I first heard Dream The Electric Sleep’s ‘Let The Light Flood In’ back in June; and was completely taken back with how up lifting a song it was. I reviewed their album ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ and gave it top makes (only the second time this year), which was a pleasure to listen to. Matt Paige (vocals/guitars) has been kind enough to answer my questions via email, giving insight into the band and their plans for the future.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Dream The Electric Sleep can you tell us about the history of the band?
Joey and I are cousins and began playing together 20 years ago when we were 16. We played in a couple bands and then in 2009 finally found a bass player that really clicked with what we were doing. Chris joined us and we formed Dream the Electric Sleep. We never set out to be a specific kind of band but rather wanted to find ways of bringing together our diverse influences and creative desires and let that lead the way.
The new album ‘Beneath the Dark Wide Sky’ is a beautiful, in it’s textures and mood. What is your writing process?
Thanks for that! We work on these songs quite a bit. We typically do 2-3 demos per song, each time fleshing it out more and more. We burn CDs and drive around for weeks really listening to each song, then coming back to the rehearsal room and exchanging notes. We are all equal writers on the songs except for the lyrics, which I work on. It takes about 8 months to write an album, then another 2-3 months in preproduction, then 2 months of recording, then we hit the release phase. That means it takes about 2 years to complete an album.
What inspired your lyrics?
‘Beneath the Dark Wide Sky’ is inspired by photographs taken of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s by American photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange worked for the United States Works Progress Admiration and hoped her photographs could be used to educate the masses (via photo essays in major news publications and magazines) to the poverty and desperate living conditions of thousands of farming families and migratory workers who lived and worked in the drought-struck American Great Plains. Lange believed photographs had the ability to shine an objective light on issues of social justice and environmental degradation and could be used to persuade and motivate social and political change.
Much of what motivated Lange motivates me as the lyricist of the band. How does art inform the way we understand the world we live in and can it motivate us to challenge and change our assumptions? I am not sure there is an easy correlation, but I am very interested in those who try to bridge the gap between art and life.
How did you come to work with Nils Karsten who designed the album cover? Did you give him a concept or did he come up with the idea himself?
Nils Karsten (http://www.nilskarsten.com/) is one of my good friends from graduate school. He is a fantastic collage artist. A couple years ago I saw him give a slide presentation of new work and I thought it was amazing. He had been a long-time supporter of the band and I asked if he would be interested in making some collages for the album cover and he was thrilled by the idea. I sent him some really rough demos and he began sending me collages. He probably sent 15 or 20 of them over a two-month period. When I saw the collage we finally decided to use, I knew it was the one, and the rest of the band agreed. We are so happy with what Nils has contributed to this project. He really captured the feel of what we wanted the album to look and feel like.
I read that you all have day jobs, how do you balance DTES with this?
That is true. Almost all the bands I know have to hold day jobs or at least temporary jobs. I am a Professor of Art at the University of Kentucky where I teach digital media and design, Joey is in real estate, and Chris is an art director at a sports design company. The music business is bleak. There just isn’t a lot of money in rock these days. I know some musicians do this “full-time” but live at the poverty level with no savings, no retirement, no home. When you are in your 20’s that might work, but the older you get, the realities of life set in and the real challenge is figuring out a sustainable music practice that allows for great creative output without sacrificing all other aspects of life. We have worked hard to understand how to move this project forward with limited time and resources without burning out. I think we are great examples of the new rock musician. Of course we would love to make a living at this but we understand the pressures of the business and life more these days and have reoriented our trajectory accordingly. It is sad for me to see so many bands still suffering under the delusions of a dead music model. So many musicians are still operating as if it were still the 1980’s or 1990’s. I realize the cultural forces at play have shifted us all into a new music paradigm, and if you don’t know how that paradigm is functioning, it is hard to navigate it sustainably and without losing your dreams or your mind!
Will you be bringing your live show to the uk?
We would love to come to the UK! Of course so much depends on how well the album does, and the demand to have us over. We would love to tour the world but I think all music fans need to realize the enormous constraints most bands exists under. There is almost no real financial support available, and if you are accepting this support from a label, it can be at a great financial and creative price. Most bands I talk to sign 360 deals for a tiny advance, little to no tour support, everything has to be paid back with the few points one has on an album which is close to impossible, and then you have no rights to your music anymore. That is a bitter pill. If a band could go to a bank and get a big enough loan, they could fund these things, but of course take on a huge financial risk. That why a label takes so much! They hold the risk. Of course this makes them more hesitant to fully fund a project too. These are all big generalizations and there are some bands who have found ways around these issues, but they really are few and far between.
What is your favourite song to perform live?
I think we all love playing ‘Black Wind’. It has such great dynamic energy live and the bridge section of the song gives me a chance to step away from the mic and play my heart out.
What would be your dream tour to be a part of?
There are too many to pick just one! We would love to play with Failure, The Life and Times, Crippled Black Phoenix, Doves, Opeth, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Ghost, Torche, Mastodon, Devin Townsend, or Big Wreck. That’s a pretty wide list but we have lots of bands we love!
Do you have a favourite album of 2016 yet?
Not yet… still listening for it!
What are you current thoughts on the music industry?
I don’t know anyone personally making a living from original music. The business seems to be in disarray and the bands, even if they are making money, aren’t making enough to live a sustainable life. It is a sad thing to think about for me. Every band I talk to tells the same story. They make almost no money on the road, the labels typically get any profits from album sales, there is no money in streaming etc… Things may change, but it is dark out here. I think music lovers would be shocked if they could really see behind the glossy photos in magazines. It might look like things are like they used to be. The image of the business tries to maintain a successful front, but behind the curtain, there is some whacked out stuff taking place!
What are your plans for the future?
In the short term we are hoping to tour Europe more and begin working on the next album. In the long term our philosophy is to move forward at a steady pace in a sustainable way. We want to make as many albums as we can together and this means taking care of the project and each other first. It is a different music world today and we are learning to live in it with a different perspective. We want to contribute as much music to the world as we can, just like those musicians that inspired us have done. I am very excited about the future of this project!