Daydream Machine’s music is the perfect mix between spaced-out guitar-led droning and the guitar-jangling fun of an all-in percussive approach to rock. Authentic, inventive and an organised cacophony of musical, literary and cultural influence, Daydream Machine is reminiscent of a dozen different genres. Referencing none too strongly and not taking themselves too seriously, it sounds like having fun while making music is Daydream Machine’s main goal.
“It is for me,” says vocalist and guitarist Jsun Adams.
“At this point, if I don’t enjoy it, I’m not going to continue and inversely I don’t expect others to.”
The band have had several line-up changes (including three drummers) in the year and a half since their formation, but Daydream Machine’s line-up is currently Portland-based, and their debut album Twin Idols draws heavily on heavyweight collaborators from the local scene, such as The Dandy Warhols’ Peter Holmstrom and The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Collin Hegna.
“We are all very proud of our respective catalogs,” Adams says.
“Plucky [Jason Anchando] on drums and Josh [Kalberg] on bass are amazing artists too, and their performances are always world class,” he adds.
“Jonathan [Mono] is a whiz kid mixing. He really had a tall task with the recording happening in more the six locations and studios over eight months and line-up changes. He really glued it together with a sonic wave that is tasteful and interesting, while remaining musical and fluid and the same time. I really dig his work ethic, ear, and attention to detail. “
Comparing band life to a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower (‘Things change and friends leave, life doesn’t stop for anybody’), Adams stresses the importance of empathy, vision, shared tastes, compromising and healthy relationships to a band’s success and the ability for “something thorough and beautiful” to occur.
As versatile sonically as their line-up is personally, and as imbued with literary and cultural references as Adams’ manner of speaking, Daydream Machine has just released their debut album, Twin Idols. The perfect single-track introduction to Daydream Machine, Twin Idols is kicked off by >Sounds Like Anesthesia<. Ebbing and flowing with up-tempo, guitar-riffing energy and depths of isolated, echoed spoken word, Sounds Like Anesthesia also features beautifully arranged strings that dart over sprawling currents of guitars. Followed by And I Love Her – a smooth, introspective, eight-minute ballad of warm melodies and sweet harmonies whose jangly guitars and gentle, steady percussion are revisited with fervor in the Sympathy for the Devil-stylings of >Queen of the Gas Station<. individual songs are spirited and gutturally (or should that be guitar-ally?) sprawling (Shoot You Right Down) or downtrodden and pensive (Twin Idols), Daydream Machine have managed to imbed their musically mottled debut with an impressive sense of cohesion.
Unsurprisingly, songwriting for the band is a largely collaborative effort. With songs forming off the back off a main hook someone brings in, Adams says lyrical themes on the album “seem to have been directly linked to whoever is singing on that part of the song”. But careful listening reveals pervasive patterns – particularly in the realm of cultural references.
From the band’s Sonic Youth-inspired name to the threads of alternative and indie outfits they carry within their sound, Daydream Machine are a mixed bag of influence they churn out as inspired, comfortable creation.
“Some of the themes running through the songs are pretty varied from historical to emotional to lore mixed with non-sense,“ Adams says.
For example, he explains, The White Rose shares its name with a 1942 Nazi Germany resistance group – a “sort of Inglorious Bastards Banksy” known for their public graffiti criticising Hitler, and their publishing of anti-Nazi pamphlets distributed to scholars, medics and pub owners.
“Several were caught distributing fliers and they were all rounded up and executed,” Adams says.
“Hence the reference, in the last verse ‘The White Rose at the Guillotine, beacons of light, ripping of their cloaks of indifference’.”
But Daydream Machine aren’t blinded by self-righteous seriousness. Far from it. Indeed, The White Rose opens with the line “I sat down to write a song to save the world and all I got was ‘do do do do do’”.
Without irony or self-deprecation, Daydream Machine forgo pseudo-intellectual, self-indulgence in favour of humoured, honest transparency with lyrics like “talk is cheap, texts are cheaper”. In doing so, the band leave their lyrical themes “open to interpretation, even if the initial writing was very direct and had purpose”, according to Adams.
“I like that kind of mix of reference to past lyrics along with a nod to the perfect conceit,” he says, referencing a line from Sounds Like Anesthesia.
“There’s a line that says, ‘Forget the mistakes of the past and seek out what’s to come … things happen all about, how soon now heir is son’ and someone asked what I meant by ‘air is sun’. I remember asking myself which of those two meanings had The Smiths been referring to when they were talking ‘sun’ and ‘air’.”
“I also really love what Matthew did with the leads on Shoot You Right Down, it feels like early Galaxie 500 to me.”
Revelling in a seemingly endless bag of musical references, Adams also draws artistic influence from a wider circle of literature and art, from Brian Eno to Burl Ives’ Claymation spoken word Christmas stories.
“The story telling as much as the songs, I’m always looking for that depth in vocal bass tones,” says Adams.
“Right now I’m into James Earl Jones’ reading of Pete Seeger’s folktale Abiyoyo. He’s in this deep register that is comforting even though the story is haunting. There’s a line in it where he says, ‘One day, one day, the sun rose blood red’ that I just can’t get enough of. I would like to create something like that in a story or a line.”
Deep, spoken word moments do indeed have their place on Twin Idols, and the band also work to recreate their influences in the live realm, too.
“We captured some of my favorite Spiritualized type stuff on a couple tracks and we’ve been hitting that live on >Spacement< lately,” Adams says.
Having been quite prolific in their touring in the last year, Daydream Machine have already played with Asteroid #4 and Joel Gion and the Primary Colors in San Francisco, Spindrift in Joshua Tree, and at the Echo, Satellite and Los Globos in Los Angeles.
“Some of the other shows that stand out as highlights so far in our short career as a band are with Elephant Stone, Besnard Lakes, Vietnam, Federale, The Prids, The Features, and Tamaryn,” adds Adams.
As a Portland-based band canvasing the wide realm of the alternative genre, it’s probably not too surprising but still undoubtedly impressive that Daydream Machine have already collaborated with The Dandy Warhols’ Peter Holmstrom and The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Collin Hegna.
“They’re the greatest,” Adams says.
“Seriously, Pete is the best guy on Earth and pretty much my favorite guitar player and Collin Hegna is outright gifted. To get to work with those guys, I’m pinching myself each time. Collin’s Revolver Studios is perfect and I’ve done a lot of work there the last few years for this and the last Upsidedown record. Having them both as friends that I can bounce ideas off of or collaborate with makes me feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Not to mention, I’m a huge fan of Jonestown and the Warhols. I have gotten to work with both of them before in Pete International Airport and I love the album that came out of that.”
And the Portland music scene is apparently still buzzing, twenty years after The Dandy Warhols rose from (or into?) the alternative Mecca.
“There are a lot of great bands in Portland right now,” Adams says.
“I’m really into Tender Age, Souvenir Driver, Modest Mouse, Soft Shadows, Paradise, Rick Bain, The Vernor Pantons, Federale, Miracle Falls, The Dandelyons, The Shins, and Fathead [The Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer]’s Aussie band Immigrant Union.
With psychedelic music making yet another popular resurgence in the British, Australian and American rock scenes, Daydream Machine seem almost off-beat with their appropriation of indie rock’s widest stimuli, but Adams says he is not fazed by this.
“I love music and I’m not really into one thing,” he says, citing recent musical enjoyments as wide-ranging as the new releases from Tame Impala, Damon Albarn, The Black Angels, and Beck.
“I don’t worry about at what angle the taste pendulum is swinging. Overall, I like what the Mary Chain’s Jim Reid says about it all, something to the affect of: ‘You just have to do your work, if you have an audience for your work, then you’re one of the lucky ones, but you still just have to do your work.’ “
Twin Idols is out now
Daydream Machine is opening for The Clean’s David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights at Bunk Bar, Wednesday July 30.