The Q+A: Bad//Dreems

Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems today release their debut album, the tough-as-nails Dogs at Bay. Produced by Mark Opitz (Cold Chisel, INXS, The Angels) and Colin Wynne, it recalls the glory days of Oz rock when acts such as The Sunnyboys, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel ruled the pub circuit.

Catch the band – Ben Marwe (vocals/guitar), Alex Cameron (guitar), James Bartold (bass) and Miles Wilson (drums) – on tour when they take Dogs at Bay on the road in September and October, listen to the songs that fuelled the album’s creation here and read on for the lowdown on everything Bad//Dreems from Alex Cameron.

You met at the your local footy club – you’re talking about music, drinking beers, bonding down there – where you the only guys into music at the club because there’s often a pretty big division between people into sport and people into music?
Football clubs are always into music but I guess maybe the breadth and the quality of that music is sometimes questionable. James and Myles actually played in a band with Ben’s brother, who had been going since they were in high school basically, and they were a good band. So there was a bit of music around. And then you have your footy club nights and people get up there and play covers and whatnot so it wasn’t a musically barren environment, but music and football can be quite disparate worlds. On the weekend me, Ben and Myles played in the inaugural Adelaide Community Cup and that was an awesome thing, especially for me because I played football through my 20s and I also did music for that time and I always felt like I had to keep one secret from the other world. So it was awesome to come together and have them both celebrated in a mutually respectful environment.

Were you all vibing over the same stuff or was there a bit of mutual musical education going on as well?
I’d say maybe what has ended up influencing this record – you have your ‘70s and ‘80s classic rock and underground rock, like Sunnyboys then through to Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly – I think that’s ingrained in most people our age who had parents of that era, however I think at the start… I’d moved back from Melbourne and growing up in Adelaide I’d really had not much exposure to any music apart from dadrock, if you will. I was lucky to have a fairly tasteful and discerning old man – his record collection [had]  Roxy Music, Patti Smith, Rolling Stones although it did start to get questionable in the ‘80s with Dire Straits creeping in there and Pat Benatar and stuff. I first started to get into music seriously through Bob Dylan and Neil Young but it wasn’t until I lived in Melbourne that I really got into contemporary music. When I first started to hit the music scene I was watching bands at [Melbourne venue] 161 on a Thursday night or the Tote, and it was like Love of Diagrams, Eddy Current [Suppression Ring], My Disco and that was when the full obsession began. I think the others having stayed in Adelaide perhaps hadn’t been exposed to that.

There was never any intention of starting a band, I’d kind of sworn off it after my experience with my first band – not in a bad way, just like, ‘I’m just going to go back and get a real job now’ and then I was sort of reluctant to start a new band because I knew that I’d quickly be consumed by it, because that’s what music is for me. So it started off as a muck around thing, but it all happened real easily and we had a really good chemistry and got on well so it was always just fun. And in the blink of an eye you’re here and doing all this semi-professional stuff.

How did you find Adelaide, having lived in Melbourne?
It was difficult… I moved back ostensibly because I had no money or prospects after my last band [Dardanelles] finished and my plan was just to move back, sponge off my parents, save up some money, I had a job that was available so do that… but I did find it really frustrating because there’s not as much going on here, but also what was going on I wasn’t really keyed into. But also at that same time as I said I was kinda like, ‘I’m going to leave music behind, I’ve got to go and be a doctor’, which after a year or so of doing that I gradually just realised music was such an important part of my life I’d never be able to just put it to the side. So I found some stuff going on here, at the time there was Bitch Prefect and that sort of scene, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Summer Flake hit the jackpot, and that sort of coincided with when I met Ben and the other guys and we’d go and watch those shows together.

Melbourne, it still astounds me when I go back there, I’d be like, ‘If I lived here I’d be going out three or four nights a week to watch bands, whereas here I’d be lucky to want to go out and watch a show once a month. But in many ways I think that informed and benefitted our band because it’s so hard not to be influenced by… like those bands I mentioned before, like Eddy Current and My Disco and all the great bands in Melbourne now, Dick Diver, Twerps, Courtney Barnett, you could list 20 bands, it’s really hard not to fall under the influence of those peers when you’re seeing them play all the time. In Adelaide we didn’t have the luxury so we tended to just look further afield for our influences so I guess that led to a lot of the things we tried to channel on the album, which was looking back to those things we shared in common and then shared with Mark Opitz as well and what we sort of found was that we shared them with the audience as the audience grew. It sort of helped, and I don’t think that would have happened if we lived in a city with a more thriving music scene.

You mentioned Mark Opitz… I read that you drew up a wishlist of producers and he was at the top, but I guess there’s a danger when working with other people that you don’t quite connect or the chemistry’s not there, but it sounds like you hit off immediately?
Yeah, exactly. I knew who Mark Opitz was obviously but Mess & Noise had done a feature around his book [Sophisto-punk: The Story of Mark Opitz and Oz Rock] –I’d read the book as well – and I remember also hearing a particularly good interview online, and it was really revealing, there was much more to him than the pub rock stigma that perhaps that you might think from what he’s most associated with and he’s a really discerning, creative, big thinking – I’d call him a renaissance man – and I could tell even before working with him I think that I certainly had lots in common with him and now that it’s all wrapped up I can’t speak highly enough of him.

I get a bit emotional thinking about it because he’s been so good to us above just producing the record, he’s really taken an interest and a mentoring role. He doesn’t need the money or any status we’re going to bring him, but just through love of music and altruism he’s been really good to us. It’s been awesome, it’s been the best thing to happen to me personally through music, to work with someone like that and now be able to call them a friend.

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