Rees’ Pieces: Dream On

Posted: December 28, 2011 by Windsor Zene in Interviews

As someone who enjoys participating in the local scene, I’m amazed that I’ve only been able to see Awake to a Dream live once, and I was not disappointed.  The sound is a seamless fusion of hardcore and progressive rock/metal that you can’t find with any other local band.  This New Year’s Eve, I plan to revisit the band at The Coach and Horses to celebrate the arrival of 2012, but also to celebrate the release of Awake to a Dream’s new EP, Living the Immoral Life.  Here is my interview with Awake to a Dream’s vocalist/guitarist, Chris Wilbur.

Awake to a Dream: (Left to Right) Chris Wilbur, Marcel Belanger, Pierre Labbe, Dean George.

Rees:  Name the members of Awake To A Dream and what instruments they play that contribute to your sound. What do each of you bring to the band that makes you unique?

Chris:  Members are Marcel Belanger on drums (who seems to be able to work with any strange time arrangement I throw at him and fills in with certain hooks that add energy to the songs), Pierre Labbe on bass (who was not accustomed to our style of music at first since he likes his Ska/Rockabilly/Psychobilly). Bringing someone into the band not used to a style can guarantee something interesting coming out because they can see the music in a completely different way than the person writing the song. He also plays ukulele and when given the chance, standup bass (which were both used on the album).  However, we have yet to use that live.

Dean was a great lead guitarist to bring into the mix because he has just as much what I call ‘musical A.D.D.’ as I do. This means we can be listening to (or writing) progressive metal or power metal one minute, and the next minute listening to (or writing) Electronica, or Jazz fusion (though have yet to write a proper Jazz fusion-esque song) and in between. As you guessed by the paragraph up to this point, I have done most of the songwriting thus far, however the songs are much more raw and underdeveloped before the guys add to them. The other guys have written material that hasn’t made it to the stage or recordings yet. Live I sing and play guitar, on the album I contribute keyboard and mandolin as well, though I have yet to use them live.

Rees: What are some bands that you’ve played alongside in the local scene that you particularly enjoy playing with?

Chris:  There are so many we have played with or wanted to do a show with. One that we haven’t yet but would like to is Gypsy Chief Goliath. I’ve always respected Al’s work and in my opinion, this is his best project yet. A band we have played a show with is Pitch Union actually, and our sounds are very similar so they’re another band thats nice to do a show with. Perpetuate has been good to us, and it’s even enjoyable playing with bands like Betrayer and Final Stage because those crowds are loaded with energy. Once in a while we’ll play with completely different bands like Repetitions, and Devils by Definition.  It’s like treating audiences on both ends of the spectrum to something new. There are so many national acts I’d love to do a show with too, but its more of a case of taking them as they come.

Rees:  It’s pretty bold to have your CD release party on New Year’s Eve. Do you expect a good attendance?

Chris:  That was basically Jamie’s (from Perpetuate) idea to have a big show on New Years Eve which I haven’t done in years, plus we were looking to have our CD release on a show tagged to one that had some sort of meaning than just some regular show. He made sure it was a good one too, his band is quite awing to watch. Dreams Destruction is having it as their comeback show, and 2 out of town bands who have an audience here (All Against I – London area, Slyde – from Ottawa).

Rees: What kind of material can we expect on the CD? Is it going to be mostly stuff you’ve played live, or will there be new tracks no one’s heard at your shows yet?

Chris:  This EP was actually recorded some time ago so every song has made it to the live set in that time.  None of our covers will be on it though.  Those we only play live to mix up our set so to speak.  Also, there will even be post-CD songs performed that night.

Rees:  Tell us about some of the band’s musical influences. Do you try to sound like music you admire, or do you try to “re-invent the wheel”?

Chris:  The music is a combination of different influences.  Some of my favorites range from Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Tool, to Matthew Good, 90s indie/alternative, 70s progressive rock, even some pop from all eras (not a very large percentage of it though). Some influences are more apparent than others in our songwriting, but we don’t try to reinvent the wheel at all.  To me, it is pointless to do that unless it’s an extension to the sound in someway. I can usually tell listening to music if a band really cares about what they’re doing or just trying to get something out of it (fame, money, etc). The other guys have completely different tastes in music some of which I have gotten into by overhearing, or being told about the music by them.

Rees:  I have to say, the members of Awake To A Dream can often be seen attending other local bands’ shows and supporting the scene, even when you guys aren’t playing that night. Do you arrive at a show with “supporting bands” on your mind, or do you just go out because you enjoy the music?

Chris:  It’s a mix of going out to see bands I enjoy, and wanting to check a new band I haven’t heard before but either been recommended to or came across their music page or what not. It’s pretty much the same with the other guys, we come out whenever we get a chance.

Rees:  Of all the venues you’ve played at, which is your favorite and why?

Chris:  The Coach and FM lounge have always been good to us but there are even venues that don’t exist anymore that I enjoyed playing at like Avalon Front. there are several venues in the States that in a past band I really enjoyed playing at. More venues I enjoy playing at than not.

Rees:  What will happen for Awake to a Dream in 2012? Any plans yet, or will the band just “wing it”?

Chris:  Our main goal is actually to get playing outside of windsor because I miss it, and it’s time we expand out with Awake to a Dream. We’re also in the process of doing a second EP which we’re not pushing to finish right away (as the first still has yet to be ‘released’) but since much of our writing is done while recording (the benefit of self-producing), there will be more and more original songs making their way into our live shows.  We have more incomplete than complete songs right now which is exciting, but we’re lacking the time to finish them as quickly as we’d like (I blame myself for taking forever to write lyrics).

Rees:  I have a scenario for you: You just played a show and find out that all the other bands got paid and you didn’t. What do you do?

Chris: First reaction would be “Why?”  And if there’s a legit reason I have no problem, however if it’s due to carelessness from the person in charge of the show I would approach them about it because if they do it to us, they do it to many others. Bands really have to work hard to make anything these days.  Asking for gas money to get home for an out-of-town band is too much to ask quite often unless they’re a known national act (which doesn’t always guarantee a profit either).

Rees:  As someone who loves progressive rock and metal, I can really relate to Awake To A Dream. What specific qualities do you put in your music that might give it that progressive sound?

Chris:  That’s a compliment that you understand the band, because at least around here bands like us are considered not light enough, not metal enough, or we don’t stick to one sound, etc.  The way we approach a song (at least from my point of view) we try to do something we haven’t done before, particularly with arrangement.  Not very often will I have a straight forward verse, chorus verse, chorus, bridge etc with 4/4 timing, but sometimes simple and straight forward is what the song calls for. I write the songs more like a story instead of just going through the motions or having a default way of doing it. Something else used quite often in our music is dynamic change, sometimes very abrupt, as it helps keep the audience guessing where the music will go next, rests the ears a bit between heavier parts, and makes each sound seem more extreme.

Rees:  Where does the band jam, and what goes on? Is it just an hour or two of solid music, or is there a good amount of “hanging out” that happens at jam time?

Chris:  We actually jam at my house and make sure it’s productive, we occasionally get too busy to jam as much as we’d like, so when we do we make the most of it.  We’ll occasionally record practices too so we can hear where improvements need to be made. This doesn’t mean we don’t have fun.  Every band practice has been filled with terrible jokes, and occasionally me throwing parody lines in my own lyrics.

Rees:  I’ve seen a lot of bands fall apart because although the musical talent is there, the bond of friendship is not. Will Awake To A Dream ever run that risk?

Chris:  You never know when something will happen in a band.  We’ve disagreed before, but we have respect for each other and make sure while being productive we don’t go overboard to where we’re not having fun. We’ve been in enough bands in the past to know what not to do.

Rees:  What’s the story behind the name, “Awake To A Dream”? How would you describe the music and the band to first-time listeners?

Chris:  I actually came up with that name years ago when I was posting my demos of some of the songs we use now before the band came together. There was a friend of mine named Chad (whom I was in a previous band with) that I would jam those songs with as well as cover songs, and songs he had written. The first few songs written for the project came from what goes through my head while I’m either daydreaming or perhaps working on my own at work thinking. At the time of the formation we felt it still described the music quite well.

Rees:  Tell us about the biggest crowd you’ve ever had at a live show. What steps do you take in your performance to engage the listeners and get them moving and enjoying the music?

Chris:  With Awake to a Dream our biggest crowd was at a show we had this past year with Battlesoul and many other local bands.  The Coach was to a capacity of over 100 people. For me, with a previous band we played the Hiyatt in Dearborn, Michigan to between 1500 and 2000 people on New Year’s Eve, 2008. The bigger the crowd for me, the more I feel like I have to put on a good show for them, haha.

As far as what we do during a set, we try to mix the songs up a bit so we don’t sound too boring, and have as little time as possible between songs.  If we do have some time in between we’ll throw some of our ‘humour’ in to keep them entertained while we tune or what-not. People that constantly say “We recorded this in 2007 with so-and-so and it illustrates yada-yada” have puzzled me because generally even if they know you, nobody really cares at a show to hear everything about every song. Generally if they want to know a band’s biography they’ll do their research while bored on the computer at home. It’s also important for us to not just stand and play.  Musicians are performers, whose job is to entertain the crowd.  The more visuals, the more a crowd can get out of you.

"Musicians are performers whose job is to entertain the crowd. The more visuals, the more a crowd can get out of you."

Rees:  Any final thoughts? Give us a date, time, and place for your CD release party.

Chris:  I think I’ve talked quite enough.  I’m not too good at summarizing. Our CD (EP) release is New Year’s Eve at the Coach and Horses with Perpetuate, Dreams Destruction, All Against I, and Slyde. Tickets (from band members including myself) are $4, $5 at the door. This show is 19 +.  And our CDs, we’re selling for $5.

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