Dream Brother finally sees their patience and hard efforts rewarded with the release of their first album.
The wait is finally over for Dream Brother. After formulating the band in 2009, lead singer and guitarist, Samuel Sjöman saw his creative ambitions come to fruition this year with the release of the Finnish alternative rock act’s self-titled debut album.
The reality for Dream Brother’s front figure has actually been a much longer process, which saw him drifting between bands that showed glimpses of promise, before finally settling on the right formation and formula with Dream Brother.
It took the breakup of a serious relationship and subsequent trip to Thailand to achieve the goals Samuel Sjöman had mapped out in his mind, as the resultant holiday led to a chance meeting with renowned Finnish drummer, Teijo Jämsä.
With a friendship being struck first between the two, and with Teijo Jämsä operating in an advisory capacity to aid Samuel Sjöman’s choices when recruiting the right personnel due to Jämsä’s extensive network of connections, it wasn’t until the pair touched down in their home country that Sjöman’s newfound acquaintance decided to take up the vacant position as the band’s permanent drummer.
As the final pieces of the band came together with Jarkkis Tapani Toivanen joining on bass and Jaakko Teittinen bolstering the ranks on guitar, Dream Brother set about tidying up all the loose ends which had been in the works for some years, as well as adding fresh material to complete the band’s first long player.
Once news broke of this band with a penchant for 90s era grunge, but with added pickings from the reformed emo generation of bands who later followed, and those with a preference for melody over out-and-out caustic expression, Famous Last Words (FLW) sent word to Finland requesting an hour of Dream Brother’s time, so that a more detailed insight could be gained regarding this Finnish quartet.
With the request granted, and Dream Brother’s Samuel Sjöman willing to step under the spotlight of interrogation, the natural starting place concerned the years leading up to the official release of Dream Brother’s debut album, considering the time it took to get this project finally up and running.
“I had been in bands for fifteen years, but none of it really went anywhere,” begins Samuel Sjöman. I thought that if I really want to do something musically, then I had to move to Helsinki because I was living in the central part of Finland. Before this move, I went to Thailand on vacation for one month and there I met my now friend, Teijo Jämsä (drums) who was in a band called Killer Aspect and they played a lot of gigs with The Rasmus. The thing that I wanted to say with Dream Brother is that when I met Teijo, we started to find the right musicians [for the band]. In the beginning, it wasn’t 100% that we were going to play in the same band, it was more that Teijo was going to help me find the right pieces of the puzzle to form the band. As a result of this discussion, Dream Brother started, and this was in September 2009.”
Has it been a frustrating process for you, considering Dream Brother started in 2009 and your debut album being issued in 2015?
“Yeah, it’s [been] f****** frustrating because we had problems when we started to do pre-production for the album as well as a few other things,” replies Sjöman sounding a tad frustrated as well as allowing himself to laugh at the memory of this. “We started to work with producer Teemu Aalto, who acted as a session musician for us in terms of the guitars, and he’s a very nice guy. However, when Teemu came to our band we asked him to be a part of it, but the problem was that he lived in another city in Finland. This meant that it took roughly two years for the starting point to begin for the album, until it was ready in 2014. We had some problems, not with the music, but about everything else in terms of being a part of a professional band and keeping up with timetabled things. He [Teemu] lives in another part of Finland now, and he has received his first child, so there have been many things [slowing the recording process], which is normal. If you don’t want to produce hit music, I mean the kind of stuff which goes straight to commercial radio stations, it’s very difficult finding a balance between how you make your living and writing what you consider quality songs.”
With Samuel Sjöman acknowledging a number of factors which slowed the entire process for the recording of ‘Dream Brother’, often natural consequences and therefore unavoidable, the overall quality of their first recorded output did not suffer as a result of this.
“In my opinion, this was the first record and we had to just put it out,” comments Sjöman regarding the debut album ‘Dream Brother’. “It’s good that it’s out, but I believe that when we do the next record, and if we try to promote it outside of Finland, people will discover that record too, as it’s not going to go anywhere [in the sense that] it’s music and therefore it’s permanent. If you produce some music, then it’s permanent, even if it’s not [permanent] in that moment. If you produce good music, then I think it’s going to last longer than any one hit wonder.”
Despite the length of time it took for ‘Dream Brother’ to arrive and remind any established fans of the potential of this four-piece band, the actual duration of the recording process from start to finish made no difference in terms of projecting the band’s status at a quicker rate. Such a conundrum is not lost on Samuel Sjöman, who is fully aware of the logistics involved of trying to reach out to greater numbers of people and creating a position that makes it financially viable as he explains.
“I understand that we can’t tour with one minivan for a few months, even in Finland, as it’s not going to take our career anywhere. Of course we could sell a few hundred records and maybe obtain a bit more coverage, but I don’t think it’s our…” pauses for a moment before rephrasing his sentence. “We’re aware that we have to do gigs, and that means in Finland if we want to get more fans here, but touring is expensive [in this country], so I don’t want to do these kinds of gigs because it’s not going to further our career if we’re going to play in a venue away from the bigger cities and nobody is watching. So it’s better to tour with a similar style of band with perhaps more fans, or act as a support band for the bigger bands coming to Finland, that’s the best thing for us I think.”
If it’s a difficult prospect being a new band in Finland due to the extreme costs of setting up a series of gigs outside of the major cities in order to attract a broader fan base, where exactly does Samuel Sjöman and Dream Brother see themselves in terms of any form of music scene in Finland?
“I think it’s very challenging as there are not a lot of real rock bands,” answers Sjöman before adding to his explanation. “Not garage or punk rock, but more alternative stadium rock. It’s a difficult time [for music] as there are not a lot people buying records. In Finland, there’s a scene happening where every big name [associated with] big record labels keeps releasing artists with a schlager sound [style of popular or electronic music rife in many parts of Europe]. So for example, you have disco schlager where every song is [provides a vocal impression of a repetitive beat] and it’s so stupid! The whole genre is so stupid and I don’t get it why people make this type of music. So everybody has to be a little disco, and the music is quite far from rock music, and therefore I feel that we’re not in a good position.”
Despite your admission that Dream Brother is not in a good position due to an abundance of schlager music in Finland, the faith in your music must be particularly strong due to the odds seemingly stacked against you, and for peddling a sound reminiscent from quite a distant era?
“I feel that people who release that kind of music in general [indie rock] understand more, as it’s not only about the music in terms of how we play technically, but the feelings in the songs as well,” explains Sjöman. Also, it’s totally different when you sing in English and a totally different mood. So, in Finland, a lot of people fail to understand that mood. For example, many of my friends, who aren’t necessarily fans of the band, think that maybe the vocals are good but they don’t understand the emotions because they can’t compare it [to their own experiences] because I’m singing in English. Furthermore, I would say that, as a band, we’re not trying to be nostalgic by doing the same type of grunge as what our idols have done. I have produced this kind of music all my life, so what we’re going to do is the same. I think that’s another point worth addressing because if you try and change your style with every record, then it’s not going to go anywhere either.”
With Sjöman citing influences ranging from that classic era of grunge in relation to his own band, he is also keen to express his admiration for female artists such as PJ Harvey and alternative American rock bands, A Perfect Circle and Tool. It remains, however, one of the most interesting and arresting twists concerning the music of Dream Brother being their ability to trade abrasive guitar sounds with sweeter, melodic edges; a perfect example of which can be heard when both sides harmonise during opening number ‘Lost Yourself’ from their debut album.
“We started to write that song when I returned from Thailand,” remembers Sjöman in reference to ‘Lost Yourself’. “I think it was the first song where Teiju played some demo drums and he brought influences from his association with the Killer Aspect to the song, as they were a little bit more pop than this straight American sound. The song itself is about a relationship breakup, but also about things I observed when I went to Thailand. For example, you observe a lot of people who don’t have many things in a poor country like Thailand, but everyone is smiling the whole time. So I was very sad and feeling very lost due to this relationship breakup, but travelling to Thailand made me realise that my problems were not so big after seeing people with very little in life but still managing to smile. After such an experience as this, you feel a little stupid about your own problems.”
We discuss other songs from Dream Brother’s album such as ‘Black Leaves’ and ‘Fairies and Failures’; the latter of which remains a private affair and not for publication at the behest of Samuel Sjöman. There is one song, however, which Dream Brother’s frontman is willing to discuss as it remains something of a favourite which, he explains, is quite surprising after working on these songs for such a lengthy period of time.
“Of course it changes in terms of a favourite song because I have listened to the songs for too long before we got to its release. At some point, therefore, I hate all of the songs!” he comments laughing. “I think the last song on the album, ‘Heart’, is a very big song and maybe a turning point when I wrote the lyrics in 2011. The song came together quickly, and it’s a song that really tells about my soul and how I really feel, even if it’s a bit melancholy as there are some lines that are about my own relations, ‘Where is your heart, where is mine’ and so on. Even though you have been divorced, if you really have loved someone, you will love that person forever in the sense that you’re not going to hate each other as you will always have feelings for that person. If you have been in a really close relationship, you won’t forget all the things that happened. You have to think that there are more good things in your life than only bad.”
Are you responsible for writing all of the lyrics?
“Yeah, all of the lyrics are mine,” confirms Sjöman. “They’re quite melancholic, not that I feel sad all of the time, but I think in life generally, if everything is too good for you, I think that you don’t feel anything. As a person, I’m quite tender in that way where I have very strong feelings, so maybe the album is a little bit like divorcing things and [reflecting] on what’s going on after that, and the relationships. For some people that may show too much intimacy, I don’t know. Perhaps I should use some filter or not, but I feel things and I try to spread those feelings out somehow. I think the only way to express yourself is that you have to be honest. You have to try and say something in your own words rather than trying to be someone else, which is not very real in my opinion.”
Getting back to the album itself, where was ‘Dream Brother’ recorded and how long did the whole process take once you got to the recording studio?
“We started to record it in August 2012 at Studio 57 in Alaveteli, which is an old rectory that has been converted into a recording studio,” replies Sjöman. “The studio is a great place, but is very far from Helsinki. Alaveteli is a small village and almost all of the locals speak Swedish there. We did everything in about two days with all of the drum tracks and bass tracks because Teiju is very professional about that sort of thing as he takes no more than three takes to do it. If he has to do more than three [takes], then he isn’t going to do it [laughing]! He’s so good when it comes to the drums, and he just did it and it was there in terms of the recording. After that, various other parts were sorted out in different parts of Finland, with preproduction and then mixing later on in March 2013.”
Have you got quite a few songs leftover from the recording sessions considering the time it took to finalise your debut album?
“Yeah, we have done some new demos and I think we’re going to accelerate our releases in the future. So hopefully you may see something new later this year. We’ve started to do some videos now, as we really need those to gain more exposure.”
With the one hour mark coming to an end and signalling the end of our discussion, FLW considers whether Dream Brother adhere to a strict philosophy judging by the amount of passion and patience given to their debut album?
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” Dream Brother’s frontman muses. “I think that every person goes to their dark side but, as I said earlier, if you don’t have any problems in your life, then I don’t think that you feel anything. The only thing is that you have to learn by your own mistakes. If you don’t learn, then you’re not going to be happy. It doesn’t only matter in music, but in life in general as well.”
The album ‘Dream Brother’ is out now on Inverse Records
(Photography courtesy of Dream Brother)
I think the only way to express yourself is that you have to be honest. You have to try and say something in your own words rather than trying to be someone else, which is not very real in my opinion."
Samuel Sjöman, Dream Brother
FLW - From the Tapes
If you could have one thing right now, what would it be and why? FLW asks the question, lead singer and guitarist Samuel Sjöman of Dream Brother provides the answer.
“If someone says something else, then I think they’re lying! I think that we need love because people nowadays are so frustrated, and I think we need friendship to completely understand about life. We should be more thankful and grateful for things rather than saying I want that or I want something. Of course it would be nice if I had a little bit more money [laughs] but, in the end, it doesn’t make me any happier. If we could have more peace and love in general, then I think that I would be very happy, especially in my own life.”