the show, and for me. These are my people. I want them involved, so they are singing with me and they are dancing with me.

What else can we expect from your live show on this tour right now?

Just expect craziness. I have a drummer and I have a saxophone player, and [it’s] madness and excitement.

And guitar-smashing, apparently!

Ahhh, I don't know. Maybe [one more time] next weekend. But in the show, expect everything. You need to come open-minded and to put your phone down and just enjoy the show.

How do you put together a set list these days, now that Exident is out?

It's actually easier now, because I used to have the material before, but I couldn't release it. Now I take the strongest songs, put one in the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end, then I start to fill the gaps. It varies, but all the time I’m talking with my guys, my band, the people onstage. We understand every show is different.

When you play a festival, do you find yourself changing up your show up at all?

For this festival, we've added the brass section that I had when I performed in Tel Aviv. But except that, nothing is different. This is the same energy that you get.

What has the response been like about Exident?

Positive. I get to hear so many stories from fans. For me, this EP was about the phases that I've experienced after a breakup, and to see this song or this song [resonate with fans]…some people go to "Never Go Back," some people are connected to "Runaway." Everyone gets their hearts broken. Everyone experiences tough breakups, so they can relate to at least one of the songs.

Are you thinking about new music yet?

Yeah, I spent a year in Thailand back in 2015-2016, and I wrote, like, 40 songs. And I wrote like 10 or 20 more since then. So yeah, I'm thinking about the next project and the next project! I don't like albums; I like projects. I want to tell a story — I don't want to limit myself to 10 songs or four songs or whatever. I just tell a story and I want you to feel something. If it took me one song or if it took me four, call it however you want. So I call them projects.

Anything else in the pipeline?

We are finishing the West Coast part of tour, and then we are going to Australia, the East Coast, and Europe. Later on, we're going to announce part three of the tour, which is going to be in Europe. So it's going to be a very exciting year.