Air Dubai. Photo: Luca Venter.
Air Dubai. Photo: Luca Venter. ( Picasa )
In case the delayed release of Air Dubai's Be Calm didn't tip you off, here's the big news for the Denver hip-hop band: They landed a record deal.

With the record complete and a few singles already making their way around the web, they hit the brakes and announced the delay. They'd signed with Hopeless Records in Los Angeles, where they'll be the only hip-hop group on the label.

“The team over there is awesome. They're a great international team and they're gonna be pushing our record,” vocalist Julian Church said. “It's really awesome because we were gonna put the record out ourselves, and they actually came in and said they liked it so much they don't wanna change a thing. They just wanted to release it as is.”

Hopeless bought Be Calm from the band, and in turn, the guys signed on to make two more records with the label. As of now, there is no official release date, but they're looking at early spring of 2013. The release has been a long time coming.

“It's funny ‘cause we put out our EP last fall, our Day Escape EP, and we actually started recording the album six months before that came out, so we've been working on it for — by the time it comes out it'll be two years,” Church said.

Anyone who's been following Air Dubai over the last few years is bound to hear big differences in Be Calm.

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With growing success comes a shift in approach, and judging from the rave responses from fans to the first tastes of the record, “All Day” and “Warning (featuring Patricia Lynn),” it's working well.

“Early on, I feel like we really limited ourselves to only writing songs that we can just play live because for a long time we were pretty much just a live band. We were playing for years before we even put a record out,” Church said. “I think this time around we really put more emphasis on the production, and not necessarily, you know, Lawrence [Grivich] going in and playing a guitar riff and Nick [Spreigl] going in and playing his drums. We do a lot of programming for drums on the new record. And Taylor [Tait], I think he maybe played bass, like actual bass, on three songs and the rest of them he played synth bass. I don't know, I think we're just moving more into being a band that has good songs versus a good live show.”

But don't get the impression that the show won't be good. Air Dubai has always had an electric stage presence — it's just a matter of tweaking things for the new songs.

“We just played Aspen and that was the first time playing everything off the new record, and it takes time to get into the groove of playing those songs live. Especially because there's stuff on the songs we can't actually do live, so we play to a track,” Church said. “It's kind of funny just listening to the track because it's just little sounds here and there.”

Saturday, Air Dubai will headline the Ogden Theatre, effectively a massive hometown showcase and celebration of Be Calm. It was only four years ago that Church and singer Jon Shockness formed a hip-hop duo, and three years ago that the whole band came together and soon after won the University of Colorado's Battle of the Bands. Now they're licensing music for TV shows, ESPN is playing their music during college football games, and Tone Loc is opening for them at the Ogden.

Legendary, platinum-record opener aside, there will be a lot on display that night. Be Calm is only 11 tracks long, but it's the product of two years of work and a representation of what Air Dubai really wants.

“It was a very long process just for that small amount of music, but we really, really took our time on it,” Church said. “Honestly, I feel like this new record is sort of what we've always been going for.”