Rising genre-bending trio DEAD LUCID have been on an artistic journey of far reaching stylistic progression. From their early days unleashing hazy pysch-rock to evolving into ambitious post-punk, they have now found themselves in something of a middle ground. A combination of punk, indie and post-rock tendencies, the group have really come into their own of late, showcased in abundance on their excellent third EP “Vision”.
The five-track EP is a celebration of the band’s journey to this point, which has seen them celebrate their triumphs and face up to their adversities. “Vision” is immersive and potent, with provoking lyricism and well crafted instrumentation, showcasing how far the band has come, whilst also highlighting an impressive potential for future records.
We had the chance to chat with the Chicago band, talking songwriting process, the changing industry and their new EP.
Listen to “Vision”…
Read the interview now…
How did you first begin playing together and how did DEAD LUCID come about?
Jon: Funny story, I was in a band on and off from 2012-2014ish, and we played some gigs as this Doors-esque psych-rock band, but it ended when a couple of members went off to college. I kept writing songs, and I had a couple demos that made me think I could get another band going. Then in 2015, a buddy of mine from a band we had played with a couple times hit me up asking if we wanted to play a show with his band at a decent venue, and I didn’t want to pass it up so I just said yes. I didn’t let him know that the band no longer existed haha. So yea, I posted in a Facebook group for Chicago musicians with one of the demos and asked if anyone wanted to join, and Ryan was one of the first responders. We jammed and we saw that it was good, and then we got a drummer who played our first few gigs with us that summer. They didn’t know we already had a show scheduled until like two or three weeks before the show, and I think we only officially had one song haha. But we busted out a 30 minute set within that short time and DEAD LUCID became a thing. That original drummer then left for college that fall and Andrew joined us on drums in the winter. It was a threesome made in heaven. You know what I mean lol.
How do your individual backgrounds and experiences come together to form such a cohesive group?
Jon: Well for me growing up, there was always music in the house. My dad would be playing lots of Motown and Soul, my mom loved Michael Jackson, and my sister played lots of neo-soul from the 90s and early 00s. But the only music I personally sought out was hip-hop. I loved rap as a kid and wanted to be a rapper long before I ever really listened to a rock song. It’s not a super obvious influence when you listen to our music, but if you really pay attention, you’ll notice certain rhythms and cadences that are deeply influenced by rap and hip-hop. Honestly, I think I can look directly at One Mic by Nas as something that shaped the way I go for changes in feel and dynamics within a song. I think having a primary songwriter who discovered rock music late and never picked up a guitar until I was 18 has given us a unique feel and rhythm that is hard to find in other bands.
Andrew: I grew up listening to my dad’s 80s hair metal and classic rock which I think gave me my love for guitar riffs. Like Jon, as a kid the first music I sought out on my own was rap and that was right around the time I started playing the drums. I was drawn to beat-heavy rap and loved the way a vocal could hug a drumbeat but also play off of it. I think that influences my drumming style a lot in that a lot of the accents I used are correlated with the vocal to try and accentuate certain phrases.
Ryan: Like Andrew, I also grew up with a lot of hair metal and classic rock. My parents were playing a lot of Deaf Leppard, Journey, Boston, and hella Michael Jackson. While I never quite latched onto the hair metal side, a lot of stuff from Boston, The Who, The Beatles piqued my interest. I became far more musically aware around 13 when I started playing bass. As I got older, (around high school) I got really into punk music. I loved the fast pace and how the bass would provide rhythm and then sort of dance around it. I would probably credit Dan Andriano from Alkaline Trio as one of the informants for how I approach playing bass now.
Do you have a typical songwriting process? What comes first?
Jon: We’ve got a few different methods. I think the main one is that I’ll just be practicing guitar on my own, messing around with different chords and riffs, and if I hear something I like that happened while improvising, I record it on my phone. I’ll usually sing a vocal melody or two with that and then bring it to the other guys at practice. If they dig it, we’ll jam on it for a while and develop each of our parts and different sections of the track. Lyrics almost always come last. Another way is we’ll just be at practice, and Ryan or Andrew will start doing something on the bass or drums where they’re just warming up or messing around, and the feel and groove will be so cool that we’ll just tell them to keep doing that over and over. It’s like one of those “Wait a minute, say that again,” moments in movies haha. Then I’ll record us jamming over that for a while and we almost always get a few cool sections out of it. Then we’ll arrange each section into something cohesive, something that tells a compelling auditory story. Then the lyrics will come after haha. Improvisation has a lot to do with it.
How would you describe your sound and how has it evolved over time?
Jon: Great question. When we started out, we were definitely a traditional psych-rock band in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and early Tame Impala and the Doors, stuff like that. As a songwriter, I think I was young and naïve and trying to fit into a certain sound, and I would try to force everything that I wrote to be that. I remember I saw the movie ‘Control’ a bit after our first EP came out, and I got super into Joy Division. I hadn’t heard of them before seeing the movie, and I looked up who wrote the songs for this incredible ‘fictional’ band and was delightfully surprised to find out that Joy Division was real haha. That pushed me into learning more about post-punk which led to new wave which led to proto-punk, and those genres were all I listened to when writing the second EP “Desolation”. On that one, you can really hear the influences of Joy Division, Interpol, and Iggy Pop shine through, and I got a lot more comfortable with introspective lyrics and talking about uncomfortable emotions. I finally felt free to just let whatever we wrote be what we are, rather than writing to fit into a certain style. I feel like we’ve now really melded all of those influences into something uniquely our own, and that freedom to be ourselves allows us to continue to evolve every day.
Andrew: Yeah, and the three piece structure gives us a lot of freedom to live in our own space and figure out how we want to use our instruments to drive each track, and how each part can choose to sync up with another person’s part or instead play off of it to create cool dissonance or alternate melodies.
We love your EP “Vision”? When did you write these songs and what do they mean to you?
Jon: Thanks, I really appreciate that! And yea, it feels like the next step in our evolution. I’m really proud of these tracks. The writing process for them started in 2020, during the pandemic actually. We weren’t able to get together in person for a bit, so I started experimenting with writing drum parts and bass parts via midi on my computer. As I said before, I’m a lifelong hip-hop fan, so I incorporated some cadences and rhythms taken from hip-hop and soul and injected some of that feel into the rhythm section. We still wrote all of our own parts, but we were able to keep the groove from those original midi ideas in the tracks, which felt like the next step to really come into our own. In terms of meaning, I think this EP really proved to me that we are in this for the long haul. It showed me that we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way, any adversity. I remember after we recorded the tracks in the studio, I ran out of money and couldn’t afford to get the EP mixed. I quickly came to realize that the only way this EP was going to get mixed properly was if I lost my apartment, or I mixed it myself. So I spent a pretty insane amount of time crash-coursing myself on how to properly mix rock songs for basically the next year. Several hours a day, 10-15 hour days if I had the day off. It was incredibly mentally taxing and I wouldn’t recommend doing that to yourself, but I don’t regret it. For me, this music is so important that I will push myself well beyond where I should to get it right.
How did you decide which tracks to release as singles ahead of the EP?
Jon: I think it was sort of based on what we thought ‘felt’ like a single, which ended up being most of the EP haha. I saw Sullen Days as a great track to give people a sneak into what the new stuff would sound like, as it has the best combo of all our influences, I think. It’s got this dreamy intro which calls to mind the dreamy psychedelia of tracks like Andromeda and Space Rock from our first EP, a smooth groove, a guitar freakout in the middle, some heavy spots, some not so heavy spots, a real, true build to a climax two-thirds of the way in, and a calming resolution in the third act. And it’s catchy as hell. I think that one answers a lot of questions to anyone wondering where we’d be heading with “Vision”.
Do you each have a favourite track?
Jon: For me, it’s probably Ordinary Freak. One of my favorite things is to jolt your attention just when you get comfortable. You know when you’re watching a show and it seems predictable and you’re absolutely sure that you know what’s coming next, and then out of nowhere you get cracked with the plot-twist of all plot-twists? That’s how Ordinary Freak feels to me. That one really lulls you into believing that you know what this song is all about. For about a minute-twenty, you think “ok cool, they made a smooth little emotional soul track.” And then out of nowhere you’re smacked in the face and reminded to pay attention. You can’t help but move to that middle section. And just when your mind and body have found the groove yet again, you’re bobbing your head and singing along to that catchy ass chorus, BAM! – you’re dropped back down to reality. Lyrically it’s one of my favorites too. This idea of wanting to be more and do more, constantly putting yourself out there and hoping for recognition, hoping that the world will see you as this unique weirdo with something important to give and that the person of your affection will see you too – then you remember that you’re just ordinary. I think it’s a common struggle for most artists, and people in general. It’s hard to be yourself.
Andrew: Yeah it’s definitely Ordinary Freak for me too. I think that initial groove is so good, and the way we explode out of it but then end up back there by the end feels like such a journey. It gets a great response live too because of those dynamics, which is something we really focus on with our live show.
Ryan: Of this EP, I would agree with the lads. I think it’s a fascinatingly rhythmic song and is just super fun to play. The part where we come off the little dancy bit in the middle and go into the guitar solo I think is one of the most cohesive rhythmic sections of our catalog. Also bass slides.
You have been in the industry for quite a while now! How have you seen it change and what further change would you like to see?
Jon: Yea, about 8 years now. There have definitely been some changes, but I think it’s mostly been a pre-pandemic to post-pandemic change. One of the things I miss the most was the many venues that put on free shows, especially at bars. I just remember how packed a lot of those shows were, how many new people who had never heard of you but just knew that bar always put on dope shows would come, and how people were just excited as hell to see live, upcoming acts do their thing. Bar-venues have shifted from being a place of discovery to instead being a place where, unless you can prove you can bring a certain amount of people at a certain price point, you’re unwelcome. I think that makes it difficult for new bands without a large number of friends and family to get any decent gigs and it turns it into a popularity contest, which is harmful to the industry overall. I think there’s a lot of short-term priorities being considered over long-term priorities in the live music scene.
When it comes to getting your releases heard though, this is the best time ever to be a musician. Anyone can learn how to record, mix, and master their tracks. It might not sound like a big studio released your stuff, but that’s ok. You just keep working and make the next release better, and then the next, and then the next, and eventually your sound is competing with the biggest names in the game. It’s exciting.
Andrew: Along with being able to make your own music easier than before, there are also more ways to control your finances with less middlemen than ever before, which is huge for artists to actually be able to make a living out of this. In general the world is just starting to scratch the surface of this, but being able to process payments and form a direct relationship with your fans has probably never been easier.
Jon: And I think the future is bright for music. The fact that our generation and the next have grown up with music of all genres from all over the world accessible to them within minutes on the internet is going to lead to the best music ever created. We are going to see sounds and genres and styles from places that you’d never expect finding a home together. The unfortunate part of that is that most platforms have adapted their algorithms to feed you stuff they know you already like, so you have to put in some effort to circumvent the algorithms and seek out new stuff on your own. But that ability to discover new sounds nearly infinitely and learn everything there is to know about any subject you desire is going to open so many doors to people who never would have had a chance, and it’s going to allow for some of the most creative music we’ve ever heard. And DEAD LUCID is going to be part of that.
Do you have a career highlight?
Jon: I honestly think it’s our latest EP. We continue to grow and learn and evolve, and I think every time we create something new it’s the best we’ve ever done. I’m certain the next EP or album we put out will beat this one out too.
Andrew: It’s crazy to think how long we’ve been doing this, feels like it has been a flash. Playing Pilsen Fest was a really fun moment for me, just getting out there on a big stage for a street festival is such a fun feeling. I think Jon had like 2 or 3 strings break during that show haha but we all soldiered on through it and the crowd response was awesome.
Jon: True, I forgot I finished that set with only three strings haha.
Ryan: It’s gone by so fast. Once in a while I’ll think “oh yeah we’ve been playing for a few years.” Then I realize it’s been 8 and that’s pretty damn cool. Anyway, the highlight for me would be after we released our second EP, someone in the youtube comments (i think) asked for bass tabs for Head and that was pretty flattering.
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
Jon: I’m looking forward to seeing that creative future of music, and of art in general. I want to see the ways we work to combine old techniques into something new. I’m looking forward to all the festivals we’re gonna play, all the tours around the world. I know it’s coming because we’re never gonna stop working. We’re a band where, if you say we suck, we say, “ok cool, what specifically sucked about it?” and then we learn and grow and improve. I see rejection and failure as the best possible things to help us become as great as we can possibly be, so I already know that there’s nothing that can stop us from finding success. Hit us up in a year for the evidence.