Australian Guitar - - Feature -

When raw alt-rock­ers Bad//Dreems put their de­but to­gether in 2015, they were a small band equal parts frus­trated and fas­ci­nated by a city they couldn’t es­cape – dear old Ade­laide. The al­bum, DogsAtBay, was born in an air of claus­tro­pho­bia, as the guys ob­served so­cial quirks in and around town with­out any real means of es­cape. Since then, DogsAt

Bay has taken them around the globe, which like most places, turned out to have just as many odd­i­ties, is­sues, and ex­am­ples of con­tra­dic­tory be­hav­iour as the city that spawned it. To­day, they’re still pretty in­trigued and ir­ri­tated, but with the added bonus of hav­ing seen parts of the planet they may not have reached with­out that record.

Such is why their fol­low-up, Gut­ful, has a much broader per­spec­tive ac­cord­ing to gui­tarist Alex Cameron. “The first record was more of an in­su­lar thing,” he ex­plains. “A lot has gone on since that time, es­pe­cially over­seas in terms of Trump, and do­mes­ti­cally in the reap­pear­ance of Pauline Han­son. We write about things that are on our mind, and those things are part of our tran­si­tion from think­ing about be­ing trapped in a small town to think­ing about be­ing in a world that’s chang­ing.”

Bad//Dreems took the op­por­tu­nity to open a di­a­logue about sub­jects weigh­ing on their minds. They’re not claim­ing to be in­tel­lec­tu­als – Gut­ful isn’t some high­brow man­i­festo spun solely for aca­demics. But in­stead of scream­ing into an echo cham­ber like so­cial me­dia or sim­ply us­ing their records to rant, Bad//Dreems try to make a state­ment with­out get­ting all up­pity about it. This, Cameron says, harks back to a pe­riod where all branches of the artis­tic com­mu­nity weren’t quite so di­vi­sive.

“What I like about Aus­tralia, and Aus­tralian cul­ture, is that there’s a real in­tel­li­gence and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of in­tel­lect, but the unique thing about the Aus­tralian way of do­ing that is that it’s very non-pre­ten­tious,” he says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “The era we take a lot of in­flu­ence from – the late ‘70s, early ‘80s – it was post-Whit­lam. Ed­u­ca­tion had been free, which opened it up to a wide range of peo­ple from all so­cio-eco­nomic back­grounds. [Peo­ple] were in­ter­ested in arts and cul­ture.”

Un­for­tu­nately, things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent th­ese days, which has put Bad//Dreems in an in­ter­est­ing po­si­tion. As the world con­tin­ues to split across racial, so­cial, reli­gious and po­lit­i­cal lines, stereo­types have once again be­come deeply in­grained in public dis­course. The guys have found them­selves tarred with the “un­in­tel­li­gent bo­gan” brush be­cause they like footy, wear work boots and don’t feel the need to spew a th­e­saurus onto the lyric sheet. But un­like the hoity-toity in­tel­lec­tual scene vib­ing on their smug sense of su­pe­ri­or­ity, Bad//Dreems ac­tu­ally have a chance to open that di­a­logue be­cause they want to get off the soap­box and talk to peo­ple, rather than shout at them.

“Bands like The Go-Betweens, Cold Chisel and The Trif­fids – they didn’t hold them­selves up as bas­tions of in­tel­lect. They were DIY mu­si­cians that made in­tel­li­gent mu­sic, and I think that’s a re­ally Aus­tralian thing that’s kind of gone miss­ing,” Cameron says. “I wouldn’t want to say that we’re do­ing that, but it’s cer­tainly what we aim to do; I re­ally like try­ing to find a bal­ance be­tween high­brow and low­brow cul­ture. But th­ese days, if you don’t fit the cer­tain stereo­type of the in­ner-city aca­demic or cre­ative, you’re ex­cluded.”

Clas­sic Aus-rock influences run deeper than the themes, how­ever. Stylis­ti­cally, their mu­sic is firmly rooted in straight up rock‘n’roll: if they can’t play it live, it doesn’t go on the record. There’s no de­pen­dence on ped­als, be­cause bands like Tele­vi­sion made great live-sound­ing records and Bad//Dreems want to cap­ture that sound by wran­gling ev­ery nook and cranny in their amps. They want to cre­ate some­thing raw and nat­u­ral born out of equip­ment of the time.

“I was still us­ing my Fender Cus­tom Shop ‘56 Strat, which I got around the time we recorded the first al­bum,” Cameron ex­plains, “But I bought a Gib­son ES-335 1977 at the start of the record­ing process for Gut­ful. I’d never re­ally had a gui­tar with Hum­buck­ers be­fore and get­ting one re­ally opened my eyes, so a lot of those chunky rhythm bits are us­ing that gui­tar. We also had a Gretsch White Fal­con that be­longed to the stu­dio.”

Com­bine that with some Fender Twins and a dodgy

‘70s Mar­shall owned by a guy named Frank – “Who’s kind of a spir­i­tual men­tor that came into the stu­dio ev­ery day, made cof­fee and got stoned,” ac­cord­ing to Cameron – and you’ve got the Gut­ful sound. Frank, for the record, is a friend of their pro­ducer, Mark Opitz, not some weed‑tot­ing amp shaman drift­ing be­tween stu­dios in need. But there was one axe that couldn’t make the cut once again – Cameron’s beat up, scrappy ‘87 Strat that’s so far gone after years of da­m­age and dodgy mods that it flatly re­fuses to play nice in the stu­dio. “It’s like the guy try­ing to come out at the footy club: he’s been a great player but he’s past his time, and now he just em­bar­rasses him­self and ev­ery­one else,” he laughs. “But I’ll never let it go. I just keep her at home; we share our moments to­gether.”

Bad//Dreems cer­tainly have some­thing to say, and sto­ries like Cameron’s Stratty ad­ven­tures bring their de­liv­ery down to Earth. But de­spite all the good in­ten­tions, there’s an un­de­ni­able air of con­tra­dic­tion lin­ger­ing around the band. Bad//Dreems want peo­ple to look be­yond the top layer, and yet they pump out rough as guts rock‘n’roll while nasally S‑ and F‑bombs of­ten in­ter­ject con­ver­sa­tions. Even the video clip for “Feel­ing Re­mains” seems to rel­ish in its de­pic­tion of a bo­gan band.

But that’s just part of the self‑aware­ness that en­cour­ages lis­ten­ers to dig a lit­tle deeper. It’s a chance for them to laugh at them­selves, too, be­cause at the end of the day, they still en­joy a bunch of stuff that’s tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered to be low­brow. While Cameron ad­mits that he’d like fans to look be­yond the ex­te­rior, he un­der­stands that some peo­ple just want to stop at riffs, tin­nies and dumb jokes. That’s fine, he says, be­cause those things are just as much a part of the band as the so­cial com­men­tary, even if that does mean they come across as con­tra­dic­tory ev­ery now and then.

In the end, em­brac­ing the in­con­sis­ten­cies just makes Bad//Dreems that lit­tle bit more re­lat­able. – “Like all hu­mans, we’ve got con­tra­dic­tory el­e­ments. If you look at a lot of the stuff we put on our so­cial me­dia pages, it’s just about footy and ban­ter, be­cause if we were to be to­tally in­tel­lec­tual, that wouldn’t be an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of the band’s per­son­al­ity,” Cameron adds with a cackle. “It’s a con­tra­dic­tion! But that’s just who we are, for bet­ter or worse.”

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