Letting in the Dead
Letting in the Dead is available at:
16th May 2016
Los Angeles, U.S.A.
LaserGhost Records, Inc.
IT is back to a band that has been enjoying a steady rise…
over the last few months. I always like returning to a band or artist: so many of my review subjects go out into the ether never to return (to me): making me wonder how their careers are doing. Before I dive into DreamVacation’s latest track; it is worth looking at how one’s environment compels musical creativity; how personal circumstances help- and can bond a group- looking at the bands putting L.A. on the map. So many songwriters tend to draw their inspiration from their love lives and relationships. Love songs tend to make up the majority of most songs: it is the most-common form of track; something most of us can relate to. While it is a staple of the music industry: it is nicer when musicians draw their inspiration from other areas; go deeper and stretch their imaginations. Even within the boundaries of love and relations: you can explore so many different avenues and ideas; expand the imagination and come up with something spectacular. My featured act is based in L.A.: a variable and ever-changing city that mixes vibrancy and excitement with scenic views and sweeping landscapes. Depending on where you live: it can either have a negative or positivity effect on your mindset. For musicians, their home/location is paramount: it is where they are based and will be hugely important withy regards the songwriting process. For that reason- and because of increased opportunities and audiences- musicians are flocking to cities and prosperous areas- London and L.A. are safe havens for the emigrating masses. L.A. enjoys so much diversity and contrast.
One moment, you will be cruising through upmarket neighbourhoods and well-to-do areas; down to less-privileged refugee camps and dangerous areas- all within the blink of an eye. Los Angeles’ vast array of shops, bars and nationalities is enough to get the laziest of musicians frantically writing. A wonderful, busy city that supports musicians and spurs creativity: DreamVacation is vibing from the city’s lustre and creating some of their finest material. They are enamored of the juxtaposing areas and scenescapes: this all feeds into their vivid, remarkable songs. Before I go onto another point: let me introduce DreamVacation to you:
“DreamVacation’s stunning new self-titled EP sweeps you away with a brooding melodic power and hard-edged yet atmospheric guitars behind lead singer Ray Silva’s emotional vocals. The EP was produced by John Rausch, engineer and track architect for such powerhouses as Taylor Swift, Pink, Florence and the Machine, Foxes and Birdie.
DreamVacation’s stellar lineup includes Gerry Matthews on bass and backing vocals, Morgan Terrinoni on guitar, and Noah Alexander on drums. The band members previously supported live acts such as Foster the People, Airborne Toxic Event, The War On Drugs and Matt & Kim.
The EP was written at a rehearsal space in downtown LA, and recorded in Kingsize Soundlabs in Eagle Rock. “LA is such a juxtaposition of opposing landscapes,” says Ray Silva. “One minute your rolling through a really upscale area and the next you find yourself on 6th Ave passing the inner city refugee camps of the homeless.”
The band members’ personal stories over the last three years have been equally up and down. They’ve endured breakups, living out of rehearsal spaces or cars, marriages falling apart, and family deaths. But they learned to write as a group, and that forged songs such as “Window Room,” “Press Play,” and “Letting in the Dead”.
The four piece also had success placing songs in films and TV shows, including Showtime – Shameless, TNT – Boston’s Finest, and SYFY – Being Human, to name only a few.
“We hope to inspire people to think and see things differently than they normally do. And maybe even remember things they thought they forgot. To feel more connected and sense that there is more kindness available than it seems.”
A lot of bands go through tough times: none more so than DreamVacation. It seems like their lives are ready-made for the screen: the story of struggling artists that have overcome hurdles and remained strong in the face of adversity. The guys have seen marriages break-up and family members die. This tragedy has been backed by misfortune and bad luck. Having to exist out of cars and rehearsal spaces: the lives of DreamVacation has been anything but smooth. In a modern age, few of us have any perception of struggle and poverty. Hiding behind Smartphones and laptops; ensconced in the blur and fakery of social media: we seem disconnected from society and the realities of the real world. When we think of musicians; we do not look at the people behind the songs- how they struggle and where they come from. Music is becoming more disposable and less tangible: the soul and physicality has gone; replaced with something digital and distant. We would do well to consider the inspiration behind the music: what drives the process and where it comes from. DreamVacation’s recent struggles have not only enforced new music: it is the most direct and emotional songs they have ever come up with. In addition to putting new material onto tape: the band want to encourage others to think widely about the world; feel more connected with the world and not assume negative views- realise there is kindness and support out there.
Few bands take the time to reach out to people and show social awareness. Music is an exhausting reality and few acts touch you on a personal plain- DreamVacation is the exception to the rule. The L.A. four-piece have seen their music played across shows like T.N.T., Shameless; Boston’s Finest and Being Human- to name but a few. They are getting their sounds heard and recognised. It rewarding when a great band overcome the odds and get their rewards. L.A. is a city that has a fair few good bands around- an understatement, if ever there was one- yet DreamVacation nestle among the finest. From Blacktop Queen and Elohim; Riothouse Royale and The Shelters: there is a lot of competition around. DreamVacation’s blend of hard-edged Rock and dreamy melody is a wonderful experience. You hear embers of ‘70s Rock legends and modern-day Indie: something unique and inexplicable, too. The band sprinkle that added ingredient- like the secret ingredient in Coca Cola or that mystery spice from Colonel Sanders- that pushes their music over the edge. Following Window Room and Press Play; they bring to us Letting in the Dead- perhaps their most remarkable statement so far.
Letting in the Dead is DreamVacation’s latest cut- many argue it is their best song so far. Looking back, you can tell how far the guys have come. Like all great bands: the boys were solid and entrancing from their earliest moments. Their eponymous E.P. was released last year and was a four-track that gained them new followers and critical acclaim. Window Room features high-pitched strings and pummeling beats: driving guitars and emotive vocals burrow into their mind and compel the listener to sing along. The song is an emotive and romantic- sounds like to me, at least- track brims with emotion and urgency. Addressing mortality, love and truth: a song that digs deep and is a lot more profound and original than one would expect. Songs that address love and moving on- for the most part, at least- lack that lyrical clout. DreamVacation expend a lot of time with regards the words- this comes through on Window Room. Press Play showcases that inimitable concoction of teasing, tick-tock strings- woozy and ghostly here- and building mood. The song grows and evolves into something rushing and immediate- like the sun rising over a Californian highway. Our man is out in the freezing rain and calling to his love- wondering where she is- as the guitars strike with venom and bite. It is one of the band’s heaviest tracks, for sure. A song that could well be a live favourite- I am sure it is already- it showcases what a tremendous (tight) force the guys are. End of Time is a faster-moving, lighter song that showcases Ray Silva’s delicate voice: something capable of seduction and intense beauty. Breathless and meaningful: you get caught up in his smoky, pained voice. Red Water completes DreamVacation with evocative images of falling skies and being watched. Complete with chanted, wordless vocals: it is one of the most compelling and mysterious tracks on the E.P.
DreamVacation’s E.P. showed a consistency and distinct personality throughout. The songs explored themes of love and dislocation around compositions that provoke emotions, thought and reflection. Whilst each song had its own personality and weight: Letting in the Dead shows a new side and sound from the guys. Not beginning like you’d expect- slight, dizzying strings; a song that builds to ecstatic heights- the boys have created something new and evolved. Not wanting to repeat their E.P. sounds: their latest single has their D.N.A. on it but shows them growing and developed. The vocals are clearer and more decipherable- one of the issues with the E.P. was the intelligibility of the vocals. The four-piece take on new influence and have crafted their most unique and impressive song so far. Whilst Letting in the Dead is their most intense song: it is wholly accessible and pushes their talents and abilities more. Catchier, more atmospheric and compelling than their past work: John Rauh’s production brings the best from the band. Whether Letting in the Dead will form part of a new E.P.; it will be interesting to see how the group develops and progresses. Given the respect their single has gained- across blogs and Facebook– it will surely get their imaginations working; some more songs will follow, surely?
Choppy strings and low-down, scene-setting electronics open Letting in the Dead. From the very off, we hear something that differs from DreamVacation’s debut E.P. The boys are keen not to be pinned down and formulaic. Those cutting and bare strings have a lullaby quality. A “steady channel” on a crazy spirit: the early words build pictures and evocative images. The band has said the song looks at love’s ghosts and holding a séance- making sure the ghost of love past finds a place to rest. Silva is at his most intense and gripping here. Laying in his bed- haunted and letting the dead in- he goes from a whispered sermon to wracked preacher- someone affected and troubled by the memories of the past. The spirits are swirling and calling; there is something spectral and odd in the air. From the tender and relaxed foundations of the song: the mood builds and the vocals start to race. The band come up to the plate and support their lead. Previous DreamVacation tracks have seen heavy-hitting percussion and snarling guitars come together. Here, there is more subtlety and discipline. A certain catchiness enforced Letting in the Dead. More upbeat and uplifted than previous songs: the vocal hops and springs; the composition twirls with abandon. Balancing the song’s dark and troubled lyrics: you get a song that has many layers and levels; it gets into the heart, mind, and soul. With embers of Bruce Springsteen- some of The Boss’ early albums come to mind- there is a Heartland Rock/Jersey Shore sound; something that effortlessly sits with L.A. breeziness. Our hero lies awake and is haunted by the spirits of a departed relationship. Whether it ended on good or bad terms- one assumes the latter is truer- there is that desire to put ghosts to sleep and find some form of solace and peace. The girl (and he) were worlds apart: they lived different lives and did not always see eye-to-eye. The relationship had its good moments but ultimately crumbled under pressure- its effect and pains are still making their impressions.
The vocal performance is one of the most impressive things about the song. It never sits still and brings the maximum emotion and potential from the lyrics. Changing course and direction without warning: it ensures the track is constantly mobile, unexpected and growing. Towards the half-way mark, the band allows the composition to come into the light. The bass and guitars propel things forward and keep the story going. Light yet immediate: the strings summon up a lot of atmosphere and visions. Lesser songs will try similar things- instrumental breaks- and it would add nothing to the song. It would be utilised as a way to fill time. That is never the case with DreamVacation. The guys ensure every second of Letting in the Dead gets the listener involved and speculating. The combination of drum-bass-and-guitars allows you to imagine your own interpretation. I was thinking about ghosts swirling the room: the L.A. twilight basked in tranquility and stillness. Inside a small room, our hero is awake and thinking: seeing these apparitions race around- memories of a bygone relationship is affecting him, still. Although (the two lovers) have split and are in different towns: it is amazing how current the scars are. That is the thing with relationships, I guess: even if the person is out of your life; the aftertaste and regrets can linger long after. I was always guessing whether these ghosts- the memories of the broken love- were positive or not. Maybe the relationship was solid and had its good times- our lead is looking to put the memories to bed. On the other hand, there is an anxiety and strength to the vocal performance which suggests the opposite. Knowing “we’re worlds apart”; the hero is feeling sick inside and wracked. That sentiment adds to the obliqueness rather than providing clarity. That is one of the good things about the song: it does not reveal the whole truth; there is a little room for guessing and personal interpretation. Maybe that separation and distance is a good thing- good to be apart from the girl- or perhaps there is longing and regret- that need to rekindle the spark. The relationship was complicated and strong: it is only right the haunting spirits would come back time again.
Into the final minute, Letting in the Dead keeps the listener fascinated and compelled. The band is at their most accomplished and loose, here. Their debut E.P. showed a lot of tension and nervousness: here, they sound more relaxed and tight. Although the composition backs lyrics of loss, upset and doubts: the way this is scored is done with a sense of melody and positivity. It is hard to listen to the song and not be affected by its catchiness and detail. The guitars vary from Western-themed- there is a nice, twanging coda towards the end- and static. Eliciting a variety of emotions- disturbed dreams and that need for peace- the band are at their peak. The percussion ensures a constant heartbeat is there: it at once forceful and primal; the next, restrained and light. DreamVacation have managed to write about a common subject- love and the effect break-ups have- and put a new spin on it. By using spirits and ghosts as metaphors: the lyrics do not suffer cliché and predictability. The way they are presented and delivered shows what an evolving band we have here. Lesser acts would keep the same pace and projection: maybe changing things in the chorus; it would still sound pretty lumpen and derivative. DreamVacation’s lead lets his voice mutate and move in all directions. The lyrics are given so much emotion and colour: one of the most assured and impressive performances Silva has delivered. Gerry Matthews’ bass and backing vocals add so much to the song. He keeps things ordered and together: guides the lads and adds plenty of rhythm, groove and fluidity to the track- making sure the words and vocals flow naturally. Morgan Terrinoni produces one of his most varied and complicated guitar work. One minute light and Indie-flavoured- The Strokes have been mentioned as influences- whilst dreamy and delirious the next- so many different sides and sounds; a treasure trove of notes on offer. Noah Alexander’s sturdy and impassioned percussion work gives the song its spine and thudding heartbeat. Let’s hope Letting in the Dead is the start of a new creative phase from the L.A. quartet.
The L.A. quartet is in fine form and this is going to drive their future recordings. Having supported the likes of Foster the People and Airborne Toxic Event: the band has a cachet and solid reputation; their incredible performances and electric connection has enthralled the crowds. Letting in the Dead is a song that gets inside the heads and offers so much. Like the best and deepest tracks around: its potential and true magic is not realised the first time around. A nuanced and intelligent band: their music blossoms flower-like; growing more impressive as time elapses. I have not heard any news about an E.P. or album. I know the band will be crafted new tunes: where will this end up? I would love to see an album from them. It would give the world a chance to experience the full DreamVacation experience. For that matter, perhaps the group will come to England and play. I say this a lot, too. I know how many different music venues would love to see DreamVacation rock up. London is an obvious example; Manchester and Liverpool, too. They could find work in Scotland and other areas: there are few parts of the U.K. immune to the potential and force of DreamVacation.
Blogs and magazines have been going crazy for Letting in the Dead. The song has a personal edge to it- the ghosts of a dead relationship- that can be interpreted by anyone, really. The band’s incredible bond and exceptional songwriting has resonated with fans and followers. Their solid reputation is not just confined to L.A. Followers from around the world are keen to get the boys playing their town. Whilst the band is still in their early days; there is plenty to suggest they will be one of the premier artists in Los Angeles. It is always difficult when it comes to bands. There are so many out there- all offering something different- and it can be a challenge deciphering which ones are going to make it. The U.S. are slightly ahead of us when it comes to that side of music. We have the best solo acts- in my humble view- but America is leading the way in the group market. For that reason, new bands are having to work harder and up their game. The media can be a fickle and unforgiving thing: heralding (a band) one week; scolding them the next. If you do not keep active- leaving gaps between releases- and show any side of weakness; you will be forgotten about and buried. DreamVacation realise there are a lot of groups that are playing the same sounds. Confined in Indie and Alternative regions: their music has obvious influences and is not distinguished enough. DreamVacation have a common and tangible core- that we will all be able to get on board with- but distinguish themselves enough to stand out from the crowd. It is their resiliency and strength that will see them succeed. They have faced the perils of marriage break-ups and the heartache of family deaths; the struggles of a musical life and personal strains- battling it all to come back with fight and determination. They have not carried burdens in a negative way: translating and transforming these scars in their music; turning them into extraordinary tracks. Letting in the Dead is not as dark or haunting as the title might suggest: it is a song that has beauty and intriguing lyrics; a blend of vulnerable and strong- all the ingredients the modern music seeker could expect. Let’s hope the L.A. band have a smoother ride of things through the next few months. Whether the guys are heading into the studio- between their gigs and touring- I cannot say with certainty. I would love to see an E.P. come soon and witness the guys in the flesh- they would have a lot of demand in this country. If they keep producing tracks like Letting in the Dead, they might be…
HERE for a long time.