We’ve had our eyes on Cumbrian noise makers The Lucid Dream for well over eighteen months now since last year’s debut self titled EP release. Rather like recent noise making success story A Place To Bury Strangers or early Black Rebel Motorcycle club, that Ep’s opener ‘I Got the Devil’ was a stand out utilising a menacing rhythms reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, fractured sneering vocals redolent of Suicide, and a raft of fuzz peddles.
Since then The Lucid Dream have built upon their reputation with the release of a follow up EP and its lead track ‘In Your Eyes’ that depicted a outfit that possed yet more psych experimentation in their arsenal. As the influence of the likes of Sonic Boom, Thirteen Floor Elevators and Spiritualized burnt accross these scorched melodies.
Finally The Lucid Dream released their debut single ‘Love In My Veins’ recently 7″ through Holy You Are Recordings. Their most swaggering release yet all Iggy Pop-esque snears, clattering cymbals, crashing communal harmonies, reverb drenched guitars. It’s heady, its addictive as it is insistant, screeching its way into your little tiny mind and refusing to let go! It’s received support from 6music amongst others. It also features a remix of the Aformentioned ‘I Got The Devil’ by Richard Norris. We caught up with Lucid Dreams frontman Mark Emmerson to delve a little deeper into the psychie of a band clearly on their way to brighter things….
Q. Where does the name come from do you read many transcendental dream books?
A. The name comes from a lyric from The Verve – Catching The Butterfly. We are all big Verve fans, and that name seemed to stick when listening to it. I remember the other name that was being toyed with at the time was The Codeine Dream. We don’t read any transcendental books as far as I am aware.
Q. Cumbria isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of music, but with Wild Beasts, Britist Sea Power, yourselves and other acts leading the charge, is there a growing local scene in Cumbria and Carlisle? Or do most of the bands have to relocate?
A. I would say no. There have been the likes of Wild Beasts and British Sea Power who have gone on to massive things, but they were a good distance from Carlisle. Carlisle really is in in the wilderness, the nearest city is Newcastle, which is around an hour away. You need to work hard to get anywhere here. No band from here has done massive things in my lifetime, which begs the question, do you move away. I would say you may have to, but I don’t think we will. We don’t want to play the industry game, the results this new single are getting show you can do it your own way. Personally, I hate London, and will never move there, if anything that would be the creative meltdown for me.
Regarding whether there is a ‘scene’ here in Carlisle, definitely not I would say. You look at the likes of Liverpool in 2002, with The Coral, The Bandits, The Stands etc, that was a scene. They were bands who helped each other and dug the same records, and that isn’t going on here. There are certainly a couple of acts who we are mates with doing the psych stuff, Fading Face and a brand new band called Teenage Mary, so we will certainly be taking them under our wing, helping them, and pushing certain records onto them. There is also a mate of ours, DJ Johnny Thieves, he is a genius with his mixes and record collection. He is always one step ahead of all of us. If we could afford to we would take him on tour, like Primal Scream did with Andrew Weatherall.
Q. The media has compared your sound to the minimal vocalisation/instrumentation of Suicide, the psych experiments of Spacemen 3 and the throbbing blues-gaze of early Jesus and Mary Chain in the next breath, how do you feel about these comparisons? And what are your own listening habits like? Do you have any touchstone albums?
A. We love Suicide, Spacemen 3 and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They, alongside Spiritualized and Verve are probably our biggest influences. Our own listening habits move away a lot from what you would expect by listening to our stuff. We all have a huge mutual appreciation of Motown and 60s girl groups. Personally, touchstone albums would be Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription, Verve – A Northern Soul, Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, and then bands we don’t sound as much like, such as Love – Forever Changes, Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis, everything The La’s ever recorded.
Q. People talk about a shoegaze revival over the past few years but I get the impression from The Lucid Dream tracks that I’ve heard so far that you’re keen not to be pigeonholed into one style or sound?
A. Certainly. We would hate to be tagged as ‘shoegaze’. There are literally only 1 or 2 bandsand influences. Somebody said at a recent gig, how can you go from ‘Hits Me Like I’m Stoned’ to ‘In Your Eyes’, and he was correct. It really is a compliment that people pick up on that. A lot of ‘shoegaze’ bands stick to the downwards strumming, ‘noise’ formula every song, and lack great songs. I have got 5 or 6 songs in mind for album number 2 (jumping the gun a bit), and some of those songs sound like Johnny Cash/Love, and one I have in mind doesn’t even have guitars on, so yeah we want to try and sound as different as possible, as much as possible.
Q. I see you’ve incorporated organ into the new single recording, are you keen to experiment more with different instrumentation and styles?
A. Totally. Financially, we have restrictions. I would love it if we had a few grand to spend on some equipment, get some vintage synths. I had a sitar, which I used on demos, but its not the best quality, and it had to be binned in the end. I would love to get some gospel choirs/strings/horns involved. One of our newest songs, its around 9 minutes long, we have not recorded yet, I would love all those instruments on it, maybe a theremin too. It excites me so much to think how that one would come out if money was no object.
Q. What inspires the songs? I have visions of you waking up and recounting your dreams into a notebook? How far wide of the mark am I?
A. Lots of things inspire them. Life, books, stories. A lot of people think the lyrics may be autobiographical, and that’s not always the case. I find huge inspiration in the lyrics from the books of Irvine Welsh, I literally could write 200 songs influenced by those books. The strangest one of all was I wrote our newest song, which is 2 minute Ronettes/Raveonettes/surf kinda thing, at a Carlisle United match! It just came in my head, 10 minutes. Gotta love those moments, maybe that speaks volumes about the quality of the football! That song may be the next single, so you might hear it before too long.
Q. The B-side ‘Devil Rides out’ is remixed by Richard Norris acclaimed for his mixes of the Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream and the Doves, would you look at working with any remixes that can give a fresh take on your tunes? And would you go one step further and hire a Andrew Wetherall like figure to reconfigure the framework of your songs and take them in new directions?
A. Superb point. I think around 3 albums in, to work with a figure like that would help us make a great album, which we could not have made ourselves. Primal Scream – Screamadelica is in my top 10 albums of all time, a lot of what gets me with it is that it melts my head how far out and different it is. The recent documentaries have shown how influential Andrew Weatherall/Hugo Nicholson were. A friend of ours said after hearing the Richard Norris re-mix that he thinks we would make a great album with him. Some of the elements he has added are stunning.
Q.’There are so many bands repaying his fuzz box sound at the moment that Kevin Shields(My Bloody valentine) should sue’ what do you make of the current crop of particularly American bands recreating this sound?
A. This one may also come a shock, but The Lucid Dream really aren’t fans of My Bloody Valentine. It just doesn’t spark us off. The whole fuzz thing was being done better by Sonic Boom/ Jason Pierce/Will Reid a few years before them. I love what Kevin Shields did with Primal Scream, and he seems a top fella. I think American bands are doing the drone thing significantly better than the UK ones. The bands coming from there at the mo (Wooden Shjips/Moon Duo/Black Angels/ Crocodiles) speaks volumes. Its a shame that no UK bands are doing the whole thing well and selling as many records as those previously mentioned bands.
Q. I saw that you’re new single ‘Love in my veins’ featured on a Psilocybin Sounds compilation alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre, do you have any ambitions to tour stateside?
A. Would love to. We want to go all around the world. If somebody was able to make it happen we would initially love to go to Spain/France/Germany, we have fans out there, America would be a buzz.
Q. When you’re in the studio is it a case of recording tunes you’ve already worked on live, or do you write songs whilst you’re locked away too?
A. Our way of working is I write all the songs myself (bar The Twilight End, which is Wayne’s). I then firstly go in with Luke (drummer), and work on the drums, then bring the bass in (Mike), and get the rhythm section nailed. Wayne (guitar/keys) then comes in, and nails it normally in a day. We then rehearse the life out of them, and push them as far as we can. We don’t write in the studio. We normally have a tight schedule, and get them nailed 2-3 takes, which also keeps it fresh sounding too. Ross (producer) is great at suggesting overdub ideas, as well as various production ideas. In the studio we tend to be very well rehearsed, heads down and get on with it.
Q. How do you feel you’ve progressed across the three releases you’ve put out so far…?
A. The first EP (‘Erbistock Mill’) was an introduction, a 20 minute drone epic, with no gaps. I love that release. I really hope we can get that on vinyl this year, as the first release sold out on CD in no time.
The second release (‘In Your Eyes’), is another amazing release, but it did not go as planned. We originally wanted ‘In Your Eyes’ to be a single, backed with the reverse version. The label who put it out wanted 2 live songs, which we recorded, but they were billed as not ‘live’, so people interpret ‘Glue’ and ‘A Mind At Ease Is A Mind At Play’ as definite versions, which they are not, as they will be on an LP in full form. That release is a sore point. It never got the treatment it deserves, ‘In Your Eyes’ could have been huge. The whole package is something we want to move on from, which is a real shame. If we had the same pluggers for that tune as now it could have been massive.
‘Love In My Veins’ is our first proper single, and we wanted to give it the full treatment it deserved.
We are all vinyl junkies, so we set up our own label (Holy Are You Recordings), with Chris(manager), and made sure it comes out on 7″. We then got some top PR’s on board, and the reaction has been amazing. Frank Skinner played it on his breakfast show. which is crazy, and 6 Music have been all over it. NME, Q and Artrocker too. We are psych heads, but also pop lovers, and great psych pop singles is key to us. We got the vinyls through the other day, one of our our proudest moments ever. Its stunning, we were insistent the whole thing was going to be right, from the promotion to even ensuring that the vinyl had paper inners.
The follow-up single will be on vinyl, and is even more poppier, but retaining the drone edge.
Q. You’re list of support shows thus far is impressive Spectrum (featuring Sonic Boom), The Aliens and Crocodiles but do you have any dream bands you’d like to play with (either living or dead)?
A. Current – Spiritualized, Primal Scream, The Coral, The Horrors, Wooden Shjips.
Past – Spacemen 3, Jesus and Mary Chain, Suicide, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, The Cramps, The Beta Band, The Verve.
Q.I read that you have some interesting visuals on stage? Is it important to you to present a show that isn’t just another four blokes standing on stage playing instruments?
A. Yeah, the visuals are the key, it adds to the weirdness of it all. We don’t move on stage or anything theatrical, we just get locked in the music.
Q. I get the impression that you’re quite tight knit with your management team and label is it important to you that you have a good relationship with those you work with?
A. Chris is my brother,he manages us and started up the label. The band have all known each other for years, which helps, and we are all wary of how corrupt and dangerous the music industry is. Us doing it ourselves for the moment is the way forward.
Q. Do you have any plans for the future in terms of recording a full-length debut?
A. We are making sure we put out some top singles with the right backing first, and hopefully somebody can pick us up for an LP. All the songs are there, I think we have a classic in us too.
The Lucid Dreams recent single ‘Love In My Veins’ is out now on 7″
17th June @ Ravenstonedale Festival (headline set)
18th June @ Aberdeen The Tunnels 2
31st July @ Kendal Calling Festival (main stage)