– by Brendan Reid, Editor –
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Matt Page of Dream The Electric Sleep, an up-and-coming prog-rock band based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Their new album Beneath The Dark Wide Sky is available now, and can be found on their website.
Brendan Reid: What would you say your role in the band is?
Matt Page: So Dream The Electric Sleep is a three piece, and I kind of consider us all to be equal partners in the venture. We’re all responsible for bringing song ideas to the band, so for the new album Chris Tackett [our bassist] wrote a lot the material, and Joey Waters [our drummer and supporting vocalist] wrote a lot of the composition. My main role would be that I’m responsible for all of the lyrics and melodies and the conceptual direction that each album takes. I write the guitar parts as well, but overall it’s a pretty democratic venture.
BR: So what are some themes and ideas that the new album explores?
MP: Beneath The Dark Wide Sky is really about a historical moment in the US, the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster that had huge economic consequences for the great plains area of the United States. Because of over farming and things like that the land become unproductive and produced these gigantic dust storms that would travel for thousands of miles and made the plains basically unlivable. I’ve focused on this as a touchstone for things we face now in terms of our current relationship with the environment, economic issues, and disparity within our society, and how these things are circular. They happened in the past, and even though the 1930’s feels like forever ago, in the grand scheme of things it was really not long ago that people faced the same types of challenges we face now. As a lyricist I always look for things that are relevant but expansive, and try to incorporate historical moments into my writing. I have done this in the previous two albums as well, exploring how history moves into the moment, and attempting to bridge these two different times that feel very far apart but really have quite a bit in common. The songs on the new album deal with issues of poverty, migration, labour, and the environment, all things that I think we face and have difficulty with in our own lives.
BR: What are some singers or artists that have inspired your style?
MP: From a vocalist perspective some of the people that I’ve always looked to would be Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Roger Waters, the guys from Tears For Fears, and also singers such as Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos. Female singer have had quite an influence on me. What’s interesting is after reading what people have written about the new album and thinking about the past albums is that I do hear all of our influences, and can see how all of these things come together. Chris listens to completely different things from me. He listens to Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe and all sorts of heavier things like doom metal. Joey listens to black metal, as well as bands like Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin, so we’re all over the map, but we try and leave a space where those influences can continue to exist in a way that they work together. I think it’s an interesting challenge, and it’s interesting to think about how you blend the sounds of Joni Mitchell with, say black metal. We’re trying to figure that out and that’s partly what you hear on these albums.
BR: Were there any particular shows you remember going to that made you want to pursue music?
MP: I started playing when I was twelve, and in that time I had just found Metallica and thrash metal, and I was also listening to Guns n’ Roses and U2, as this was back in the early 90’s. The first concert I went to was Metallica. I was thirteen. I’d never been to a real concert before that, and I’ll always remember it. It certainly had a big impact on me. Feeling that energy and going wow, this is powerful, and when your thirteen you don’t know why, you just think, God, I want to be able to speak like that, I want to be able to project my voice in that kind of way to the world. That was definitely a big moment. Every three or four years though you run across an album or concert that teaches you something new and re-inspires you. Like two years ago I never listened to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. Everybody talks about that album. I listened to it, and spent like six months playing it over and over again. You realize new things, tastes change, and you become open to new ideas. I’m always looking for that inspiration that’s gonna keep me going.
BR: Can you recall one of the most exhilarating or memorable performances of your own?
MP: One of the most memorable shows I played when I was much younger. There was a big street festival in Lexington, and two days before the festival 9/11 happened. How do you go out and play rock n’ roll in the face of such tragedy? It sort of felt like it might have been inappropriate. But they went ahead with the festival, and it turned out that thousands of people showed up, way more than I think would have, because I think there was a need to get together. [People were thinking] even if we don’t know what the music is about, let’s pour into the streets, and lets just show solidarity. I’ll always remember that. This was before Dream The Electric Sleep, when Joey and I were playing together. We’re cousins, and have been playing together for twenty years. We were in that band together, and it made us think about how live shows bring people together. It can be just more than a just place for entertainment. It can be a place for healing, it can be a place for togetherness. All the things that are the best in humanity can happen in a rock hall.
BR: Any words of advice for up and coming musicians?
MP: Once you’ve got your craft down, you’ve spent the time learning to play, writing your songs, and you’ve got an album, the first step is always reaching out. To every blogger you can find, to websites and magazines that are supporting the music you like, and buy ad space. It kind of sucks because it costs money, but if you support other people in the industry they appreciate that, and will want to support you. I think that’s the way it works. You have to start from the ground up. That’s what we did. I remember when we put our first CD out it was like ok, let’s scour the Internet, and find every magazine, every blogger, and lets make a list. It takes a bunch of time, and you send emails, CDs and electronic press kits, and you just start from zero. I also think that from a creative side it helps to know what you’re trying to say in the world. Music is a means to talk about something else. Go read books. Go learn about other non-musical things, because those things will inspire your music. People can tell when you’re invested in other ideas, because it comes out in your music, and it will show in what you write.
Brendan is an avid gamer, explorer, and music enthusiast. He can often be found hiking through the woods, looking for reckless adventures to embark on.