You can keep your dreams under wraps or unleash them into the world. For the three musicians who comprise Dream Phases, holding back their musical visions has not been an option. Conceived in the private recesses of their L.A. home base, the trio has expanded outwards by drawing upon the rich sonic heritage of West Coast pop/rock and skillfully reimagining it for the 21st Century. But beyond its finely wrought sound and texture, there’s an intensely personal quality to the work they create together. The dreams they explore transcend mere craft and calculation.
Emerging from the City of Angels’ neo-psychedelic rock scene in 2017, Dream Phases reflects California’s natural splendor and adventuresome inner spirit in its music. The earthy-yet-exalted sounds of the Byrds, the Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – as well as latter-day artists like the Rain Parade, Elliott Smith and Autolux – figure into the band’s family tree. While this lineage is worth noting, what comes through in the band’s latest work is an individual approach that translates the experiences of its members into something undeniably compelling. First track to last, you can hear this vitality in New Distractions, Dream Phases’ sophomore album.
“I think there’s a lot more self-reflection in these songs,” says lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Brandon Graham. “They were written during the covid lockdown, and there was so much happening in the world that you really had to look at yourself in the mirror and ask where you stood on a range of issues. Several of the songs deal with growing older and taking care of yourself both mentally and physically, as well as learning to not take things for granted.” Matters of the heart gained a new emphasis: “In my previous bands, I rarely if ever wrote about relationships, but it seems like every other song on this album is about them. I guess I’m trying to be more direct now.”
Dream Phases’ initial flowering was as a solo project by Brandon. After gaining a wealth of experience working with such notable L.A.-area combos as Blank Tapes, the Relationship, Levitation Room and Nacosta, he decided to fully develop the songwriting side of his talents on his own. What began as a homebrewed project quickly turned into a collaborative stew as brother Shane and compadre Keveen helped him develop his compositions into a full-blown sound. The newly launched band’s 2017 debut EP Maybe Tomorrow was quickly followed by So Long, Yesterday, a full-length release awash with shimmering tunes and hallucinatory imagery. “By the end, you’re left disoriented, not sure if you’re still dreaming,” wrote Shindig! reviewer Scott Croly about the album. “But once it’s seeped into your subconscious, you won’t want to wake up.”
Replicating the dreamy vibes of the band’s studio work live was a challenging task. Dream Phases passed the test with raw energy and a sense of commitment on stage, often backed up with light shows and other visual effects. A stirring SXSW performance in 2017 followed by two European tours proved the band’s mettle in front of enraptured audiences. “Our albums are very thought-out, but our live show is more primal and exciting in a different way,” says Brandon. “We never wanted to be a band that sounds exactly like it does on record.”
As with artists as diverse as the Kinks, Sparks and Oasis, the sibling bond shared by Brandon and Shane lies at the heart of Dream Phases. “There is a special synergy between us that wouldn’t be there if we weren’t brothers,” Shane says. “We share many of the same influences, but we also have some different ones as well that help make the band unique. We don’t always see eye-to-eye creatively, but then we work it out and end up with something we are both excited about.”
A band in constant creative evolution, Dream Phases draws strength from clashing colors and insight from the fusion of minds. With all its attention to detail, the band still seeks moments of transcendent surprise. “Fall down a rabbit hole/There you will finally find yourself,” Brandon sings in “Post TV.” Whatever wonderland they may arrive in, the band’s journey will be fascinating to follow. – Barry Alfonso