Q & A: King Dream

A black hole is a region of spacetime whose weight is so massive and dense that particles of matter cannot escape its gravitational pull, not even light particles. It grows in density as it absorbs passing particles, planets and celestial systems, all of it condensing into a single point known as singularity. Quantum mechanics and the Theory of Relativity haven’t fully been able to explain what exists inside or beyond a black hole, but the interesting part is that some theories have suggested that as they grow into supermassive black holes they collapse upon themselves, rip through spacetime and create a blowout on the other end. This blowout is the beginning of another universe, which would be known as The Big Bang in our tiny home of the galaxy.

Much like a black hole, Covid-19 quarantine has been a massive burden in artistic spacetime that has weighed so astronomically on musicians that none have escaped its artistic and financial wrath. With Covid restrictions beginning to disappear it seems all of that emotional and creative density is about to rupture into a magnificent Big Bang of pent-up creativity and expression. North Bay Area musician Jeremy Lyon and his project King Dream are poised to ride that musical explosion like galactic banshees surfing a killer swell.  

Photo: Giant Eye Photography

The guitarist and songwriter has been an ever-present bright spot in the North Bay rock scene for at least a decade, if not more. His band Tumbleweed Wanderers were a shining reverie of California rock n’ soul bliss whose swan song LP Realize in 2015 is still one of maybe three albums I don’t skip a single song on. His new project King Dream formed in the former band’s breakup, with its eponymous 2018 debut album leaning into heavier and headier territory as Lyon searched for a new musical identity. 

After 15 months of quarantine Lyon is ready for his band’s rebirth with an evolved sense of musical taste and direction. He beefed up his recording knowledge, embraced the power of the guitar and rid himself of obstructionist creative judgement, spending his break recording a trilogy of albums that will hopefully release over the course of the next 18 months.  

“I feel like I’ve kind of done the whole thing of wondering if songs are good enough or if it fits a vibe; just do all of it to completion. I’ll show three songs to a group and each person loves a different on,  so who the fuck knows wihch one is the one? Just put it out there and let the people decide,” said Lyon. 

February single “Return To Zero” is the first preview of what’s to come for King Dream, a lively mediation of indie-psych with an interstellar zing. A June 4th concert with Santa Rosa rockers Kingsborough presented by SOMO Concerts in Rohnert Park will let the people catch the first glimpse of the band and its fresh sound. The lineup will include Lyon on guitar and vocals, Adam Nash on guitar and vocals, Zak Mandel-Romann on bass and vocals, Nick Cobbett on drums and special guest multi-instrumentalist Greg Fleischut. Amid all the buzz, Lyon has scheduled to release a new video for the song “Living Like A Teenager” by the end of June. 

Quarantine was a time of unprecedented hardship and darkness. Jeremy Lyon and King Dream are ready to blow through that depressive darkness with a whole new sonic universe that is ever expanding with enthusiasm, potential and rock. 

Photo: Giant Eye Photography

The following is a conversation with Jeremy Lyon. It has been edited for length and clarity. 

What are your expectations with this full band show? What kind of priorities do you have from an artistic and performance sense? 

I’ve been in kind of recording mode for the last 15 months and it’s going to be totally different than before (laughs). I’m excited to have a totally different show than what we’ve done. It’d be boring to me if we picked up right where we left off a year and a half ago, you got to move on (laughs). It’s the same crew of musicians I’ve been playing with since high school, me, Greg [Fleischut] and Zak [Mandel-Romann] were in a band called Audiophiles, so it will be fun to have all of them on it. We are just going more guitar-heavy, tons of guitar. It’s where I’ve been and I’m trying to embrace the guitar in an anti-guitar time. 

Last time we talked you had mentioned your goal for quarantine was that you wanted to get better with recording and you’ve been doing that for the last 15 months. In the last four or five months what have you been trying to excel at? 

I’m working on a three-part trilogy album. I’ve got about 22 or 23 songs recorded. We went in and recorded another 11 and some are already mastered. I was just in L.A. doing keys overdubs. I’ve been trying to get all the songs up to my level and finishing those, I was mixing some earlier this week and it’s taken me over a year to do some of them. I’m chipping away at the boulder nonstop, losing my mind a little (laughs). Hopefully the first one will be out in the fall and we’ll release them every six months or so with album release tours through the end of 2022. I’m thinking it will be called Glory Daze: Parts 1-3

I’ve been playing guitar on so many people’s records that I can approach my songs like they aren’t even my songs. I’m not precious with them and I don’t become limited by that. Let’s just make the arrangement awesome. That was when the first record started to come together for me when I was writing for the sake of writing and not judging things too early. It’s been creatively liberating for me again and I feel lighter having recorded most of the songs that were in my catalog. 

Most of your songwriting from Tumbleweed Wanderers to King Dream move from point A to point B in nice structured ways. The single “Return To Zero” felt like it was one of the first songs of yours to sit in one spot and vibe out in one area. 

I’ve had that bridge on a voice memo for six years or something. That progression was really pleasing. A lot of my songs have a concrete structure to them and I’ve been trying to add some more where the chords don’t change too much. It was weird in one way and concrete in another. 

Sidebar question: Have you ever thought about all the things you will have recorded of yourself in music and videos as a musician and how you might process them later in life? 

Indirectly. Songs are checkpoints of where you were at that moment. The first Tumbleweed record was really raw and it’s the only record we recorded and mixed all to tape. After we put it out we were stoked on it immediately and then we realized we wanted to get more into production and polishing our tones. What’s cool about it is that it was a really honest portrayal and documentation about where we were at then. 

I like records that are made quickly or fall in one setting. This phase of recording is the longest I’ve spent recording and seeing something through. You carry songs with you for a while and it’s a weight off your shoulders when you get to record them. Sometimes I realize that maybe I wasn’t ready to record a certain song and that I’ve left it around for older me, like some of these songs are more mid-career songs (laughs). Songs present a challenge and maybe I’m not ready to deliver them the way they should be for a couple years.

Photo: Giant Eye Photography

What can you share about this music video you were teasing on Instagram? Looks like you got a lot of cool people in cool costumes. 

I lucked out and hit the jackpot with my pod of friends. I live with Rainbow Girls and all of their fellas are also musicians, like Lorenzo from The California Honeydrops and our buddy Maz [of Mah Ze Tar] and Eric Long. There’s been a lot of phases of quarantine and it was nice to kind of have a party. Ashley Allred — whose musical project is Schlee — has been making awesome videos with John Courage throughout quarantine and doing a lot of trippy stuff with green screen effects, just really DIY and badass. 

She directed the video and I had this idea of a Fast Times at Ridgemont High thing. The song is about taking a long time to grow up and doing the same shit as an adult you were doing as a kid and the video has this time travel thing going on where I’m aging and everyone around me is the same. I had this dark sardonic look on it about aging and being alone and Ashley was like, “if you are still doing things as an old man you were doing when you were young that’s badass, embrace that.” I do hope I’m gigging and hanging out at a bar as an old man (laughs). It’s about following that line of thought when people tell you to “just keep doing your thing” after shows. What does it actually mean to keep doing your thing?

The song is “Living Like a Teenager” and I wrote it in 2016 and recorded it right before the pandemic. It was going to be my summer single but it didn’t feel like the right time with quarantine. This summer will be the summer of living like a teenager! 

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