Rock 'n' Roll is Philosophy and This is Ours: Introducing Dreamers

Simon Ramsay 24 September 2019

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new favourite band and have your checklist at the ready. You want to hear a group who effortlessly incorporate classic rock ‘n’ roll, grunge, electronica, psychedelia, hip hop and power-pop into a shimmering skyline of modern delights. A collective that boast hooks the size of asteroids, indie dancefloor grooves and lyrics that offer a little more intellectual depth than your average pop clone. If that’s the case, Dreamers may be the band you’re looking for. 

On their delightfully trippy, and amusingly retro website, the fast-rising Los Angeles trio have set out their ambitions courtesy of a grandiose manifesto that shows they clearly aren’t happy to tread water or toe any kind of line. “We are impractical,” it reads. “We do not listen to those that doubt us. We push the boundaries. We believe that nothing is impossible. We rewrite the rules. We create. We are boundless. We are enchanted. We are asleep to the waking world. We are Dreamers.”

Formed in 2014, guitarist Nick Wold, bassist Marc Nelson and drummer Jacob Lee Wick have enjoyed a quick rise since releasing the cheekily titled ‘This Album Does Not Exist’ in 2016, which arrived alongside noteworthy support slots with everyone from Stone Temple Pilots and Weezer to Catfish and the Bottlemen. 

But if that was a promising bow, this year’s ‘Launch Fly Land’ has defied any kind of sophomore jinx to stand tall as one of the most well-rounded, supremely crafted and accessible records of 2019. It’s an eclectic and thought-provoking piece of ear candy that reflects the rollercoaster ride of sinusoidal emotions the band have been on since their debut dropped.  

Ahead of their forthcoming UK tour, where they’ll be supporting the Night Cafe on an extensive old school trek, we spoke to Wold about that mightily impressive record, discussed how the band have developed their unique sonic signature and got a little more insight into the aforementioned proclamation.

Can you begin by explaining the thought process behind your manifesto?

With a name like Dreamers we figured we should explain what we meant by that. Basically, we think the role of an artist in society is to be a dreamer, an imaginer who wants to think ahead, try stuff, evaluate and kind of sit, like the fool on the hill, looking at everyone else while they’re busy at work. That’s what we strive to be and why we took that name. We want to attract dreamers and self-described dreamers to us. Part of it comes from John Lennon singing ‘I’m a dreamer’. We wanted to put ourselves in that mindset and be a part of that human process. We made that manifesto and said: “This is it. Rock 'n' roll is philosophy and this is our philosophy.”

Can you expand on that idea of rock ‘n’ roll as philosophy? 

I think that’s just my entrance to it. When I was a kid I learned how to be a good person and a cool person from real artists like John Lennon. He was always talking about peace, making a movement around that, and talking about Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Kurt Cobain was talking about meatheads and homophobes and rape and asking questions such as ‘How might we live?’ In rock ‘n’ roll you can learn how to live and, for me, that was one of the main draws to making it. Like ‘I don’t know how to live and I want to figure it out, figure out what works in music and ideas and keep going.’

I believe that, as a band, you’re all obsessed with sleep and dreams and those specific words are tellingly peppered throughout your lyrics. Why are you so in thrall to it?

That’s the beautiful double meaning of Dreamers, which is why we like the name. It’s your goals and aspirations, but also those crazy trips you have every night. For no reason other than fascination I was always obsessed with dreams and practised techniques of how to lucid dream. I always had vivid ones so I write about that. It can be crazy light shows and lots of beautiful worlds and ideas and there’s a lot of inspiration in that. 

You’ve described making ‘Launch Fly Land’ as a ‘crazy labour of love,’  yet it sounds so vibrant, effortless and immediate. Why was it so challenging?

We called it that because we were going through these crazy things in our lives; personal tragedies and successes and break ups. It kind of started as a break up album and eventually became about what it’s like to go through something and come out the other side a better person. As I said, rock ‘n’ roll is philosophy to us so we want it to be fun but, at the same time, have deeper things we’re saying. It’s about us figuring out our lives as we do it.  So we put it out in three parts, there was ‘Launch’ and then ‘Fly’, those were the EPs, and the third part was the full album. That was the landing phase, getting over it, falling in love with the love song again, and it has a happier tone at the end there.   

Your hooks are huge, radio friendly and catchy.  How much time do you put into making them as immediate and memorable as possible?

That’s probably the first thing I think about when writing a song and the most important thing for me. I always love music that could be simpler, especially as I studied jazz when I was a kid and it was so complex. I feel like my whole rock ‘n’ roll experience has been a process of simplifying. That’s another reason I love Smells Like Teen Spirit. It seems so simple, like a children’s song, yet it contains all this depth when you think about it.   

What can you tell me about Listen Out Loud, which blends spoken, almost laid back rapping, verses and an earworm chorus with a strong rhythmic flow?

That’s the first time I’ve gone kind of speak-y and is kind of an LSD perspective song. I’d been going through all this stuff, being stuck in my head and trapped in my theory all the time. Then, all of a sudden, I get a perspective shift. Either by a mind expanding drug or running into a friend I haven’t seen in years. Whatever it is, all of a sudden the answers are just there for me. Like a blade of grass. If you look at it and suddenly it becomes beautiful, whereas a moment before it was not. It’s just about opening your eyes and ears and seeing what’s been there all along.  

Do drugs form part of your creative process?

I’ve never had success while writing on drugs, being drunk or anything like that. I always write sober, but it has definitely helped me have experiences and think about life. I like to do psychedelics every now and then, every few months or so. I feel like it gives me a lot of perspective and creative drive. It seems to teach you things about your brain, yourself and your perception that are really profound.

How hard was it to develop without merely imitating your influences, especially when there’s not a lot of new ground to cover?

It’s all been done, right? It’s hard at first because you’re inspired by your favourite bands and sound exactly like them because that’s who you loved.  My first band sounded like the Strokes or Nirvana and I think it’s just a process of, over time, realising you’re not that artist you love and you have a different brain and different desires. Eventually you find it and there’s no way to do it other than just writing a thousand songs to uncover it. 

Was there one song that was like a ‘Eureka!’ moment for the band, where you realised you’d found that sound?

I don’t think so because there’s different things I want. Die Happy was the perfect way to start the ‘Land’ phase for us as I was falling in love with early Beatles again. Like ‘Oh yeah, these songs are joyful and about love.’  That was perfect for that moment and then, at other times, I want to make a grungy, fucked up, angry, sad song. The Beatles are our mutual favourites and one of the bands that has the widest repertoire. They’ll have a super happy song, a super messed up one and I like it when bands can do different moods. 

I recently saw a documentary on punk where Billie Joe Armstrong said ‘we’re now living in a post genre world.’ People have slapped many different labels on you, but they all feel reductive as there’s many different styles and sounds, from many different eras, pulsing through your songs.  Does Armstrong’s statement resonate with you?

I completely agree with that. We had to discover it because we were kind of tortured at first, like what genre are we? We were trying to throw ourselves in a box and in the past you had to, to get an audience. But the more we talk to young people and this generation, they don’t identify with a genre any more.  Like ‘I am punk’ or ‘I am disco’. People have playlists of everything and they just like good music. If you mix it up you can start making great music, whatever that is. There’s a lot of different stuff that we like and that’s a happy result of the internet age.   

Has there been anything you’ve tried to incorporate that hasn’t worked?

Yeah, we’ve tried a million things. We’ll write 50 songs, release nine of them, and the other ones are like ‘nice try.’ That’s why some of our earlier songs sounded more ‘80s. We were trying to sound like Tom Petty or Rick Springfield and then we would do a Kraftwerk thing and it never worked. In the end I just always ended up coming back to the music I was obsessed with in my formative years, which was ‘90s grunge. That was kind of the guiding light. In Seattle we didn’t have Jesus, we had Kurt Cobain. Maybe that’s what keeps me grounded.

Where do you envisage you’ll take your music in future?

I’d be the last person to answer that well because I don’t know. I think it’s a process of discovery. I saw an interview with David Bowie where he said ‘You go out into the water, just past where your feet can touch and you can barely feel the bottom with your tiptoes. Right about there is where you start to find something interesting.’ I think we’ll keep trying weird shit like we always have until we slowly figure out where it’s taking us.

 The Night Cafe/Dreamers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 25 2019 - NORWICH Waterfront
Thu September 26 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute Birmingham
Fri September 27 2019 - CARDIFF Tramshed
Sat September 28 2019 - BRISTOL SWX
Mon September 30 2019 - OXFORD O2 Academy2 Oxford
Tue October 01 2019 - READING Sub 89
Thu October 03 2019 - SOUTHAMPTON 1865
Fri October 04 2019 - LONDON Electric Ballroom
Mon October 07 2019 - CAMBRIDGE Junction
Tue October 08 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed October 09 2019 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sat October 12 2019 - SHEFFIELD Plug
Sun October 13 2019 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Riverside
Tue October 15 2019 - ABERDEEN Tunnels
Wed October 16 2019 - GLASGOW SWG3
Thu October 17 2019 - LEEDS Stylus
Fri October 18 2019 - LIVERPOOL Eventim Olympia

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