Interview with Dream Boat

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Greetings Page and Dan! I’ve had the good fortune to hear your upcoming sophomore album, The Rose Explodes, in its entirety, and wow, what a sublimely swoon-worthy beauty… It will be released via Cloud Recordings and Arrowhawk in September. What are the vibes like for you during this interim?

Page: Thanks for the complement! We are already neck deep in recording for our third album – so we’ve been focusing a lot of attention on new music. We didn’t really take a break between finishing The Rose Explodes and starting on the next one, so it has been really nice to revisit The Rose – to listen to it again and write about it. So I guess the vibes are rad!

Dan:  We have been recording pretty solidly since we started so we are sitting on a ton of material. Right now there is no in between time for us which is good. Sitting and waiting are not my strong suits.

While your 2012 debut, Eclipsing, is based on the same template of stringed instruments and quietly haunting vocals, you’ve really kicked it up quite a few notches on The Rose Explodes, immersing your songs in yearningly poignant vocals, hypnotic synth grooves, and at times propulsive percussion. What spurred such a change in the texture and intensity of your creations?

Page:  We changed the way we were writing some of the music for the songs, which are less acoustic than they were on the first album. It used to start with my little parlor guitar, but now there are more options for us. Dan acquired some new synths in the last couple years and started writing more melodies on them, and exploring sounds that were more bass tones – thick and percussive. The collaboration between myself and Dan has also become richer, and we’ve really figured out how to blend our ideas. We’ve been listening to more hip-hop lately, too. It’s definitely been a natural progression – there were lots of songs that didn’t make the cut for either Eclipsing or The Rose Explodes, where you can hear the transition between the styles. One day we will put those out, too!

Dan:  When we first started writing songs it was very much just a guitar and a voice. As we got a bit more settled in I set up a studio with some old synths that I had from years back and just started to explore sounds and moods for songs. We got a few new toys and I built up the Blue Room which is the lab for all our experimenting. The Blue Room has changed how songs start for sure. I usually just record snippets, small little sketches, and then we build them up in the studio with the whole band. Mixing the organic and synthetic has always important for me. I like it when sounds are unidentifiable, there is a serious lack of mystery in the world today.

Page:  The Blue Room is the best.

You both have roots in the Athens, GA psych scene and Dan, I think you’re connected closely to Elephant 6 and its offshoots. What are your ties to this collective?

Dan:  I guess I was lucky enough to be around during the Athens chapter of the elephant six story. It was something that seems to have always existed and never existed at the same time. I was very fresh-faced and excited to meet the other freaks in town. I think it was really powerful to be around because the energy was really exciting and transformative. It helped me see that you didn’t need a “band” to make a record and you didn’t have to be a virtuoso to make music. This all existed before blogs and cell phones, and way before laptop recording so it was knowledge being shared and history being made and collected by those who really treasured it. Jeff had a tape of Os Mutantes and it made its way around, and I remember how special that was. Tiny treasures being passed around and everyone being mystified together in a room. To me those were the best moments when a whole room had their minds blown collectively. It was pretty magical to have that many geniuses just hanging around.

Page, you’re also in the band Hope for Agoldensummer. Are currently active in that band or is it on hiatus while you’re working with Dan as Dream Boat?

Page:  I am still active with Hope – we still tour and we just started recording our next album, which is very exciting. I share that band with my sister Claire, and we’ve been singing together since we were tiny children, so I know we will always make music together. She plays in Dream Boat too – some of the vocals on the DB albums are hers, and she plays saw and guitar, as well.

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You’ve lined up several collaborators for The Rose Explodes. Which artists contributed to your album?

Page:  We had so many friends come in to add their talents. Many of them are Elephant Six- related, but all of them are very accomplished and creative musicians. John Fernandes, Dottie Alexander, James Huggins, Scott Spillane, Kris Deason, Claire Campbell, Andrew Reiger, SJ Ursrey, and Suny Lyons. Suny is our engineer at Pop Heart, but he is also a very talented musician, so we are lucky to get to make stuff with him.

What kinds of stringed instruments are you playing on the album? I can hear they’re not ‘guitars’, but I can’t aurally pick out the instruments because they’re blended in with the dreamy synth sounds.

Page:  There are many different guitars and guitar players on this album, as well as violin (both strummed and plucked). I really like playing guitar with an ebow. There’s also a beautiful wooden marimba on several tracks, which sometimes sounds like a plucked stringed instrument to me.

To my ears, your album radiates with the diffused golden glow of a fading summer day due to the alt-folk-style stringed instrument strumming, space-gazing synth propulsion, and forlornly joyous, languid vocal refrains. While recording the songs, were you attuned to seasonal changes or does the overall mood have more to do with the aching lyrics of love and loss?

Dan:  I am not sure what influence the season had on this. I did write a lot of this in the dead of winter but it is hard to say; a lot of the year can feel like winter in Wisconsin. I think in theory we might be an autumn band but we will make a summer record someday. We need to write a summer album to get us through the winter.

Page:  We worked on these songs for over a year, so I think we went through all the seasons while writing the music. I love the spaced out, strummy summer sound that you are describing – I don’t know if we meant for it to reflect any season, but I am glad you hear that.

The imagery your album title conjures up is that of the rose being a symbol of love and its subsequent destruction. Are the themes of your song lyrics all about relationships, or can we extrapolate the concept to life itself and its inevitable demise?

Dan:  I think I try and write from the perspective that the personal is universal. I think all moments no matter how small reflect a much bigger picture and I think the songs I write are glimpses of that. I think I am always struggling with the thought of inevitable demise and what I am doing to truly live in the face of it.

Page:  I only wrote lyrics for a couple of songs on this album. “Way Out” I wrote in the middle of the night, as I was coming out of a dream. I’m lucky I got to record it, or else it would’ve been forgotten. The garageband app is great for that sort of 3am impulse harmonizing. I think when I write, it is more about thinking back on very specific experiences, or about moments of clarity that I have about my life. To me, Dan’s writing seems more meditative and visual, and more about the big picture of existence.

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Whew, OK, sorry for that downer, or at least ponderous, question! Here’s a lighter question for you – What are some songs that put a smile on your face? I don’t follow mainstream music that much, but “Happy” by Pharrell Williams does put me in a good mood. And maybe I shouldn’t admit this either, but “Dirty Love” by Johnny Weir makes me smile…

Page:  Wait Johnny Weir recorded a song? Sold. About an hour ago I was walking and I smiled while listening to the song “Blue Light” by Mazzy Star on repeat. “Big White Cloud” by John Cale. Anything by Little Richard makes me smile. “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls.

Dan:  I like Pharrell a lot- and “Happy” is basically science at work- but I think of this summer and happiness, and for me it has to be William Oneyeabor. I can’t not smile and spin around when I hear it. I love joy in music. That’s why I love hip hop. It started as a party. Music is there for the party and it’s there for the crash and eventually the pick-me-back-up. Music is the everything every day.

I read on your Facebook site that you scored an episode of American Horror Story. How did that come about? Do you watch that show regularly or much TV at all? I’ve been watching Hannibal for Mads Mikkelsen’s mesmerizing performance as Hannibal Lecter, but the depictions of extreme violence is not my cup of tea. The show’s director/cinematographer, however, does turn the darkness, deviance, and depravity into a visual art form.

Page:  I haven’t had a chance to see Hannibal, but I’m sure it’s disturbing and gross! We actually did not score an episode of American Horror Story, but just a promo, for the newest season. It was only one song, and it was written to add a kind of gritty rock n’ roll vibe to all of this great footage of New Orleans. Our friend and biggest fan, Jason Miller, shoots for FX and has hired us to do a couple things like that for them. We were so happy to do this one because we love New Orleans and I really think Jason captured some of its magic in that piece.

Dan:  The idea of scoring has been exciting since I started out as more of a lyricist. Right now we are sort of scoring a film in our heads that may or not be realized but I am realizing that you are always scoring somebody’s own mental movie if you are writing music. I think that has changed how we approach songs and writing lyrics, actually. I am now trying to describe a scene instead of just a feeling which opens a lot of sound options.

Will you be shooting any videos and/or going on tour for this album?

Dan:  We are working on a few videos now, and are starting to plan a tour schedule to back The Rose Explodes as well as the next album. It will be an adventure, I hope.

Lastly, can you please provide your official site(s) so we can find out more about you and your music? Thanks so much!

Our official band website is www.dreamboatsound.com and The Rose Explodes can be preordered via Cloud, at http://cloudrecordings.com/order.html or www.cloudrecordings.com