Dreamdecay and the Giant Leap Forward That Is ‘YU’
Sometimes it's immediate, like lightning. And sometimes it's a steadily building slow burn. In the case of Dreamdecay, its both.
Crafted painstakingly over the course of four years, Dreamdecay's follow-up to their debut LP, N V N V N V, arrived earlier this year, forged from the pain of lineup changes, song restructuring and years of live shows. Recorded over several sessions that varied from single tracking to full live band, the results are immediate, urgent and — most importantly — fantastic.
YÚ is the band's latest effort, available now via Iron Lung. Themes of alienation, conformity and dissolution are the primary conduit for the record, filtered through thundering post-punk and drug-induced Krautrock grooves. It's a massive achievement, and quietly one of the most interesting records of the year. The live show is no joke either.
On a short stint of East Coast dates, primary songwriters Justin Gallego, Jason Clackley and Alex Gaziano sat down to discuss the ideas behind the new LP. The results from that conversation, and a full stream of the album, is below.
Coming off your first LP, lets talk about the making of YÚ. What were you trying to achieve? It seems like a huge step forward.
Justin Gallego: I think that there was growth in the band. Alex actually helped us record N V, and then joined the band soon after, and it was just how the writing evolved. Nothing needed to be fixed, but things sort of moved in a way, naturally. Just being able to write with a second guitar player was a huge difference for the band; we were a three-piece for a long time, so we wrote a lot differently. The addition of Alex affected what we were doing and the whole vibe.
Jason Clackley: We were able to write more rhythmic stuff. N V has a lot of single-note guitar stuff, and the bass lays out the melodic rhythm. This time, we could have one person doing more lead-oriented stuff while someone else did more rhythm-oriented stuff.
JG: There were certain Krautrock elements that have always been a big thing for us. So, approaching repetition in different ways was good for us. Rhythmic repetition — though specifically, not just on the heavy spectrum.
JC: That’s one intentional departure from N V: We are more interested in dynamics in a song, and aren’t trying to specifically be heavy. Dynamics are much more important.
Alex Gaziano: Definitely. Like, we didn’t want too many fast songs; we wanted a variety of types because it was all going to sound like us anyway.
When you were creating this band — you know, putting the ad on the coffeehouse bulletin board — what were some of the ideas that you highlighted?
AG: I joined the band five years ago, but I think that we are always trying to create tension and release tension … that’s our biggest focus. I feel like songwriting with this band, it’s less about what we do like and more about what we don’t like. So, there are a lot of times when something will come out of us, and we’ll be like, “We can’t do that.”
Absolutely. To be fair, even if you love something, the last thing you want is to sound exactly like it. That said, there's a lot of post-punk in there, some Krautrock, Hawkwind … I think as far as modern bands, someone might compare you to Total Control meets Destruction Unit or something. There are bands that sound like yours, in a wider sense, that might want to play gigs with Spoon, and then there are bands like Total Control that want to play with Boston Strangler. Where do you want to take this?
JC: I think that we like to explore and play with all sorts of different bands.
JG: Growing up in Seattle and even being a part of Iron Lung, which is a community that we are proud to be a part of, we don’t necessarily feel like we need to fit in any sort of box. We are open to anything and don’t feel like we need to keep it punk in any sense.
AG: We just all just come from DIY, so that’s who we’ve been a part of naturally. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t open to literally anything — genre, scene, whatever. That’s kind of why we like Iron Lung, too, because there is a surprising amount of variety. It’s kind of a label where we don’t feel pigeonholed.
NYC’s DIY community is facing a lot of hard times lately with the closing of venues, especially in the wake of the fatal fire at Ghost Ship in Oakland. How has Seattle’s DIY scene fostered you, and what is the current climate of DIY in 2017?
JG: Jason and I lived in a house that did shows, and we were part of the DIY community. Alex in much the same way.
JC: The area has always been very vibrant with all-ages and DIY spaces, for a very long time. More than any other city in America. We are pretty spoiled.
AG: So, it’s no real surprise when there are new, good bands all the time. I feel the spaces are getting more open than ever, too: more inclusive and less elitist.
JG: In the same breath, there is no real safe haven for that sort of activity. But we do feel like … even booking this tour, the two places we booked in Boston both got shut down right after each other. So, we feel lucky that Seattle feels less under pressure than other cities.
JC: Even when we’ve dealt with the cops, they’ve come to us and said, “Oh, this is a good thing you do for the kids. We gotta run and take care of this drug thing over here.” So, it’s a rock town, in a way. [Laughs]
As for the new album, three songs were recorded with your last guitar player, and then you sort of pieced the rest of it together after that?
JG: We basically had the album written before we recorded, and we did the record in two chunks. One of them was the more upbeat songs that we thought would be better live and in one take. So, those are the songs that Nick plays on. After that, we were refiguring the songs out, because they didn’t work as a three-piece.
AG: So, we reworked that stuff as a three-piece, with the idea that eventually we’d add another guitar player. During the course of that, we learned new material and it felt new again. We recorded the first part ourselves and the second part was with Morgan Travis, who also mixed. We worked really hard trying to make it sound like us, and it came together really nicely.
What are some of the ideas and themes that are explored on the new LP?
JG: This is the first record that we’ve done that was more cohesive and intentional. I didn’t draw from any other influence, really — more from personal experience, growing up. I guess the theme that we outline that YÚ symbolizes [is] being between two separate cultures, and finding identity between the two. For me, it represents being a Mexican-American and growing up in the Southwest, which is where I’m from. There is a navigation of identity that you have to find about existing in both cultures, Mexican and American. It’s really hard to be one or the other. That navigation of finding your place.
Did you feel alienation growing up as an American in a family where another culture was prevalent?
JG: I was around mostly Mexican and Mexican-American kids, between my friends and family in Arizona. Then I moved to Washington in the eighth grade and was totally eaten alive, into a suburb of Seattle that was 99.999 percent white. Middle school is hard enough, and trying to figure out if you are “the brown kid” ... At the other end of it, me being Mexican-American, there were legitimacy issues with being Mexican. Not feeling Mexican enough. For instance, I don’t speak Spanish — my family does, but I don’t. That’s a huge point of contention I hold against myself.
That’s very interesting that you say that. There are many immigrants to the U.S. who wanted their kids to assimilate, so they didn’t teach their children their native language in hopes that English became their primary language.
AG: That’s sort of why we discussed that as a broader theme in general — because so many people have that experience. It might not even be with nationality or culture. It could literally be anything. Not feeling enough in one place or another and figuring out how you fit in. Even on the level of music, maybe not feeling punk enough or fitting neatly into one box. And I think the music also fits the theme as well. It’s an amalgamation of lots of different influences and ideas into a single band. We feel that about the songs and the album and everything.
How does YÚ specifically fit this overarching concept of alienation and finding your own path?
AG: When we were thinking of names we liked, originally we loved the name You. So, when Justin was sharing all of his ideas and lyrics, we would brainstorm to help think of some thematic idea. So, we thought of the word “tu,” which is you in Spanish, and then we thought we should combine them because that fits the theme of the record even better. Then we saw visually it made sense, too, with the Venn diagram as well.
What’s next for the band?
JG: We’re finishing this tour, and then we want to show off this record as much as possible. We’re really proud of it. Just trying to figure that out right now. We want to do a lot with the record. Go to Japan and Europe ... we’ve hit a stride with the band where we are really proud of the record and want to work hard behind it.