The psychedelic rockers, Dream Phases, released their debut album at the end of 2019 titled, So Long, Yesterday. The record is a sonic exploration of gathered experiences growing up in LA and travelling along the West Coast and how those experiences have put them where they are now. The group is fronted by Brandon Graham who kindly took the time to answer my questions.
MFL: Who all is in Dream Phases and what is your coming together story in as many or as few words as you’d like to use?
DP: Dream Phases has a few different lineups. Typically in the studio, the band comprises myself (Brandon Graham), Shane Graham, and Keveen Baudouin, along with a few guest musicians. The live band is augmented by Anthony Marks, who also played on a good portion of the new album, and a few other revolving musicians depending on what we are doing. The band came together as my solo songwriting project and evolved into a band situation. I knew that I wanted Shane and Keveen to play with me once the initial set of songs were written and demoed. Shane is my brother and we both have played with Keveen for years in previous bands we were in.
MFL: How do you approach songwriting? Is there one primary songwriter or is it a team effort, perhaps divided effort?
DP: So far I have been the primary songwriter, but our goal is to collaborate more with the writing on the next album. Until now, the process is typically me writing and recording essentially a fully arranged demo, which is then shared with the band and the song is developed from there in our practice space or in the studio. Then we record the final band version of the song. Shane often sends me drums tracks for the demos as well.
MFL: I read that you played SXSW a couple of years ago. I’d love to hear know about your experience there.
DP: SXSW was fun, and usually is. I’ve played there about 5-6 of the last 8 years.I’m not quite sure it’s still as relevant or as important as it once was, but you always meet new people, see great bands and overall have a good time partying. At this point, I’d really only go back if there was an important reason or really good showcase.
MFL: How does one choose a recording label (if you are still with Lolipop) and know that it is a good fit?
DP: We are not with Lolipop anymore, they just put out our first EP.We are currently working with Nomad Eel Records and Lunar Ruins. For labels it’s important that they believe in what you’re doing, are offering a good deal, not taking your publishing or writing credits, and that they have a good track record of promotion and releases. It’s kind of a toss-up nowadays as to whether it’s worth it to work with labels, however it can be very useful to lighten the load financially of a new release.
MFL: As a band, do you collectively have sources of musical inspiration? If so, discuss a few of them.
DP: The overall influences and inspiration of the band members are pretty wide, and that was part of the reason I spent time developing the sound on my own initially so that it would be focused. There are pros and cons to having a wide range of influences. On the one hand, you can draw from a lot and have interesting results that might sound fresh and new, but on the other hand, without too much curation the end sound can be lost and unfocused. We all agree on a lot of 60’s psychedelia, and more noisy rock stuff. I might kind of force the softer folk-rock and country-ish sounding stuff on the guys!
MFL: Describe the experience you create for the audience when playing live. Does this experience change when you’re on tour depending on crowd size/location?
DP: We try to create an immersive experience, regardless of whether or not we are touring or the location. We often work with different lighting artists to help that immersion, as well as try to play shows with friends or bands that work together. A lot of our songs flow into each other live, so we might play 3-4 songs directly into each other, with transitions. We like to keep the energy and flow going through the set and to have dynamics throughout the set, to keep it interesting and to not just have a full-on sonic assault the whole time. There is a bit of improvisation every night and setlists can change spontaneously, which makes it exciting for us. On tour, we do like to filter songs in and out and change it up at least a little bit every night.
MFL: What has life been like since the release of So Long, Yesterday and what’s next in terms of touring etc?
DP: Well, it’s only been two months, so not a whole lot has changed. We did the five-week European tour to promote the album and we played a few LA shows. It’s nice to have the album out there. We might do a bit of US touring in Spring, we are working that out now. I’m taking a short break from touring right now, as I just completed my seventh tour of the year, with Dream Phases and some other bands I play in as a side musician. It’s nice to be home.
MFL: Finally, favorite tour bus/van story…GO!
DP: No way I can pinpoint or even accurately remember them all, and I actively try to sleep as much as I can while in the van since it’s the most boring part of touring, which I call time traveling. On our last tour, we all got obsessed with a podcast called ‘Rock N Roll Archeology’, which is made by a rad guy from San Francisco. It’s a great podcast tying in music with the cultural and technology of the time. We geeked out on that pretty hard, that was definitely my favorite part about being in the van.