At some point while talking to Brooklyn’s Dream Diary, we discovered the secret to having a successful band. Or, I guess more accurately, the members of Dream Diary just came out and told me.
We were talking about what it’s like to be an outsider. Specifically, about how the band’s sincere, melodic brand of early-indie-aping guitar pop fits in (or doesn’t) the Brooklyn scene, although being an outsider more broadly is something that comes up a lot when you talk to Dream Diary. The long-time members of the band (Jacob Danish Sloan, Madison Farmer, and Alexander Iezzi) had been talking for a few minutes when Chris Balla, late of another Brooklyn underground outfit, Knight School, and Dream Diary’s new bassist, had his face cloud over: “I’ve been dealing with that for a while.”
“People liked Knight School,” Iezzi said encouragingly.
“Girls didn’t like Knight School. Not like they like Dream Diary,” Balla countered. “As long as you have female appeal, your band will do pretty well. Even if you suck, you’ll still have people in the crowd. If you’re actually making some kind of good pop music, and have something interesting going on, it’s even better."
While having half of the world’s population find you irresistible isn’t a bad thing to have as your only thing, Dream Diary has plenty more, a short but powerful list of reasons you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about this band. Let’s start with the silly ones: It’s made up of a quartet of nice-looking kids whose names sound like the roll call at an expensive daycare center. Its members are given to frankly adorable turns of phrase, like when Sloan describes a series of one-off shows around the country playing various Popfests (Brooklyn, San Francisco, Athens) as “little visits.” Little visits! Fucking adorable.
Then, of course, there’s their music. On one level, it’s the kind of gangly, vaguely retro guitar pop that’s more or less its own sub-genre at this point, compressing about 40 years of pop music into something that sounds old and new and familiar and totally revolutionary, all at once. The band’s shimmery guitars and upbeat gloom frequently gets it compared to acts like Belle & Sebasitan, The Smiths, and a whole host of other Glasgow scene and Sarah Records acts. Indeed, Sloan admits to being a longtime fan of The Aislers Set, and I personally saw him lose his mind at 2009’s Slumberland Records anniversary show during that band’s mini-reunion.
Dream Diary began in early 2010, when Sloan made a few recordings at home in his bedroom of songs he’d written himself. They were songs “of loneliness and yearning,” as he puts it half-jokingly, for “anyone who’s a weirdo.” Interested in turning his vanity project into a real band, Sloan recruited Farmer and Iezzi, reworked the songs, and has been playing them around the country ever since.
“Is He Really Mine?” one of those first three songs Sloan wrote, has survived to their debut album, You Are The Beat, due out Feb. 15 on Kanine Records. It’s got an easy, bird-flight kind of guitar line that zips around throughout. Sloan sings about, yes, yearning, in a kind of wistful sigh, layered with ghostly oohs and aahs from Farmer. It reminds you of those bands they get compared to, but never sounds derivative. It's more like hearing those bands again for the first time, realizing all over again that there is music out there that sounds like you feel. It's upbeat and hopeful and fragilely optimistic and melancholy all at once. It’s music for swaying and hugging, for enjoying at sunset, for listening to on a long bus ride. It’s music worth listening to for a long time.