Interview with Bad//Dreems

Bad//Dreems are the Adelaide foursome you’ve probably been hearing a lot about recently. Touring frequently, getting a bit of web-buzz and some rotation on local radio, Bad//Dreems are one of the most interesting groups in the recent dolewave/strewthcore movement (although I feel they’d object to us categorising them). We had a long distance chat to guitarist Alex Cameron about the perils of playing too many gigs in a small town, the who’s who in the scene of the City of Churches and those freaks that know all the words to your songs.

bad//dreemsIllustration by Tim Andrew

HAPPY: Tell us how Bad//Dreems got started.

ALEX: Bad//Dreems have been together since the start of 2012, so almost two years now.

HAPPY: How did you meet the other guys?

ALEX: I’d just moved back to Adelaide from Melbourne and I went out to the local football club to play some footy – most of my friends that I’d grown up with had left Adelaide and I met the guys there pretty much.

HAPPY: The music you guys make has a very specific Australiana vibe – where did the inspiration for that style come from?

ALEX: It’s mostly just about being authentic to ourselves really. We’re Australian, obviously, and we live in Adelaide which is pretty much an oversized country town. All the bands we like and take inspiration from  have pretty much been linked to the time and place in which they existed, so the idea of authenticity in songwriting and music is really important to us so, I guess we’re not really trying to do anything apart from be ourselves.

HAPPY: What kind of bands specifically do you like and take inspiration from when coming up with stuff for Bad//Dreems?

ALEX: Lots of bands from Australia and New Zealand, The Saints, Paul Kelly, the two albums he did with the Coloured Girls, Go-Betweens, feedtime. A lot of that local stuff from the 70’s and 80’s and also around the same era indie and punk bands from America, especially Wipers, The Replacements… But you know, you might be listening to those bands – it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t take influence from something without it being explicit in your sound. All of those bands like I said were outside any particular thriving scene at that time and I guess we take influence from them in that they were trying to do something that was authentic.

HAPPY: What’s the scene in Adelaide like? I’ve not made my way down there yet.

Alex: A lot of people ask that question. I think it is becoming healthier by the week. It’s unique in that there’s no real music industry here – compared to Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth, Adelaide doesn’t have booking agencies or band managers, no big labels or anything. It doesn’t even have that big of a community radio station, at least not as big as those other cities. I guess that effects the fact that the bands that are doing it here are doing it for their love of music and their love of playing with other bands that they like. Perhaps it’s a smaller type of scene but I think that the music that’s coming out is really cool, really unique, really interesting and I think that over the next year or so hopefully lots more bands from Adelaide will get some attention from other cities and more people will be exposed to the good music that’s being made here.

HAPPY: What other bands are making waves in Adelaide at the moment?

ALEX: I really like a band called Summer Flake, which is Steph Crase who put out a really cool album last year. I’m excited to hear some new songs from Tkay Maidza who’s been on the radio with her hip hop and she’s really young, really smart, I reckon she’s set for big things. I really like Old Mate, I guess there’s that whole group of bands that are connected to that scene like Wireheads, Bruff Superior. They’re all making some cool music.

HAPPY: You released your EP back in April, how did that come about? Was it just a collection of what you had recorded or was it a thought out, structured release?

ALEX: It was a group of songs that we’d written from the very start – I had the basic elements for Chills written before the band even started, right through to Hoping For which was really new by the time the EP was recorded. Basically it was like a 12 month snapshot of songs. It wasn’t a collection of songs that we conceived as a short album as such, it was more just the stuff we had done. But I reckon they fitted together – some consistent themes there.

Like any initial recordings though I guess we’re still feeling our way around what we’re recording, how we’re recording, who we’re recording with. We actually just recorded two new songs in December with a producer called Mark Opitz who we really enjoyed working with. They should be coming out in the next month or so. Yeah, working with Mark we reckon we’ve just about hit upon the formula that we want in terms of recording and the combination of people we want to use. We’re looking to do an album with him so compared to the EP will be a much more fully realised collection of songs.

HAPPY: What’s your songwriting process like? Is there someone in the band who takes charge or is it a more democratic process?

ALEX: We’re really lucky that nearly everyone in the band is a songwriter, especially me, Ben (vox) and James (bass). Miles is a drummer but also has a lot of good musical ideas so our rule of thumb is that it doesn’t matter who’s ideas they are, it’s just about writing a really good song at the end of the day. Some songs someone will bring in and they’re almost finished, other songs it might just be a riff that someone brings in and then we work on them together, go away, someone else brings their bit to it. There’s no real set way or formula and we try to keep it fresh cause there’s so many ways to write a song that it’s good to use different methods. We’re big enough to keep our egos out of it – nobody else really has ambitions to sing, nobody has ambitions to play guitar, nobody has ambitions to play the bass so we all stick pretty much to our format and all come up with each other’s parts. That’s the best part about the band how we’re able to work together. We’ve all been in other bands and that sort of creative process gets really stonewalled sometimes with people getting precious about their parts or precious about their songs. The fun bit about Bad//Dreems is that we don’t really care about that. We just care about writing music we like.

HAPPY: You sound like you get on pretty well in the rehearsal room. You’ve also been touring though, last year with Children Collide and Step Panther – what’s that experience been like for you all?

ALEX: I guess from the start we wanted to try and play a lot of shows. Adelaide, as I mentioned, is a relatively small scene. There’s only so much that you can play here so we just made an effort to play as many shows along the east coast, especially Sydney and Melbourne which are the most affordable places to play gigs. It’s hard though, it’s pretty expensive being a band in Adelaide. In Melbourne you can play a show every second week and you’ll get different kinds of crowds every night. We can only really play here at home once a month at the most, we gotta travel to those other cities to get a different crowd.

We all have jobs and we all save up our money and put it towards travelling and flights and whatever cause we really enjoy it. It’s been good, we’ve got to play with a lot of cool bands and got some people that will come and watch us in a few different cities. Like you said we’ve done a big tour with Children Collide which was cool and then there’s the smaller shows of our own – we’re also doing this Bleach Festival (7th-23rd March) up on the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks. We like everything man, we just like playing live really and hopefully now we’ve got a bit more money and stuff so we’ll be able to afford to eat this time we’re on tour.

HAPPY: That’s pretty important. Gotta keep that blood sugar up. What’s been your favourite performance so far? Has anything really stood out in your mind?

ALEX: Probably my favourite show was the most recent one we played was in Adelaide apart from Laneway. It was our own show to raise some money for our recording at a venue called Jive and sold it out which was like 250 people. It being Adelaide, we were pretty stoked to be able to do that – it was just a really cool crowd to play in front of. It was pretty cool to stand up there and think back to the very first time we played to like 10 people or something. For a long time there might be a fair few people there that you know, sometimes you’ll know pretty much everyone in the crowd – what band they’re in and who’s friends they are or whatever. To play a show like this one with a big crowd and you look around and think “Who are these crazy people singing the words?” That’s a pretty good feeling.

HAPPY: Last question, what makes you happy?

ALEX: …Music.

Catch Bad//Dreems up here in Sydney on February the 21st at Rad-A-Rama and in Newtown on the 22nd of February and at Bleach Festival on the Gold Coast.

You may recognise Tim Andrew’s badass black and white illustration style from the work he did for our Shining Bird feature. Based in Sydney, Tim has exhibited in Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydders. Check out more of his amazing work here.



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