Q&A: DREAMERS’ Marc Nelson talks “Drugs” and other addictions


Los Angeles alt-rock and electropop trio DREAMERS swear they didn’t write a song called “Drugs” to glamorize substance abuse. The song isn’t even about any controlled substance. Still, it didn’t stop organizers of one festival to kick the band off its lineup, bassist Marc Nelson recalled in an email interview earlier this week.

Nelson, singer-guitarist Nick Wold and drummer Jacob Lee Wick have played festival-after-festival early this summer, including BottleRock in Napa and Live 105’s BFD in Mountain View earlier this month. Both festivals drew large crowds to the band’s sound, a seamless mix of The Strokes and The Knife. DREAMERS are just getting started this summer.

“Festivals are amazing because we often get to take in some of the other bands,” Nelson said. “We get to be performer and audience.”

RIFF: Why do you guys call yourself DREAMERS? Is there a story behind the band name?

Marc Nelson: When we were first forming the band, we went from NYC to a remote studio in Virginia to record a handful of songs, one of them being “Wolves.” On a day off, we went for a hike up this mountain to a waterfall and the topic of band names came up. We were conceptualizing what we wanted to be as a band in this beautiful natural environment. We landed on DREAMERS because it perfectly aligned with our vision for ourselves and what we wanted to mean to other people.  It seemed lofty, and it’s a word that already means a lot to many people. We created a manifesto, which you can read on our website. There is no “the” in front of DREAMERS because our mission is to be inclusive; to reach everyone that simply wants to transcend the mundane trappings of day-to-day existence.


Dreamers perform at BottleRock Napa Valley on May 28, 2017. Live Photos: Alessio Neri

The first song off your album, This Album Does Not Exist, is “Drugs.” It mostly focuses on the concept of addiction. Is it a song that focuses on the teenage spirit or is it a song that uses drugs merely as a metaphor for addiction?

“Drugs” has definitely been misunderstood. It got us banned from a festival. The song is inspired by the world of social media, people constantly being on their phones and not in the moment. We think of social media as the cultural addiction of this generation. Drugs are being used as a metaphor for that. The song isn’t an outright condemnation of that behavior, either. We are guilty of it ourselves. Social media and the internet has this incredible potential to connect people of all different walks and geography in a way nothing else has in human history. We feel that with our fans and it’s truly special. But it can often become an obsession, a crutch and a distraction from reality like any other addiction.

What show are you most excited for this summer?

We have a lot of festivals this summer and we are honestly stoked on them all.  … We just did Firefly, which was a highlight because I grew up on the Maryland/Delaware peninsula. We’re all excited about Bumbershoot. Nick [Wold] is from Seattle. There are many fond memories from that festival growing up, so we look forward to making some epic new ones. We all really get into the festival spirit, so ultimately what we are most excited for is to just get out there in it, literally, and party with the people.


What do you think are the main differences between touring the East Coast and the West Coast?

Every city we visit has it’s own unique vibe. The differences between the East and West coasts are no different. We live in L.A. now but started the band in New York and lived there for years. So we love and appreciate both. The weather tends to be nicer on the West Coast.  Things are more relaxed in general. But places like NYC are just brimming with culture and excitement.  We’re fortunate that we routinely get to take in both. [The] West Coast definitely wins on natural beauty, though. Some of the drives we’ve done: through the desert and up the Pacific Ocean cliffs through the Red Wood forests into Oregon. There are some breathtaking sights to be had.


Do you guys have a favorite song to play live?

It’s probably a tie at the moment. We love playing “Sweet Disaster” because more and more people know it and sing along. You can feel the excitement from an audience when you play the song they’ve been looking forward to. We also love playing “Painkiller.” It’s a very driving song so we take the opportunity to push that energy harder and go off script a bit live. Cool things tend to happen when we are playing it, so we extend it and make it a thing.

Who are your favorite artists? Who impacted and influenced you?

So many! We are voracious culture consumers. Musically; from The Beatles, to Radiohead, to Nirvana, to the Strokes. All the bands we’ve toured and shared stages with have had an impact; The Griswolds, Night Riots, Bear Hands, Atlas GeniusStone Temple PilotsThe 1975, Waters. Outside of music: David Lynch, Hieronymus Bosch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, [Stanley] Kubrick, [Kurt] Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Nan Goldin. Elon Musk and Star Wars. We plan to play the first sold out show on the moon.  We’ll Snapchat the entire thing, so come follow us online.

Follow writer Michael Massaro at Twitter.com/michaelcmassaro.

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