The Survivor jury band broke up 10 years ago after Heroes vs. Villains, and is now back by popular demand.

By Dalton Ross
June 23, 2020 at 09:45 AM EDT
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It all seemed over for Survivor jury supergroup the Dragonz when the Heroes vs. Villains season came to a close in May 2010. While the band turned heads and attracted ears with their silky smooth jamz and breathtaking music video, once they returned from their international tour of Samoa, things broke down. An unplugged performance in New York City’s Times Square for EW’s Survivor Talk series timed to the season 20 finale was mysteriously canceled as rumors swirled around the band’s mercurial ways.

Had egos and competing agendas driven the band members — Benjamin “Coach” Wade, Courtney Yates, and J.T. Thomas — apart? Was the trio chafing under the musical direction and Svengali-like presence of super-producer Norwood Cheek? Had outside influences — some fingers pointed at vocal coach Candice Cody for her domineering style in the recording studio — gotten the better of the band? Whatever the reason, the members all went their separate ways upon returning to the United States, and the Dragonz seemed doomed to become but a mere footnote in Survivor lore.

Yet EW’s recent oral history on the Dragonz and their tumultuous live-fast-and-die-young ride on the rock & roll rollercoaster — along with the never-before released full catalog of music finally seeing the light of day in the form of The Ponderosa EP —  has ignited a second wave of Dragonz mania that has been sweeping the country… or, at the very least, Survivor Reddit message boards.

With interest in the band at an all-time high, and any possible old creative grudges finally laid to rest, the Dragonz have miraculously reformed! And EW is proud to be the platform as the band releases their first new song in more than a decade, “Thru the Fire.”

“For me, I felt like the Dragonz flame fluttered out way before our time was due,” explains Coach. “I'm the type of guy that likes to compartmentalize chapters in my life, and I felt like the one and only chapter of the Dragonz ended prematurely, like a chapter unfinished. So when I got the phone call from executive producer and manager of the Dragonz Norwood Cheek that he wanted to get back in the studio and produce a single and possibly remaster some of the old songs, I felt the dying light inside my breast come to life again.”

“Ever since the origins of the Dragonz in Samoa, I wanted to create more music with the band,” says Cheek. “But since we all live in different cities, it was difficult to find the inspiration since much of the original songs came about from myself, Coach, and Courtney hanging out. After reconnecting with Coach, Courtney, and J.T., I knew it was time for a new track.”

Norwood Cheek

So how did the Dragonz record their new song with members spread out all across the country? “I wrote the music and recorded the basic tracks along with a vocal line and lyrics and sent to Coach to add lyrics, his vocals and trumpet,” says Cheek.

As for Coach, he couldn’t wait to get going. “I started working on lyrics immediately,” says the Dragonslayer, “and felt the old cheesy… I mean, poignant lines fuse in the deeper reaches of my brain almost immediately.”

Then it was time to get the other members involved. “I sent J.T. the beats per minute and asked him to record his exquisite beat box,” says Cheek, referencing Thomas’ previously acclaimed work on “Dragonz Rap.” “And then I shared the melody and lyrics with Courtney and she recorded her vocals — all on her phone.”

“Recording the new Dragonz song in the age of social distancing was obviously way less fun than when we were all together being silly at Ponderosa,” admits Yates, “but the technical process was essentially the same, at least for me. The boys put together a song, I sang my parts — one take into voice memo on my phone — Norwood does some kind of magic and we have a new song. Minimal effort on my part is a Dragonz signature, which also matches my Survivor legacy.”

For Coach, watching the song — and the band — come together was worth the 10-year wait: “Listening to J.T.'s beatbox and Courtney's supple pumpkin lyrics reminded me of an old shoe, or settling down in your favorite chair at home and snuggling up by the fire.” And Cheek may have even better news for devoted fans of the band: “Though certainly not the same as being together in a hut in the South Pacific, it was a fantastic collaborative effort and so great to reconnect. I’m now inspired to write more Dragonz songs!”

Ladies and gentlemen, click on the video at the top of the post to enjoy the exclusive worldwide debut of the Dragonz – “Thru the Fire.”

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