Elliot in the Morning’s New Year’s Confusion
AJR, Dreamers, Sub Urban
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Doors 7:00 PM
With their raw passion and restless intensity, DREAMERS deliver a dynamic breed of alt-rock that channels the glory of the past while pushing toward the future. But on their new EP FLY, the L.A.-via-Brooklyn trio reflect on all the wonder and chaos of living fully in the present.
“FLY is about being in the thick of an adventure or a major change in your life—that moment before you have any hindsight, and all you can do is just go with it,” says DREAMERS vocalist/guitarist Nick Wold, whose bandmates include bassist Nelson and drummer Jacob Wick. “There’s no time to think about tomorrow or yesterday, so all that matters is right now.”
FLY arrives as the second installment in a three-part series that began with LAUNCH a powerfully charged EP released in July and featuring their Alternative radio single “SCREWS.” Set to culminate with their forthcoming album, the series finds DREAMERS intimately chronicling the aftermath of a major breakup endured by Wold after the release of their 2016 debut This Album Does Not Exist. But rather than wallow in heartache, DREAMERS turn the typical breakup narrative on its head, speaking to the undeniable thrill of striking out on your own.
Co-produced by DREAMERS’ touring sound engineer Tyler Tedeschi, FLY also defies expectation by fusing the volatile guitar work and visceral rhythms of classic alt-rock with inventively sculpted electronic elements. “Those are the two pieces we wanted to yin-and-yang on these songs,” says Wold. “Our favorite music through the ages is from people like The Beatles and Bowie and Iggy and Nirvana, who took the ethos and mentality of rock & roll but moved it forward in a way that no one had ever done before. For us it’s about taking that spirit and building on it with all these things we can do now with sound design.”
That intricately layered aesthetic permeates songs like “All Washed Out,” a track woven with thrashing guitar riffs, heavy bass grooves, and ethereal harmonies. Written in the midst of Wold’s breakup, “All Washed Out” unfolds in wistful and weary lyrics that, at one particularly poignant moment, contrast a flashback of running wild in the rain with an image of dry-as-dust Southern California. “My ex and I lived in New York together and everything was perfect there, but once we moved to L.A. it all went downhill,” says Wold. “The song’s about our relationship falling apart and turning into some faded memory.”
Despite its undercurrent of nostalgia, “All Washed Out” bears an unstoppable urgency, a limitless vitality that DREAMERS sustain all throughout FLY. On “Last Love Song,” for instance, the trio unleash a joyful fury as Wold looks back on broken promises (“You said we’d get drunk and rule the world forever”) and ultimately discovers an unlikely solace in all that ruin (“So here’s to moving on/Now that you’re gone/I’ll take back my heart and put it back together”). “It’s probably the most angry burn of all these songs, I’m dreading when my ex hears it,” notes Wold. “I wrote it after a horrible fight, where she ended up throwing all my clothes out in the street and I had to go sleep in the van. The next morning I went into the studio to write, and the idea I had was, ‘I’ve written all these love songs for you over the years, and now this one’s the last.’”
On “Misfits T-Shirt,” FLY offers up a moment of punk-fueled levity as DREAMERS capture the euphoric frenzy of a new crush. “It’s about a girl in New York I hung out with for just one night, and it’s kind of poking fun at how everybody wears Misfits T-shirts nowadays even though most people don’t know who they are,” says Wold. Meanwhile, the hypnotic “Demons” drifts into more darkly romantic terrain and attests to the strange magic of letting your mind run free. “It’s inspired by something Kurt Cobain said about how punk rock means freedom and playing whatever you want, and how it doesn’t matter if it’s sloppy as long as it’s sincere and has passion,” says Wold. “‘Demons’ is about letting out all your crazy thoughts, all the parts of your imagination that make being alive in the universe so amazing.”
Although FLY packs a whole spectrum feeling into just four songs, DREAMERS stay rooted in an unshakable longing that Wold traces back to his formative years. “I remember being in elementary school,” he says, “wandering around the playground and having that song ‘Sex and Candy’ stuck in my head, experiencing a feeling of melancholy for the first time and being like, ‘What is this? That feeling is something I’m always going for with our music.”
Originally from Seattle, Wold played saxophone throughout his childhood and later headed to New York University to study jazz, but soon felt compelled to make rock music. Once he graduated, he moved into his rehearsal space to devote himself to songwriting. “I realized that if I didn’t have an apartment I could get away with working one day a week, so for two years I lived in my practice space and got a $20 gym membership to have a place to shower,” Wold recalls.
During that time, Wold crossed paths with Nelson, also a former jazz musician. “I played upright bass in high school and got a full scholarship to college, but instead I ended up touring around the country with this band that did USO tours,” says Nelson, who’s from the small town of Ridgely, Maryland. After years on the road, he moved to New York and started working as a studio musician. “I was pretty burnt out on the music world, but then I met Nick and heard his songs and knew that this was the band I’d wanted to be in my entire life,” he says. “His songs felt really current and new, but at the same time they were referencing the music I grew up on and loved. And the fact that he was living in his rehearsal space was like, ‘How much more serious can you get than that?’”
Arriving in 2014, DREAMERS’ independently released debut single “Wolves” made its way into full rotation on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and landed in the Top 18 countdown. The band quickly caught the ear of Stone Temple Pilots (who hand-picked the trio to open a number of 2015 dates), and later paved the way for their signing to Fairfax Recordings. Also in 2015, DREAMERS solidified their lineup with the addition of Wick, whose parents spent years playing in a rock band that performed in prisons all over California. “My dad’s a drummer and my mom’s a piano player, so ever since I can remember there was a drum set and a piano in the living room,” he says. “Whenever I was bored, I’d sit at either instrument and mess around, and by the time I was a teenager I realized that music was all I wanted to do with my life.” With This Album Does Not Exist released in summer 2016, lead single “Sweet Disaster” shot to No. 7 on the Alternative radio chart, and DREAMERS embarked on a relentless touring schedule that’s included appearances at major festivals like Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot, as well as support slots with such acts as Catfish and The Bottlemen and Weezer.
As they gear up for the release of their sophomore full-length—DREAMERS hope that Fly might leave listeners with a certain determination to live more boldly and deliberately. “There’s a positive feeling that comes when you make the decision to break up, or when you make any kind of big change in your life,” says Wold. “A weight is lifted and you feel this new freedom that you wouldn’t have felt otherwise. Even if it’s scary or painful, change can be the most invigorating thing.”