INTERVIEW

Even a band with a rolling cast has to have at least one member who sticks around. Weird Dreams have two.

weirddreams

It’s been well over a year since we first chatted to the entrancing pop outfit Weird Dreams. Then they’d only been together for three months and have since gained a fourth member, guitarist James Wignall, then lost him, and are about to lose bassist Hugo Edwards too. They’ve released their second EP, ‘Hypnagogic Lullaby’, toured with seminal college rock idol and Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, and are about to bring out their debut album ‘Choreography’.

“After we did a tour with Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks our guitarist moved on,” explains Doran Edwards, the earnest frontman of the duo, before quickly reiterating, “to another band… he didn’t die. So we got a new guitarist and our bass player is leaving after this War On Drugs tour [which ends at The Great Escape on May 11], but we have another bass player. We started the band as me and Craig [Bowers, drums] and we like the idea of there being a rotating line-up with the guitar and bass. If it sticks it’s cool, but it’s nice to keep that singular vision with two people.”

We’re sat in Doran’s studio flat, which is right by a train station, so you can hear commuters rattling past every few minutes. There’s bric-a-brac everywhere and animal pictures on the wall, beneath which sit the two men that keep this vision of Weird Dreams alive. It’s fascinating to see them in their normal attire, with tattoos caking their arms, considering that the last time we met they were decked out in Twin Peaks themed outfits for Halloween 2010, Craig swathed in an Indian headdress and Doran soaked in fake blood.

As well as the band, these guys still have day jobs, not to mention the indie label Sleep All Day that Craig founded and maintains. “Yep, I’m busy all the time,” he confirms, “but it’s cool. It’s worth working for a while and hopefully that’ll pay off, but it’s good to keep your feet on the ground.”

Can they imagine a time when the music will support them?

“Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll just keep imagining that,” Doran kids. “When you start thinking of it as a career, though, I think that’s when the music will start getting cheap, because you’re putting the wrong focus on it. I’d rather do a full time job for as long as possible. Especially nowadays, it’s not like in the ’80s and ’90s when there were huge amounts of money being given out all the time. But maybe that means there’s not as much shit around.”

In the near-two-year span that Weird Dreams have been a band, they’ve learnt a lot about the music industry, although Doran admits that he already knew a huge amount about it. “No surprises to me,” he starts, “it’s still great. Then, when you play with people like Stephen Malkmus and War On Drugs, you learn so much. Especially Malkmus, as a person, who’s toured for 25 years now. You’ve really got to watch those kind of people and enjoy the fact that they know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not just about being tight or a performer, there’s something about the way the band sounds every single night – I find it amazing that they can carry the same energy.”

Doran and Craig bagged a spot on the Malkmus tour because their agent put them forward for it, but the man himself picks who he wants to play with “and he chose us, so that was nice,” utters Doran, who also tells me that through this they ended up driving across the Swiss Alps (“one of the most incredible things I’ve seen”) where they found themselves in an odd venue in Switzerland. “We had this broom cupboard as a dressing room and it had blue walls and the most crude graffiti I’ve ever seen,” Doran continues. “It was a woman’s body with penises for limbs. It was artistic but just disgusting. We got really crazy that night and I remember drawing a penis that went all the way round the top of the room and I remember our friend holding my leg and playing it as a guitar on the dance floor to Rammstein or something.” He cringes at the thought of the tour antics they never thought they were capable of but seem to have transferred to the War On Drugs stint, which one night in Bristol involved “three bottles of rum and 24 cans of beer” between five of them. But in terms of the gig, the duo were blown away.

“War On Drugs were incredible actually, I’m still not over that,” Doran recounts in awe. “I love the latest album and the thing I most related to Weird Dreams was the textures and pulsating sounds – and live it was just so good, wasn’t it?” He directs to Craig, who agrees.

“It was like that every night,” he says. “I think the UK part of the tour was probably show number 60 for them, but they were playing it like it was their first. They got lost in the music, it was amazing. For us it was really influential to see.”

“I think that’s the thing that we’ve learnt over the last two tours,” Doran continues. “And also with doing an album – you start to understand the depth that you can get. Because I’ve always wanted to keep it minimal, but I’ve realised that in production there are a lot of things you have to do for it to still sound minimal. Like the guitar part – you think, ‘Ok, let’s just have one guitar there’. However, a band like War On Drugs – they’ve got samples of ambient sounds, then a keyboard player and all this noise that makes up all these layers. So yeah, we need more layers on the new Weird Dreams stuff.”

Bearing in mind they finished ‘Choreography’ at the end of August 2011, new material isn’t something they’re shy of. “I’ve written about 40 tracks since the last album,” Doran enthuses, “but I haven’t had time to record them properly. So, on my phone I have hundreds and hundreds of memos trying to map it all together, but it’s not good for you to have unfinished work. Having a deadline is really good for me. I sit around playing my guitar most of my spare time – I think it’s much more exciting to get an initial idea than to finish it.

“I’ve recorded a couple of demos recently for the first time in six months and what we we’re saying about how you evolve and learn, it’s pretty interesting. For me it’s amazing how much I’ve learnt since the last record, because already I don’t think there’s much space on the album. It’s got a lot of parts all of the time – which in itself is cool – but I think the next one will have a bit more room in it and take its time.”

Also,” adds Craig, “taking all these influences from being on tour with other bands and learning about our instruments more, just giving it that space to become something new again.”

“Maybe we should focus on this album and not worry about the space on the second one yet,” laughs Doran and he’s probably right, seeing as it’s not even out until April 2nd. The delay can be put down to the band, who wanted to “do it justice” and ensure ‘Choreography’ had ample time to build excitement in the press.

It was recorded at Palace Studios with modish east London producer Rory Attwell, although the band produced it themselves, not entirely due to a lack of funding. “Regardless, it would have been self-produced,” Craig assures as Doran describes the process.

“I think I would have just got into an argument about it because I know exactly how I want each bit to sound,” he says. “I’d love to work with a producer that I know I can work with, but I’ve had experiences in the past where that’s not been the case and it can get really ugly. I can see the faults in the record from there not being a proper producer there, but I think that’s good for your first record, that’s how it should be.

“But what I was saying, about having a singular vision and wanting to keep it that way, it wasn’t an option for me to have someone else produce it. And financially, it was a lot more viable. I would love to work with someone on the next record. I really would. Because I wrote everything myself and did all the demos, then when we were recording I did my guitar, bass, some second guitar, vocals and three-part harmonies for all the songs, and being there for every second to make sure every note is played in the right way is really tiring. I hit the wall quite hard in the middle, which sounds crazy because it should just be fun, but I wanted it in a certain way so much that it took its toll. A labour of love it was, that record. But hopefully you can hear that.”

From start to finish, ‘Choreography’ is a clear indication of how Weird Dreams have grown as a band since their formation in July 2010. A record that combines gushing doo-wop instrumentation and the indie classicisms of The Shins with unsavoury social topics and a certain amount of psychedelia, it starts off fast-paced and urgent, with more of an upbeat tone than the skewed ballads that approach towards the end, like ‘Little Girl’ (one of the oldest songs) and the last track Doran wrote, ‘Choreography’, named so because Doran’s mum used to be a dance teacher.

“When I was really young,” he clarifies, “she was doing a masters or a degree in contemporary dance and my nursery was on the campus, so I was always there. I remember the grounds of the polytechnic – it had these rolling hills; it was quite amazing. My grandma would always pick me up and I remember spending a lot of time sitting in the studios watching my mum teach and a lot of the music they used was Philip Glass, Kate Bush and things like that, and I remember the movements were really interesting. There’s a weightlessness about it – a lot of twisting and letting people fall into your arms – and when I think of all of the songs on the album, they have a lot of meaning and metaphors. There is a theme, but it’s not trying to tell a story. Choreography reminded me of growing up and seemed to sum it all up. I think that it’s also a really beautiful word.”

There’s certainly a leitmotif running through Weird Dreams’ songcraft. Their whole sonic aesthetic basically encompasses that bit in old school films when someone is daydreaming and the scene ripples into their fantasy, but with each track, individual visions are conjured. “It feels to us like it’s a seamless collection of songs,” proffers Craig. “When you listen to it, the texture of sounds carry on through the whole thing. That was our intention the whole way through,” he states as Doran mentions that it’s funny it worked out that way because the songs are from different EPs. “I think the first EP and the second are quite different, which we did on purpose,” he declares. “Everyone was talking about beach music and even though I’m a really big Beach Boys fan that really pissed me off. We live in east London – there’s not a beach for hundreds of miles and at that point it was getting really cold, it was a shitty winter so we wanted to make a darker album. It was seasonally affected. So the two best songs from both EPs are on an album with newer tracks.”

“It’s all part of what we are,” Craig justifies. “It doesn’t sound completely alien from the first track we ever recorded to the last track we did. It’s all Weird Dreams.”

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