Dream Ivory's ‘About a Boy’ is an introspective delve into how to grow as a person in today’s times.
Updated: Feb 24
written by Róisín Ferguson and featuring words by Christian Baello of Dream, Ivory.
“We started writing this album and thought, let’s just see where it goes. Me and Louie sat down and we brainstormed about what we wanted the concept of this album to be, what do we want to prove to the fans, what do we want to show people on this album. We don’t want to just blindly create 40 songs and just pick what sounds cool. We wanted it to all be coherent. “
Coming from the current generation of indie rockers and dream pop lovers, ‘Dream, Ivory’ first took to the DIY stage in 2017 with their hushed vocals, ringing guitars and transcendent reverb. Christian and Louie - the dynamic duo behind Dream Ivory, are gathering themselves, their minds and their instruments, to bring the new Dream Ivory to the world’s stage. Nearly 5 years on, they’re ready to release the most recent fruits of their labour, ripe and ready for eager ears.
‘About a Boy’ (AAB) is a collection of well-thought-out thoughts. From musical to personal, ideas are at the core of this album. Thinking about what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do - that’s what Dream Ivory are about. Before anything on this album was materialised it was conceptual. The sound, the lyrics, the message - all of it began with an intricate brain dump of sorts. This album was never a case of ‘make it up as you go along’. It was always a case of ‘what do we want and how do we get there’. In those ways, there is more purpose to be found in this album than on some of their previous works. But still nothing is forced. Everything came naturally. Through trial and error as opposed to trial and forceful effort, things were attempted and if they worked then they worked and if they didn’t then they were scrapped. The Dream Ivory that made ‘About a Boy’ started taking ‘the deliberate’ to a whole new level. And it has certainly paid off.
Around a month ago I had the chance to chat with one half of the brotherhood to discuss more about their newborn; a baby shower of sorts. Through the blessed medium of Zoom and with a tone of nonchalance, care and calm, Christian Baello gave the complete lowdown of ‘About a Boy’ and everything else in between.
“I think that for everyone, musician or non musician, we all have one of those
moments when listening to a certain song, or band or album and thinking
‘wow, it doesn’t really get much better than this’.
Did you ever have one of those moments?”
“I think for me, it was Beach Fossils, I think it was when ‘Clash the truth’ came out. I didn’t know them until Clash the truth came out. And that was my moment when I was like; yeah, this is neat; the juxtaposition from their first album to their second album, which was a lot more raw and actually recorded with instruments, as opposed to just, say, programmed drums.”
This notion of juxtaposition is not one hugely unfamiliar to Dream, Ivory. Similarly, their new album is also a concrete reflection of this juxtaposition. From just the opening track, it seems a new Dream Ivory is in plain sky-high sight. Having been musically concerned with a signature shoegaze sound in their earlier stuff, the duo wanted to push away from their dream- pop roots that had become a calling card of sorts.
“I think we kind of just got sick of the shoegaze type of thing.”
Fans of Dream Ivory or ‘the old’ Dream Ivory would know exactly what type of sound Christian is referring to. Wanting to push the boat out a little, the brothers carefully considered how they could put a much- wanted spin on their own sound.
“We definitely wanted to keep a lot of the elements that our listeners recognise. Even though our new stuff is different, it still sounds like Dream Ivory in a way. I think with our old stuff, we were actually trying to make it all sound really similar, ‘cus we were just too scared to be different. I think we had so much time in between our old stuff and now, that our interests have changed in terms of the style of music that we listen to and my production has gotten a lot better since. I think it was just a natural progression, we didn’t really force it to sound different, it just came out a lot more different than the old stuff used to be.”
It takes guts to not only be different, but to sound different. Especially if you’re a new band coming right onto the scene as they were in 2018. Fresh out of nappies, it’s no surprise the band were actively trying to create something similar to their dream- pop peers and musical idols. But some bands make the mistake by doing this with every single album. Every single album sounds the same. And each of those albums sounds like a rehash of their favourite artist’s work. But Dream Ivory has avoided that entirely with their new musical direction in AAB and for that, they deserve commending. Any shoegaze references on their new album serve as a loving and respectful homage to their older style and works.
But how to go about ensuring this difference might be more of an ambiguity to listeners. Dream Ivory have a method that works when faced with this very predicament.
“Every time we go to write a song, one thing we’re really conscious of is that from one song to the next song - it can’t be anything like the last one we made. And we do that again and again and again, every single time.”
The act of songwriting for Dream Ivory and many artists like them, is tied up so intricately with the act of producing. So it seems fitting that if one were to develop skills in songwriting they would undeniably benefit from developing an equally strong set of skills in production. For the most part, production serves as a way of arranging and building on an already established song. Now even though this idea of ‘building’ may imply, adding and adding tracks upon tracks of instruments upon instruments, this is not exactly what is meant. Sometimes a sign of competent production comes in the form of sparse production, little instrumentation and very few effects. Perhaps it’s almost better to imagine production as doing a language translation. Fluent in both of the appropriate languages and given a piece to translate, the resulting complete translation could fulfil all necessary linguistic and semantic requirements. But to be fluent and to also have written the original text, the translation has the potential to become the most accurate, most faithful and best out there. Because if anyone’s going to know what meanings and images you want to get across, it's going to be you - the original writer. So understanding the song and then using the toolkit you have acquired as a knowledgeable producer, is undoubtedly something important. It’s also something that takes time, not to mention a lot of patience.
Having produced all of their old stuff in their bedroom, it was a new experience to engage with the comments and expertise of other producers.
“I think with the old stuff, we were cooped up in our bedrooms the whole time, we were just making those quiet bedroom pop chill vibes. For the majority of the production on this album, it's just me and Louie. I would say that it’s always nice having another ear especially when its producers that make different stuff to us. They’re always bringing new ideas that we wouldn’t have thought of. But it's always a bit hit or miss. I think that at the end of the day, it’s better just me and Louie, just ‘cus we’re so like- minded in terms of what we want the album to be.”
With mixing and mastering though, it was important to get some advice and input to explore different sonic avenues for the band. With a noticeable difference to mixing placement of the vocals in the tracks on the new album, from being so far back in the mix to now being front and centre, one might be curious as to what triggered quite an obvious change.
“Before it (the vocals) was so far back because it was deliberate. We wanted the instruments to be the main driver for us and then Louie’s vocals to be just another type of instrument. And then the other reason was we just didn’t know how to mix. I think the main reason why they’re so front and centre now is ‘cus we have a lot more to say. A lot of this new album is quite personal, and we wanted that to be heard.”
Where there is growth, there can be difference. Such growth in the band led to the different sonic experience, an experience coming in the form of AAB. Dream Ivory as a band has changed and naturally so has their music. It's obvious from listening to their new album that such a change was for the better.
Having half the band make the mandatory move to L.A. in the last while, writing songs has involved a lot of back and forth calls from one place to another between the brothers. Late nights or early mornings, when an idea or motivation strikes, it's important to be able to share it with your other musical half at all hours of the day. But when both the brothers are in L.A, there is plenty of time to appreciate the city of like - minded creatives and the thriving scene that surrounds them.
“What is the music scene like in LA apart from the obvious Taylor Swifts, Britney spears and Kanye West’s?”
“It’s cool. There’s a huge underground scene for all forms of music and that’s what I’m into. Me and Louie will go to random raves or we’ll see rap shows and the energy is always so upbeat we’re thinking that we want to make some stuff like that.”
Before ever being people that create music, it is clear that first and foremost, Dream Ivory are people that listen to music. With a passion for a sound that is distinct and their own, they try to move out of their comfort zone and refine their craft like craftsmen hardening leather or spinning yarn to bring to the market or to present to the critical eyes of the guild. Through taking an introspective look at their own lives and taking a proactive approach to define what it is they want to make, the duo have brought to the market and presented to the guild, a gathering of songs that sound not only coherent, but raw, thoughtful and fun. It seems that this album was most definitely worth the wait afterall.
“Before we wrote this album, me and Louie hadn’t written any songs for a long time. We dropped all the old stuff and then took a break and started doing our own thing. So when we really sat down to start writing, we realised we’ve been through so much life, bad stuff and good stuff. We thought, let’s just use the songwriting process as a vessel for our own self- expression. That’s why it’s called ‘About a boy’. It’s about us.”