Glass talks Beach Boys and sleep terrors with Doran Edwards of the band Weird Dreams
Father, O Father! What do we here In this land of unbelief and fear? The Land of Dreams is better far.
William Blake, The Land of Dreams
Like the surrealist 1930s films of Hans Richter, the music of Doran Edwards and Craig Bowers explores the hypnagogic space between sleep and waking. Since 2010, their band Weird Dreams has – with compelling hooks, bright guitar lines and brooding lyrical undertow – established itself as one of the most original and compelling acts to have emerged in recent years. Their debut LP Choreography was released in April on Tough Love and, after a successful UK tour and international festival circuit, the now five-piece play in London this week. Can you tell us the background to Weird Dreams? The band started in 2010, with just Craig and myself, when I was 26. I'd begun working in a vintage clothes shop in London and he was already there. We'd both come out of heavier bands – metal, punk, hardcore and so on. We bonded over a love of metal, 60s girl groups and soul. David Lynch was also a big thing for us, as well as the Beach Boys. And I guess we both have a foundation of nostalgia. I was still wanting to do something a bit Nation of Ulysses, but then I got to a point when I couldn’t be bothered. Why couldn’t you be bothered? I think we both wanted to do something a lot more laid back and melodic. I didn't feel as angry as I used to. I wrote a couple of songs and we jammed them out. I grew up playing bass, but I'd never played and sung at the same time. So we got together in this rehearsal room and it was terrible. But we just kept on, learning along the way. We got four songs together and recorded an EP which was on cassette and didn't have a name. Craig released it on his Sleep All Day imprint Sleepy King Cassettes. We made 50 copies which sold out in a few days – which was cool – and then we tried to put it together live.
You got picked up by Tough Love quite early on. How did that come about? Stephen Pietrzykowski from Tough Love, now our manager, was on it straight away. We played at the label’s fifth birthday party, and as soon as the EP came out he wanted to get involved. He's such an enthusiastic person, and so reliable – you can trust him to do the right thing by the music.
You’ve supported some great bands: Girls, Stephen Malkmus, Women, and the War On Drugs. We have played with some of my favourite bands. But the thing that's started to freak me out is that we played with Women and that was their last ever London show, we played with Girls and Chris (the lead singer) has since left, so I hope we’re not the kiss of death.
What are your influences? The biggest, the most obvious, is the Beach Boys. I know it's not the most abstract influence, but it was something we loved – that rich harmonising, the overly lush sound. We wanted to do something like that. We listened to your fantastic playlist for Under The Radar. We’ve always been into the slower T. Rex and Smashing Pumpkins stuff – that kind of wooziness, and also bands like the Tammys, who were Lou Christie’s backing singers. They technically weren’t as good as some other singers at the time, they were a bit more raw. There was something slightly kind of demonic about them.
Looking at your output, imagery seems important to you. I grew up with a lot of art around. My dad was always painting. He’s a Pilates teacher and my mum was a dancer. My maternal grandparents were both jazz musicians. But I think I'm also influenced by people like David Lynch, for whom every shot is so considered. The music and the visuals are so important that it comes together as one.
Do you design your album covers? Putting them together is always quite a strange experience as I don't have a graphic design background. Though I have help from people. For Hypnogogic Lullaby and Choreography, the forest shots are not edited at all. They are perfect images. I like analogue. It's the physical process of something burning onto something. I love the grain and texture.
The band’s development happened pretty fast. It’s not that fast really, it was July 2010 when we started. It wasn't like some big label signing us. We didn't really want that. We wanted to let it grow.
So you’re aiming for longevity? Yes, we want to keep making album after album. I like it when a band get into their stride – like Grizzly Bear. Live, they're one of the most amazing spectacles. And they've been releasing on their own terms. If you get a big label stepping in too soon, it can crush the creativity and direction of the band. Weird Dreams, Hypnagogic, Sleep All Day. There seems to be a theme. When I was young, I suffered badly from insomnia. And very vivid dreams that would cross over into day-to-day life. I would wonder if I’d dreamed something or if it had really happened. I had a very troublesome time with that until I was 23. Then I moved into a new flat with my girlfriend. Every night, she would wake up and think there was someone there. And I'd always been the one with sleep terrors. So I wrote a song called Little Girl that was making fun of her a bit. It's not meant to be deep or intelligent – in the chorus I kept on singing “weird dreams”. I liked it because the word weird has no negative connotations. I also like the sound of the word describing a slight feeling of – I don't want to say apathy, or inertia - but being in a dreamlike state, in a subliminal stage. Why did you call your album Choreography? It’s a nod to my childhood, when my mum was a choreographer. Also, without wanting to sound too pretentious, I like the choreography of words. Playing with the symbolism of the words, rather than having a straight narrative meaning. But choreography to me could be anything – words, dance. The word itself has such nice euphony as well. by Caroline Simpson