2015 marks the ten-year anniversary of A Shoreline Dream. Founded in the mid ‘aughts, it was a challenging time for richly textured, moody music. Post Rock was starting to come into its own, but, with few exceptions, shoegaze wasn’t really a happening thing. But for a decade, A Shoreline Dream’s mad alchemy and cinematic landscapes have been a constant; a foundation rock in the resurgence of the sound. With the imminent release of their new single, “Time is a Machine Gun”, we sat down with Ryan Policky and Erik Jeffries to take stock.
DKFM: A decade. Did you ever think you’d be carrying this banner for ten years now? Tell us about the journey.
Ryan: It’s crazy for sure. I didn’t even realize we had technically been working together as A Shoreline Dream for ten years until Shauna from Ummagma asked me when we formed the other day? and it was a crazy revelation. Ten years. That’s a long time, yet not all that long all at once. I remember meeting Elbow after a show around the same time we formed, and they had been doing it for 12 years at that point and I couldn’t believe it. “How could they still be working together?”, I thought. but as the time went on I realized quickly that ten years truly goes by three, four times the speed at which you think it will. As awareness and memory of things around us settle in, the time just naturally does that? Speed up, that is. It’s a machine gun 😉
Erik: The ten years have gone by very quickly. To be honest it seems like it was just yesterday when we started tracking our first ideas. I never thought about the actual time, but this has become such an important part of who I am that time just melts away. I also think keeping up with Ryan and his willingness to explore and try new ideas keeps is as fresh today as it wa the first day I brought my gear back to the studio to explore the idea that became A Shoreline Dream.
DKFM: From the beginning, it seems like ASD charted its own course. From founding your own Latenight Weeknight label, to the sonic craftsmanship that goes into each release. What made you choose this (perhaps more challenging) path?
Ryan: Creative freedom was always the reason behind it. We wanted to pave it our way, and not be restricted by what business does. You see far too many times throughout history of great bands becoming ‘standard’ to grab a ton of cash real quick, with little substance behind what they’re doing. And it’s not the bands fault, it’s the labels, as they truly dictate 80% of the time as to what the band needs to be, rather than what they want to be. It was extremely expensive, and through it all I can see that most labels fold because they are almost always destined to do that. They get the loans, they work the deals, and they ultimately spend far too much to properly promote their next thing, with the bands themselves not coming close to realizing their label is gambling pretty hard most of the time, hoping for a miracle.
Erik: It has always been about creative freedom. Which is funny. To think that by taking control of something you would actually create more freedom might not make sense. Also, Ryan’s willingness to put everything on the line and support not only his ideas but ours as well was pretty amazing. He borrowed against his house, ran up every card he had and invested about every cent just go get this off the ground. The result is reflected in nearly every album, EP and single we produced.
DKFM: The sound itself is pretty unique, borrowing (though sparely) from classic Dif Juz and Spirea X prog/fusion, overlaid with pop songcraft and dark harmonies. What were your musical touchstones as you were first fleshing out your sound?
Ryan: One of my biggest production and sound spectrum influences for this project has been Dead Can Dance in their early years. Some of the best sounding songs I’ve ever heard came off their first disc, and the way they achieved those sounds has always been a motivator to what we’re doing. Achieving a spacial atmospheric thing, with a driving, near-danceable groove. Nearly every song I’ve ever heard with a symphony and driving bassline grabs me and doesn’t let go, so it’s hard to list off a ton of other influences, as their are too many to list. But Dead Can Dance, yes. I always add hints of their style in the mix as I wish more of that existed.
Erik: The sound is such an example of collaboration along with Ryan’s vision. He has definitely helped fuse our ideas into a consistent sound and presence. We find ways to keep our ideas fresh and innovative but Ryan does an amazing job on making sure it still fits the quality, personality and sound design that is central to our core.
“I think we have almost developed an intuition on how to compliment each other’s ideas when composing and recording. This time was no different.“
DKFM: Musicianship and technical ability do play a strong role in A Shoreline Dream. More than order metronidazole pills online half the bands in-genre would choke trying to pull off a tune like “The Silent Sunrise”. Is that simply the result of a decade-plus experience, the talent you’ve surrounded yourself with, or…?
Ryan: I find it super bizarre personally whenever anyone calls us technical, or prog, as I think nearly everything I’ve ever written has been zoning out with my eyes closed, with no real strategy or technical aspects at all. Most of the better material we’ve got on our recordings as of late have followed this rule as well, so I guess it’s based on the fact that our fingers are more dexterous with the many years of playing as to where a more prog side has originated from.
Erik: I think we are much more technical than we like to admit. I know that is a passion of mine and although Ryan doesn’t like to admit he is actually a very progressive composer and musician. This is reflected in his guitar playing and compositions. Plus some of our former members are beasts on their instruments. Adam Edwards is an amazing bass player along with Enoc Torraca. Gabe Ratliff, Sean Merrill, Mike Scerano and Erin Tidwell have all been very powerful drummers as well.
DKFM: It’s more difficult than ever before to be an independent band in this climate. How do you manage to keep the ship moving forward?
Ryan: The one thing that has always motivated me has been the desire to record new songs. Money has always been second, and not really thought of until we need it to make something happen in full. I think that everyone who truly believes in their art should just go ahead and self fund it, because if you can get the credit to make it happen, and truly believe it’s great, you will always get that money back somehow. Money is money, and not really something to worry about. Art is life, and that needs some serious focus. When inspired I just write, I just record, I make it happen. We’ve always just made it happen, and we made it happen because we love the way the “art” turned out.
Erik: We still love to compose and Ryan loves to work in the studio. Plus, we continue to find new ideas and new sounds to explore. The beauty of A Shoreline Dream is there are no barriers. The willingness to explore keeps it fresh. We are obviously not the same people we were ten years ago, but when we come together and start to explore or improvise it seems like time just melts away and we explore.
DKFM: Tell us about the new single! We’re used to albums and EPs from you, what compelled you to get into studio to release this particular track?
Ryan: The new single comes from a deep seeded fascination with a phrase that’s been engraved on the inside of my head, and I continually see it and think of it. That being ‘Time is a Machine Gun’. It’s sad yet hopeful really. Life goes by far too fast, and it hits hard. And just as you think you have it figured out, it’s over. It’s strange. It’s confusing, yet the speed at which it flies creates an overwhelming desire to explore as much as possible. To do as much as possible. To live and to not regret. To make things happen. It’s like the astronauts you hear in the song. Risking it all to find out something new. To go somewhere new. To be someone new. It’s what really made the song come together. A desire to write something new.
Erik: It was actually very interesting for me. I had just had some Gibson custom shop pickups installed on a guitar that I had built from Front Porch Lutherie. Ryan immediately liked the response and tone and thought it would compliment an idea he was working on. Although reluctant, Ryan convinced me to go right into the studio and track some of my ideas to go along with the solid progression he had composed. To be honest it was one of the best sessions I had ever participated in. The tone from the new set-up was amazing and the fit with Ryan’s idea worked out even better than I had expected. I have always appreciated the way Ryan and I have been able to leave room for each other on our songs. I think we have almost developed an intuition on how to compliment each other’s ideas when composing and recording. This time was no different.
DKFM: What comes next for A Shoreline Dream?
Ryan: More recording of ideas. More collaboration hopefully. We’re wanting to expand our sound. Work with new people. Try new things. We’re gonna write, record and release as we get things done. Focusing on singles, and then assembling at the end into a full package. Hopefully vinyl. We’ve been dying to do Vinyl and so have our fans!
Erik: More music and more exploration of sounds and ideas. Plus I really want to revisit some of the places we toured in the past.