Getting Attacked by Miles Davis: an Interview with The Grand Candy’s Dan Cohn

The Grand Candy’s Dan “Pluto” Cohn leads a life full of music. The band’s debut album launches this Thursday.

By Shelby Robinson

Photo courtesy of Dan Cohn and The Grand Candy.


Midway through our interview, Dan “Pluto” Cohn’s cat, Miles Davis, violently throws himself onto me, biting my leg trying to inspire play. In a way, Miles’ relentless energy and passion for playing is reflective of his owner, the only difference being that the “playing” Cohn does involves a guitar. 

Cohn is the founding member and main orchestrator of The Grand Candy, a local band that appeals to many different genres including rock, jazz, blues and at times, folk.

Having returned to playing in a group for the first formal time since his band Grits in 2000, Cohn and “The Candy” are about to release their debut album, “NSFW,” on Thursday.

In the suburbs of Falls Church, Cohn rocks out in his basement studio. In a way that keeps his jazz training in mind, Cohn violently throws himself into rock and roll with an ever-changing sound. 

Cohn moved to Arlington in 2001, making music in the District and touring occasionally. Around this time, he decided to take up the profession of both of his parents and become a teacher.

 In addition to using his basement venue-studio for band practice, Cohn also teaches a rock-and-roll music class for adults called Jam Class.

 “It’s like ‘School of Rock’ except everybody’s 30 and has multiple graduate degrees,” he says.

 Through Jam Class, Cohn has contributed to the sounds of several local musicians, such as Margot McDonald, Scott Kurt and a few guitarists from the band Mittenfields.

 Although Cohn teaches and plays rock and roll now, he actually studied jazz at the New England Conservatory, which is where he met The Grand Candy drummer Jon Babu.

 In part because of his jazz roots, Cohn said he believes that every live performance should be a unique experience.

 “For me the song exists outside of the recording. And it can be a little bit this way on a particular day and a little that way on another particular day, and that’s one of the things I like to capture at live shows.

 “Jack White said ‘Great music is never safe or predictable, and I agree with that. In a live performance I want the audience to be on the edge of their seat wondering what’s going to happen.”

 The Grand Candy’s upcoming show and NSFW release at The Iota Club in Arlington is sure to be about as surprising as a cat attack, though with a much better soundtrack.