After a remarkable alt-rock run in the 1980s that saw them earn the praise of peers from fellow bands R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., and more, The Dream Syndicate is back with their new album How Did I Find Myself Here? (out September 8 on ANTI). To help celebrate the band’s return, we chatted with frontman Steve Wynn about releasing a new Dream Syndicate album almost 30 years after the last one, what it was like to get the band back together to play a reunion show in 2012, his recommendations for unsung bands that folks should really check out, and much more!
NoiseTrade: Since the last Dream Syndicate studio album came out in 1988, how does it feel to be on the verge of releasing the band’s fifth album almost 30 years after releasing it’s fourth one?
Steve Wynn: It’s all pretty exciting and strange, of course, to think of it in terms of that many years. To be honest, it just feels like this is the record we would have made if we had stuck around all that time, absorbed everything that happened in between, gotten better at what we do and then released a new album in 2017. Which, I suppose, is what we did. The Dream Syndicate never went away. We just didn’t play any shows or make any records for a while.
NT: The title track to your new album is an 11-minute psych-rock jam session with trippy grooves and some incendiary guitar work. How do you start writing a song like that and how does it evolve during the actual recording session?
Wynn: It’s something that we’ve always done. We take a song, written in the traditional sense of verses and choruses and hooks and riffs and then let it go where it wants to go. It’s not unlike when John Coltrane covers “My Favorite Things.” You know the song he’s playing, but it’s actually a springboard for whatever he and the band are feeling in that moment. It’s harder – and usually less interesting – to just come up with a random jam out of nothing. It’s good to have some kind of framework to get you started on the launchpad.
NT: You’re also offering the song “Glide” on your NoiseTrade sampler. What can you tell us about the writing and recording of that track?
Wynn: I heard that riff in my head one day while walking down 5th Avenue in Manhattan. I just jumped into the nearest cafe with my iPad and GarageBand and let the song come to me while drinking a cheap cup of coffee. Like many of our songs, it’s built around a repetitive riff, once again letting simplicity and repetition allow for some kind of build and cathartic release.
NT: How integral was your 2012 reunion show at Barcelona’s BAM Festival in getting this new album written and recorded?
Wynn: It was the first show we played with this lineup, the first since 1988. We wanted to see how it would feel to bring our music to a new era and if it would feel good to us and the audience. It did, right from the start. It’s funny to test all of that out in front of 10,000 people, but it was a good test. We knew we had something going and that it was worthy carrying on. More shows, more tours and before long we decided to take it to the studio.
NT: Finally, you’ve been quoted as saying that you feel that Dream Syndicate was about “receiving, carrying and then passing along a torch” of bands that don’t often get the love and attention they deserve. Who are some of those “secret passwords into a society of musical fanaticism” for you and what albums of theirs should listeners check out?
Wynn: I guess we mostly loved all of the bands that lived beneath the radar, though many have become pretty big since then. We would listen to the Velvet Underground and the Stooges and Big Star and Suicide and the Only Ones and get excited by the music they made when nobody was looking. They were our heroes, our role models and, in a way, we just placed ourselves in a line that they had drawn. It’s a line that never ends and we’re glad to find our place there once again.