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Dreamsalon interview with Min Yee

If you remember the mind bending experience of putting on The Violent Femmes’ Hallowed Ground or Self-Titled album for the first time, those bizarre infectious sounds spilling out of the speakers defying genre and shattering any predefined notions that you had about what you were listening to, you’re in for another tasty treat some twenty years later!  Spaced out garage psych at its finest, it’s hard to believe that Thirteen Nights is a debut album when you’re listening to it, and not the work of some veteran group of musicians who’ve spent the better part of a decade or something making music together.  That’s no surprise though considering the pedigree of the Seattle supergroup, made up of veterans from such bands as the A-Frames, The Intelligence and Evening Meetings, the latter of which Dreamsalon actually morphed out of.  From the opening chords and graceful percussion, destructive bass and dreamily chanted lyrics of “Lick” or “Get To Work”, to wild rumpuses like “Twenty More Days”, and minimalist psych genius in the form of songs like “In The Air”, it’s easy to tell Thirteen Nights is going to be a wild ride from the get go!  Dreamsalon bring to mind a more Syd Barrett like Night Beats, or maybe The Violent Femmes on acid…  This is some wild and genuinely original music to put it lightly.  Combining Craig Chamber’s minimalist, reverb soaked guitar which provides these dreamy, droning sounds atop Matt Ford’s amazingly tight drum beats, channeling Moon and Krupa-esque jazz inspired garage beats that rampage along with Min Yee’s bass which seems to guide and control the music allowing Chamber to explore, speeding up and switching between infectious lead lines and tasty riffing on a whim.  Treading the lines between out and out caveman garage rock, psychedelic space rock, and some absolutely killer boarder line country and absolutely killer surf-psych Dreamsalon are unlike anything else that you’re going to find.  If you read much of my stuff you know I worship at the altar of the heavy riff and I can’t resist a good solo, and while Chamber is an undeniably bad ass guitarist it’s more about what he’s not playing than any flashy tricks or bravado here, with clever rave ups and hypnotic picked out lead lines that tumble and crash headlong into the main riff and explode in a wave of noise before retreating back into themselves.  With an announcement not long ago that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their follow up to the outsider masterpiece that is Thirteen Nights, I knew the time to talk was nigh.  Thankfully bassist Min Yee has graced up with an amazing interview, delving deep into the details of where the band came from, their early history and the recording of their albums.  It’s all here and more, so make sure you check out the link below for some music and pick up an LP before they disappear because these are some sick tunes, it is psychedelic after all baby! 
Listen while you read:

What is Dreamsalon’s current lineup?  Is this the original lineup or have there been any changes since you all started playing together? 

Matthew Ford plays drums and sings, Craig Chambers plays guitar and sings, and I play bass without singing.  There can never be any lineup changes in Dreamsalon.

I was doing a little bit of reading and looking around and I saw a post on your Facebook page about how Dreamsalon had kind of evolved out of another band Even Meetings.  Can you talk a little bit about that evolution and change?

That’s EVENING MEETINGS.  Basically, the three of us got together in 2009 and after a year we needed a name.  The working title “Street Level” was kind of funny, but not really suitable.  Matthew always liked the name Evening Meetings, but he’d used the name before when he and Craig jammed a few times with Erin Sullivan from A-Frames, and thought it wouldn’t be right to use the name without him.  So, we asked Erin to play with us and, bang!  Evening Meetings was born, a four piece.  We did that for a year and a half before Erin started to need to travel a lot for work.  He was a crucial part of that sound and irreplaceable, so we became DREAMSALON.  That was December 2011.  Evening Meetings only played about five shows, but recorded two albums.  One was released on Sweet Rot and one is still unreleased.

Are any of you in any other bands at this point?  Other than Even Meetings, have you released any material with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us about it?

I play drums in Universe People and bass in Le Sang Song.  Craig also plays in Le Sang Song.  Matthew is YVES/SON/ACE.

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Marin County, California until I was eight, and then lived in Ft. Myers, Florida until I was seventeen.  Matthew’s from Chicago and Craig is from Pullman, Washington.

What was the local music scene like there when you were growing up?  Did you see a lot of shows when you were a kid?  Do you feel like the local scene there played a large part in shaping your musical tastes or in the way that you play and perform at this point?

In Marin I would have been in 3rd grade or earlier, and in Ft. Myers I just don’t remember much of a music scene, although there were a handful of bands.  The scene was teenage punks hanging out and looking for fun; and also looking out for jocks.  My first show was KISS in San Francisco when I was maybe seven or eight and that definitely made me want to play rock and roll.  But my musical tastes were largely shaped somewhere between Ft. Myers and Seattle, when I became immersed in punk and underground music in general.

What about your house when you were growing up?  Were your parents or any of your musicians or extremely involved or interested in music?

Both my parents knew how to play guitar and had some good records.  My mom’s best records were The Beatles.  My dad’s best records were The Who and CCR.

What was your first real exposure to music?

The Who and Beatles records of my parents (Thanks Mom!  Thanks Dad!), KISS and Cheap Trick records from my older brother’s friend Matt Temple.  Thanks Matt!

If you had to pick a moment in your life, a moment that changed everything for you and opened the door to all the infinite possibilities of music to you, what would it be?

I was fourteen or fifteen when my brother Tai sent me three compilation tapes he made from Bobby Sickler that had all kinds of weird and cool music on them; punk stuff like Dead Kennedys and other stuff like Violent Femmes, Psychic TV, Bauhaus.  Up to that point I only had access to radio and MTV and thought that’s what music was.  My world was turned upside down after those tapes.

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you?

I loved that this new world of music was raw and simple, and the best part was that it seemed anybody could do it.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get it?

When I was sixteen, my dad said he knew I was underachieving at school, and that if I got straight A’s on a report card, he’d get me something I wanted.  The next report card, I got a guitar and amp.

Obviously several of you had known each other previously, but how did the members of Dreamsalon meet and when was that?

I met Matthew around 1999 or 2000 at a rooftop party on the 4th of July.  We started hanging out, exchanging records.  Matthew had just split up with his girlfriend, so a lot of fun nights were happening at his place, which is where I met Craig; and Adria, and lots of other cool people.

What led to the formation of Dreamsalon and when would that have been?

It was April 2009.  Craig and Matthew had been doing Love Tan/Pyramids for at least seven years by then, and I had been doing A-Frames for even longer.  We’d talked over the years of doing stuff together, so we finally just did it.

I seriously dig the name!  Dreamsalon sounds like one of those obscure, absolutely killer psych bands that your record collector buddy would tell you about, ha-ha!  What does the name Dreamsalon actually mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it? 

Matthew came up with the name.  We had a list of possible names and it’s so hard naming a band, it’s one of the worst things that has to be done because so many words are overused, so many words are too loaded with meaning, too many are hilarious for one night and lame ever after.  Things I like about the name Dreamsalon is it isn’t funny or cutesy or clever, it’s not loaded with obvious imagery, and it doesn’t contain overused words like Big, The, any animal, any color, etcetera.

Is there any shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

“Do what thou wilt”, as long as you “Keep it simple”, and “Pass me a Modelo”.

Where’s Dreamsalon located at these days?


How would you describe the local music scene where all are at currently?

It’s good.  There’s a lot of diversity in Seattle, we have hip hop, rock, experimental, bluegrass, doom metal, you name it.  I don’t know anything about those mini-scenes though.  There does seem to be a ton of bands.

Are you very involved in the local scene in your opinion?  Do you book and or attend a lot of local shows or anything?

I book Dreamsalon and I help friends from other cities get a show here if they’re on tour, but I’m not a booker in the real sense.  I go to one or two shows a month.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any local music?  If you are, can you talk about that briefly?

I’ve released a handful of records and a CD over the years as Dragnet Records.  The pre-production and production of vinyl records is a lot of fun.  But after that, marketing and playing the salesman is not my thing and I don’t enjoy doing it.

Do you feel like the local scene has played an important role in shaping the music of Dreamsalon or maybe in the history of the band?  Do you think you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do if you were somewhere else?

I suppose, but I don’t know.  We could be from anywhere.

Every time I do one of these interviews I inevitably have to describe how a band sounds to our readers who may or may not heard them before.  I am totally obsessed with the fact that I feel like when I listen to music I put far too much of myself and my own perception of the sound into describing it and don’t do a band any justice when I attempt it.  I especially dislike doing it when I have such an open forum like this and I can actually ask a band what they think they sound like.  So rather than my neurosis keeping me up tonight with crushing anxiety, how would you describe Dreamsalon’s sound in your own words for our readers who might not have heard you before?

Nice try!

I really dig your guys’ sound!  There’s a definite pattern to everything while it sounds like you definitely spend a good amount of time pushing the boundaries of fine-tuned, well-honed traditional songs combined with some noise and psychedelic influences from what I can tell.  Who would you cite as some major musical influences on yourself?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?

We have a lot of influences.  I guess The Fall, Pere Ubu, Gun Club, Scientists, Alan Vega, Raincoats, Velvet Underground, Stooges, La Rallizes Denudes...  The usual suspects.

Let’s talk a little bit about the songwriting process with Dreamsalon a little bit if you don’t mind.  What’s the process like?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out and compose with the rest of the band, or is there a lot of jamming and exchange of ideas that you all kick back and forth together as a unit and work into a song?

Songs get started as a result of jamming on whatever comes to mind.  Nobody shows up to practice and goes, “Hey let’s do this riff I have”.  Then when we like something we’ve made up, we keep working on it until it’s a song.

What about recording with Dreamsalon?  I mean, I think most musicians can really appreciate the end result of all the toil and trouble.  But getting stuff all worked out, sounding the way that you want it to, especially as a band can be extremely difficult!  How is it recording for Dreamsalon?

There’re usually compromises on all sides and in each step of recording, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  We don’t have a leader and we don’t have some producer working everything out.  But we are in agreement on most of the issues that can come up in a recording, so when we diverge it’s not that big of a deal and we can talk it out so everyone comes around and understands. It’s not like one of us says, “it’s gotta be my way and that’s just the way it is.”  We’ve been friends for a long time and we get along well together.

Do you all head into the studio when you want to record and let someone else take the helm for those kinds of things, or do you all handle the recording yourself in a more DIY fashion on your own time and turf?

We can’t record ourselves, so yeah we go with people we know to record us.

Matthew Ford home studio

Is there a lot of preparation that goes into a Dreamsalon session where you all spend a bunch of time getting things to sound just the way that you want them, all the arrangements and compositions worked out?  Or do you head into the studio with a decent idea of what you want to accomplish and how a song should sound, but give them a little bit of room to change and evolve during the recording evolution?

The second way.  We can’t have everything worked out in advance; we just aren’t that kind of a band.  Things are mostly figured out and we have a good idea of where we want things to go, but there are always some songs that lend themselves to being changed, sometimes dramatically, from what we thought we had originally.  It just takes going through the recording process to find out where those things happen.  You can’t be too precious about a part because it might end up not being the best thing for the song, and you only realize it in the studio.

Matt Stegner mixing

Your first release was the 2012 Tour CD-R, hand numbered and limited to only 94 copies with a cassette tape version by Skrot Up Records limited to 60 copies.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material of that first release?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all?  Who recorded that material?  When and where would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used?

I recorded the tour CD-R/cassette on an Edirol R-09 digital recorder at the practice space (Matthew’s house).  It’s what we use to remember song ideas from jamming.  We didn’t record those for the purpose of making a CD-R; we were going on tour and needed something to sell at shows, so we went through all the recorded practice sessions and picked the best stuff to make a tour CD-R of.

You released Thirteen Nights on the ever awesome Captcha Records.  Did you all approach the songwriting or recording of the material for Thirteen Nights radically differently than your earlier work?  What was the recording of the material for Thirteen Nights like?  Who recorded it?  Where was that?  What kind of equipment was used?  When was Thirteen Nights recorded? 

Thirteen Nights was recorded by Alex Yusimov at his Portland studio, The Pool, in July 2012.  We mixed a few songs with Alex in December, and then mixed the rest with Matt Stegner in Seattle in February of 2013.  One of the unique things about recording at The Pool is the total analog experience.  24-track 2-inch tape, lots of good mics and effects and what not.  I’m fuzzy on particular names of gear we used though.  The only one I remember is called “The Distressor” because it had a nuclear option on it, which we did use.  Oh, and a Space Echo that Alex played live on the mixdown of “On the Bus”.  On top of that Alex is really experienced at this stuff, I’ve known him since 1995 or something, and his rates are super good.  The Breeders recorded there, though I don’t know if the material was released.  For recording Thirteen Nights, we did all the basic tracks together live, and did vocals and overdubs separately; the usual process.  On “New Age” Craig did five guitar tracks on the loud bit toward the end.

When I was talking with you earlier you mentioned that you were going to have a track featured on a Record Store Day compilation being released by Learning Curve Records this year (2014), Held Hostage, Vol. 2.  What track is that?  Was the song written or recorded specifically for the comp or had it been around for a while looking for a home?  If so can you tell us about the recording of the track?  Is it exclusive the RSD comp?  Do you know how many copies the comp is going to be limited to?

That song is “Brush Your Teeth” which is an old Love Tan song.  We recorded it during the Thirteen Nights session, but it didn’t fit on the album and was looking for a home.  It should be a single with the other unreleased song from that session but they’re both kinda short and we need another one to two songs to make a good single.  So far it’s exclusive to the comp but it really should be a single.  Other bands on the comp are Hollow Boys, Blind Shake, Gay Witch Abortion, Seawhores, Nightosaur, Pretty Please, Henry Blacker, Disasteratti and In Defence.

You all are headed into the studio at the end of this month (March 2014) to record your next album and I am totally stoked!  What can our readers expect from the upcoming album?  Are you going to try anything different with the songwriting, composition or recording of the new album?  Do you all have a name in mind for it or anything yet?  Are you planning on working with Captcha again for this record or are you going to be shopping the album around once it’s done?

The next record has the working title Soft Stab and it might be a bit more frenetic than Thirteen Nights, but it’s hard to really tell until it’s all done.  That’s the way the music sounds to me in practice.  The composition of these songs is the same.  We jam on stuff until the weaker stuff falls away, and we work on the stronger stuff until it seems like the songs are done.  The recording will be at MRX studio in Seattle with Matt Stegner.  It’s also going to be recorded on 24-track tape, but the mixing will be digital.  Mixing is so involved that doing it digitally is so much easier because when you need to fix something you don’t have to start with a blank slate, or take such detailed notes about every single effect knob and fader position and a zillion other things.  As far as labels, we don’t know yet.  I would like to be on an African label from forty years in the future, whose mission is to unearth rare, cool, old recordings from far away and forsaken lands such as Seattle.  Then all the future people of Africa could marvel at how awesome these sounds are!  And at the same time they could be proud of themselves for being multiculturally-aware bad asses digging obscure finds.

Does Dreamsalon have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a song on a compilation or a single that I might have missed?

To quote John from the Pelvis Wrestlies, “Nope”.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up your music?

Midheaven has it.  Or better yet, ask your local record store to order it from Revolver.

With the increasing international postage rate increases over the last few years I try and provide our readers with as many possibly options for picking up import releases as I can!  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to buy your stuff?

I don’t think there is any European distribution.

And where’s the best place for interested readers to keep up with the latest news from Dreamsalon like upcoming shows and album releases at?

Are there any major goals or plans that Dreamsalon is looking to accomplish in 2014?

Put out Soft Stab, and go on tour.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring?  Do you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on the road for Dreamsalon?

Touring is great, but it can be brutal at times.  We called our first tour “Addicted To Shitty Tours”.  The shows ranged between small and microscopic, but we’d only played a total of five shows before going on that first tour, so we kinda expected that.  When we got to Reno, Clark Demeritt said “Your tour sucks!”  We go out once a year, for about two weeks at a time.  Any more than that seems depressing.

© Drew Gordon

Do you remember what the first song that Dreamsalon ever played live was?  When and where would that have been at?

The first show was in February of 2012 at Cairo in Seattle, with the great Feeling of Love.  The first song we played was “Lick”.  Jim the Bootlegger, aka Overdose the Katatonic, has video of it.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with so far?

Blind Shake, Thee Oh Sees, Pelvis Wrestlies, Diminished Men, Feeling of Love, Pony Time.  All of those bands go far above and beyond what you should expect when going to a show.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories form live shows or performances that you’d like to tell our readers?

In Eugene, we played at Tiny's Tavern, which was a real experience.  A crazy girl was storming around the parking lot screaming for someone named "Gridlock".  "WHERE THE FUCK IS GRIDLOCK!!"  We met a cool looking greasy guy who introduced himself as Gridlock, of the band Slutter.  Inside the bar, the average patron was either homeless or a transient, identified by smell.  The guy next to me at the bar was staring at the guy next to him eating a Reeser's burrito, drooling, and he said "Mmm that looks real good."  Slutter had boy/girl punk singers who both looked sixteen years old.  The boy was dressed in a long, old-lady dress from the 20's or 30s and wore bright red lipstick.  They were one of those rare experiences being so terrible that they went into that weird awesome territory.  Like Tampax.  We loved it and cheered after every song.  Halfway through our set, Slutter's boy singer was visibly agitated and got up and stood right in Craig's face while he sang.  Craig tolerated it for a moment, but then out of nowhere the boy flew into a rage and tried to strangle Craig as he sang "Brush Your Teeth".  Craig stopped playing guitar and strangled the kid back, and lifted him off the ground and eventually some bar patrons intervened.  Craig yelled to him "What the fuck!?!  I even liked your band!"  At which point the kid came in for a hug.  I don't think this guy said anything the whole time; it was all just wordless violence and then tenderness.  We thought there was some weird new drug that all the kids in town were doing.  It wasn't the usual drug reactions we’re used to seeing.  It was the first night of our first tour, and our sixth show as a band.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Eight kittens and eight puppies, with three androgynous triplet humans to clean up after them.

With all of the various mediums that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you talk a little bit about why?

I guess vinyl is the defacto preference for releases because it’s a status symbol and its cool or whatever, and it means someone likes your band enough to put up a few thousand to manufacture it on vinyl, and then pimp it.  Myself, I have a ton of vinyl partly because of the type of music I like is released that way, and partly because of my age, it’s what I grew up listening to so there’s a bit of nostalgia.  I still buy and listen to vinyl but I listen to my iPod a lot more now because it is so convenient.  I don’t get mesmerized by the magic of flipping a record over; I’m mentally strong that way.  It doesn’t make me appreciate it more.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band live artwork for flyers, posters, covers and shirts?  Is there any kind of message that you’re trying to convey with your art or anything?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?  If you do, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?

Matthew is the visual and design person.  He has a good aesthetic, which Craig and I trust.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

I haven’t counted my records, but I’d guess it’s about a thousand LPs, and a few hundred 7”s, a few hundred CDs, and a few dozen cassettes.  My oldest ones are from when I was maybe seven years old, Cheap Trick Live at Budokan and Kiss Alive!  The rest I started buying when I was around fifteen and I never stopped. I slowed down a few years ago because really, how many records do you need?  There’s too many for me to realistically listen to, and after the last time I moved I decided that I would rather sell all of them than move them one more time!  But Matthew’s record collection is unbelievable.

I grew up around a large collection of music and my father always encouraged me to dig in and enjoy it.  From a very young ago I would go up to these enormous shelves of music, pick something out, stick it in the player, kick back with a pair of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the experience transport me away to another place.  Having something physical to hold in my hands and hold, something to experience along with the music always made for a more complete listening experience; at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

I had that experience as a child too, when listening to music was new.  I don’t as much anymore.  Part of it’s because I’m older and have so many records.  Part of it’s because modern releases are generally more boring as objects, in that many releases which are good musically don’t have liner notes or good artwork, or inserts to look at.

As much as I love my collection of music I have to admit that I do love my digital music collection as well.  There’s no denying the ease and portability of digital music and when you combine it with the internet, you have a revolutionary concept on your hands.  Together they’ve exposed people to a global music market that they otherwise wouldn’t have even known existed.  And of independent bands that are willing to promote a healthy online presence it seems to have levelled the playing field somewhat, allowing unparalleled communication between bands and their fan base regardless of their locale.  On the other hand, it’s destroying what little is left of the music industry and illegal music is running absolutely rampant these days.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s our opinion on digital music and distribution?

I think the technology that enables anyone to record and release music as mp3, or whatever digital format, is great in that it lets anybody do it.  It’s also terrible in that it lets anybody do it.  If you share my opinion that at any one time eighty to ninety percent of music sucks, then the fact that there’s so much more music now because of technology means there’s both more good music to discover and a shit ton of more shitty music to avoid.  The ratio of shit music to good music in the universe remains.  As far as the biz, it seems harder than ever to make any money.  Granted, I’ve always been into non-commercial/marginal music that was never going to blow up, but when I was young it seemed like you could actually aspire to have moderate success as an underground band on your own terms.  And that didn’t seem like a ludicrous concept.  It kinda does seem ludicrous these days.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time to keep up with even one-percent of the amazing stuff that’s out there right now.  As a result I rely on tips from people such as you in hopes of hearing my next favorite band!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?

What about nationally and internationally?

Besides all the bands I’ve mentioned before, I’d say The Plateaus, Monophonic Hillside, Dan Melchior, The Offset: Spectacles, Kitchen’s Floor, Ghastly Spats, lots of great Australian stuff.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, I know it wasn’t short and it took a while to get done but I always say, it something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!  Before we call it a day, I’d like to open the floor up to you.  Is there anything that I might have missed or that you’d like to take this opportunity to talk to me or my readers about?

I think you pretty much covered everything!

(2012)  Dreamsalon – Tour CD-R/Cassette – digital, Cassette Tape, CD-R – Skrot Up Records/Self-Released (CD-R limited to 94 hand numbered copies, Cassette Tape Limited to 60 copies)
(2013)  Dreamsalon – Thirteen Nights – digital, Cassette Tape, 12” – Captcha Records (12” limited to 200 copies on Black Vinyl and 100 copies on Gold Vinyl, Cassette Tape limited to ? copies)
(2014)  Various Artists – Held Hostage, Vol.2. – 7" – Learning Curve Records (Limited to ? copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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