INTERVIEW: Dream State On Their Return & New EP ‘Still Dreaming’

If you didn’t already believe that Dream State were well and truly back, then you will now. 

It feels like an age since the band relaunched itself with a new line-up back in October 2022, but that’s simply because so much has happened in the meantime. With vocalist Jessie Powell, bassist Jake Bowen and drummer Tom Connelly firmly in the ranks, 2023 first saw the release of a vibrant three-track EP titled ‘Untethered’, an emotional taste of what to expect from this new chapter. Throw in some extensive touring, both at home and internationally, and even a support slot with the legendary Funeral For A Friend, the band established that they weren’t here to sit back and simply try and replicate what their first iteration brought into the world. 

That sentiment is further embedded in their brand new EP, ‘Still Dreaming’. The first big statement of their latest adventure, it is a heavy, harmonious, and haunting experience. A collection of songs that focus on not letting things get in the way of what you want from this life. Things may change, and the world may challenge you, but through grit, determination and sheer will, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. 

To learn more about how it’s felt to make such huge strides, Rock Sound caught up with Jessie and Aled…

RS: After the last 16 months, this is the moment where the new chapter of Dream State really starts. How does it feel to be in that position after all the work you have put in up to this point?

JESSIE: “It’s been absolutely relentless since the get-go! It feels like we haven’t stopped, and I don’t think we plan to slow down. Last year really was the biggest whirlwind for us all. To be able to get one EP out and then start working on this one, I feel like we are really starting to get our sound together. We are also still getting to know each other. I’ve known these guys for 18 months now, and we have all worked hard to be where we are now. I knew I was joining a band with a platform, but I feel like I have already lived some of my biggest dreams. Going out to Europe, playing with Funeral For A Friend. Even if that was all we did, I would feel like, ‘That’s it, I’ve made it’. It’s been very surreal; I feel like this little puppy is taking it all in. I hope that feeling doesn’t end.”

RS: So, when you think back to the moment you relaunched Dream State, what were you going through emotionally? How does that compare to how you felt when you started working on ‘Still Dreaming’?

ALED: “Initially, there wasn’t a plan for what we did with the ‘Untethered’ EP. It was very much a happy accident. We recorded ‘Taunt Me’ first, and the plan was to just release some singles and then think about an EP further down the line. But with each track we would work on, we started to notice how there were similar themes running through each one. Though ‘Taunt Me’ felt like the best one to go with first because it still had some of that old Dream State sound but in a new direction, so it felt like the natural way to go.”

JESSIE: “At the time, my mentality was very much, ‘Well, let’s do it and see what happens’. Let’s just give it a go. When it seemed to go down well, that’s when we knew we were good to just crack on. Though I feel like ‘Still Dreaming’ is the big deal. This is the first proper big release, which was worked on as one thing rather than pieced together.”

RS: So, what was the intention with ‘Still Dreaming’? What was it that you wanted to be representing?

JESSIE: “I’ve always said that my writing is very much an inner dialogue of my mind. It’s been really wholesome for me to articulate things that have been suppressed in my memory and mind for so long in a really productive way. Rather than just going out and getting shitfaced, I’ve gone completely straight edge since joining Dream State and channelled all of my energy into writing songs. It’s almost like a memoir of my life, and I feel like this EP saw me staying on the same theme as ‘Untethered’ in a lot of ways. There’s quite a lot of dark emotion in there. ‘Chin Up Princess’ is something that I wrote in my early teens, and I recorded the original with Dan Lancaster when I was in my 20s. Asking the guys if it would be alright if we reworked the song because it fitted in with the theme we were going for. I feel really lucky that it is being given the daylight I always wanted it to have.

“In many ways, ‘Still Dreaming’ is a collection of emotions. For Aled, it’s about the naysayers and the industry people who might have said this won’t work. We are completely DIY. We have no label or manager. So this is a way of letting people know we are still here and going. It is about not giving up on what I want to do and still going for it. Then it is also similar to the old Dream State in that it also centres around mental health. Wanting to get back up and keep on moving. It’s been an opportunity to release a lot from my head and also show what I am about. I’m not just a replacement; I’m a vocalist in my own right. It’s the time to remember where I came from and believe in myself more.”

RS: When you’re writing about finding such light in the darkness, you need to remember to embody that in the rest of what you do as well. You can’t sing about carrying on and pushing yourself if you’re not actually doing it…

JESSIE: “And the thing is that I am forever grateful that I was allowed to do that. I feel like I must have annoyed the rest of the band by saying how much I appreciate it. It was a collective decision from Aled, Jake and Tom to bring me on, and I’m so glad they sent me that message when they did. I had put myself in a box, put this part of my life to bed. To be able to play in a band that allows me to do this again and embody it is something that hasn’t sunk in yet. My husband has told me that I have got that little spark back that I had when he met me. I have been through so much depression over the years, and having this outlet again has really improved my mental health. It will be something I will incorporate in my mind forever because I think it’s good for me.”

RS: You could have left Dream State as it was when things were changing. But the fact you felt as though the story wasn’t over weaves its way into that feeling of embodying what you have always represented as well. It wouldn’t be the Dream State way to just let this lie…

ALED: “I just love writing music. I love performing and playing, and I wasn’t ready to give any of that up. With the title of the EP being ‘Still Dreaming’, I really am still dreaming. I feel like I still have a lot to give and a lot more music to share with the world. That’s why we will keep going.”

JESSIE: “I feel like I speak for the whole band when I say how we feel super lucky. We could have released ‘Taunt Me’, and people could have just switched off. It could have flopped, and everybody would have moved on. Aled would have said, ‘Well, at least I had a go’ because he has spent ten years building Dream State into what it was. But to have been able to do the things that we have already done, some bands will never get there in their lifetime. Who knows what the next year will hold, but we will always be grateful for achieving what we have already.”

RS: Musically, these also feel like some of the heaviest and most experimental pieces that Dream State have put together. Is it a case of shaking off what is expected from the band has allowed you to delve into spaces that you have always wanted to but knew probably wouldn’t fit…

ALED: “A lot of the ideas and demos were written during the pandemic, and it just found us going into a different place. I always thought that the follow-up to [2019 album] ‘Primrose Path’ would be a bit more riffy and balanced. Before, things were very much a lot of sad power chords, and I wanted to evolve it from that. Have a bit more technicality and excitement in the music. It felt like the natural progression and the next best place to go. I’m also really into electronic music as well. That’s always been there, but more in the background. Now it feels like it is a lot more prominent, like with tracks like ‘Set Free’. That song is very much inspired by Jon Hopkins, and I love that ambience and vibey EDM stuff. It’s just so nice to listen to.”

RS: It again reflects on the fact that you’re singing songs where the light in the distance is less of a speck and more of a shimmer right in front of your face. You want what you are making to feel like that as much as possible…

ALED: “I definitely agree with that. When I’m writing, I am always thinking about how the songs will go down live as much as anything. I will never settle for, ‘Yeah, that will do’. I’m always thinking of what I can do to make it better. Then, 100 versions later, I will land on something that feels pretty cool and is how I want it to be.”

RS: Having not just the time and space but also support allows you to keep on pushing in that sense. The proof is in just how powerful the result is and for you to create such a statement that feels like this. It must give you such hope for what the future may hold as well…

JESSIE: “There is definitely some stuff we can’t say yet, but we can say that we are always writing. We are constantly working on trying to better ourselves. Having Tom and Jake in the band, they are also such exceptional musicians. We will be in the studio, and I will feel excited watching them all work together. Everybody puts their own ideas in and always reaches for more. We’re all on the same page and want the same thing. I truly believe that you will get out whatever you put in. If we keep our heads down, stay humble and work really hard, then I don’t see how everything we want can come to fruition.”

RS: You’re not settling to just exist in the alternative space. You’re not here to fit in. You’re here to win…

JESSIE: “We want to set the world alight, and we all have that same fire inside of us. We could have just ridden off the back of ‘Untethered’ for another year, and people would have been fine with that. But now they get five new tracks quickly, which feels incredibly exciting. I hope it shows even more people in the industry that we aren’t trying to ride off the back of an old platform. This is Dream State 2.0.”

‘Still Dreaming’ is out on January 26.

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