Drama, tragedy, love, life and death: Dream the Electric Sleep brings new concept record to V Club Saturday

The Lexington, Kentucky-based four-piece Dream the Electric Sleep brings their debut CD “Lost and Gone Forever” to Huntington Saturday for a show at the V Club

Reposted from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

“Why can’t music deal with drama and tragedy at length?”

This was the question Matt Page asked himself as he embarked on writing Dream the Electric Sleep’s debut concept record, “Lost and Gone Forever,” two years ago.

“I wanted to see music as something greater than entertainment,” the singer-guitarist said.

The fourteen-song, 76-minute long prog rock opus, broken up into three parts and told quite beautifully (and heart wrenchingly) from the perspective of an Eastern Kentucky miner and his wife, was recently made available as a free download by the Lexington-based four piece.

Dream the Electric Sleep (Page; Trevor Willmott: guitar; Chris Tackett: bass; Joey Waters: drums) plays the V Club this Saturday with Suede Brothers and John Lancaster.

This is more conceptual art than a collection of randomly arranged songs. From the album’s art through the interweaving narrative of the husband and wife on the songs, as they journal their hardscrabble travails in life, love and death, to the samples of Harlan County, USA interspersed throughout, “Lost and Gone Forever” is itself a story.

Page talked about how seeing the 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA, that, and his family’s own history in the coal industry, influenced him to tell the story of Jack and Clementine, the narrators on the record.

“I wanted to take on coal and see if I could not promote or demonize it, but unravel the dense complexities of energy consumption and production within the lived lives of a small Appalachian town, to recognize the real lives bound up in this issue, and to not let binaries oversimplify the issue.

“In many ways, it was also a portrait of my wife and I, struggling to make ends meet, feeling trapped, and unable to wiggle out of difficult situations in our own lives.”

Page said the concept of “Lost and Gone Forever” largely grew out of the death of his maternal grandparents, who then became the influence for writing from the perspective of Clementine and Jack.

“This album was loosely based on my grandmother and grandfather,” Page said. “While writing this album, both of them passed away. I was there with them in their last moments. I began writing what I had just experienced, seeing them on their deathbeds, a lifetime of stories passing on with them. All I could imagine was that somehow they were able to leave records of their lives with the spirits there to gather them, that somehow reciting all they had done, all they had loved, was a rite of passage into the beyond.

“For me, this album became a necessary way of understanding what was lost with my grandparents, but like many works of art, sometimes their inspiration is not revealed until the work is complete.”

Drummer Joey Waters, himself with family in the mines, said he thinks if people pick up on the themes explored and the story told by Page on the record, it will blow up like so much dynamite.

“My uncle Roger was a career miner in Virginia,” Waters said. “He is long since retired, but is dealing with the health hazards of his profession on a daily basis. I have spoken with him and my aunt about some of the themes that Matt has brought to life on the record. Hearing their firsthand accounts of that lifestyle made the album have an even greater impact on me.

“I think that if a listener was to pick up on the heavy themes of the story that Matt has created, the album will absolutely have a greater impact.”

There’s also the visual concept to the band’s music. While it’s hard to pin down one genre to plug DTES into (the band sounds like Queensryche’s singer joined a heavier version of Pink Floyd) the band plays in the dark on stage, silhouetted only by a choreographed light show, which Tackett runs live through a Midi pedal.

Tackett explained that adding to the visual experience of the live show was something he’s wanted to do forever, whether it was in Chum, Hyatari, or now, in Dream the Electric Sleep.

“DTES talked about adding some visual elements to the live show, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on it,” Tackett explained. “Then I saw the band M83 at the Wexner Center in Columbus. I really liked the way the theater lighting looked. I bought some LED wash lights and starting thinking about what we could do with them. I talked to the guys about possibly playing in silhouette, and the idea just grew from there.”

Between the lighting, the synthesizers and the samples, Dream the Electric Sleep, a long-time studio band, does a good job bringing their big sound and expansive vision to the live show, Page said.

“All in all, we manage pretty well,” Page said, with one important drawback. “Unfortunately, most live shows, we have to play fewer songs because of time constraints, which disrupts the sense of narrative. But we figure if someone likes what they hear, they might actually download or buy the album and dig into the narrative.”

Digging into the past to better appreciate the present manifested itself in another way for Page.

“I actually decided to learn the banjo for this album. I wanted a way to really connect with a certain heritage that, despite living in Lexington my whole life, had never taken on with any interest seriously. I think losing my grandparents, and that sense of needing to keep some memory alive, drove the sound towards a bluegrass aesthetic.”

Maybe the most important listeners are the ones waiting on the CDs to get in.

“My family hasn’t heard it,” Page said. “They’re waiting for the CDs to come in. I think it will mean a lot to my mom though, knowing that her parents, my grandparents, are part of this project that lives on. I really wanted to write a drama, something that dealt with real life and real people.

“This project has barely seen the light of day, and I really hope it has a chance to live on.”

Want to go?
Dream the Electric Sleep, John Lancaster, Suede Brothers
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington (304) 781-0680
When: Saturday, April 9, 9 p.m.
Cost: $7
Info: http://www.dreamtheelectricsleep.com/

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