The Soul of Dreamboat
Though only five songs long, the album flexes an emotional maturity that enhances, not disturbs, its playful bounce.
By Andy Winder, BYU
Last month, “Study Breaks” interviewed University of Texas student, Environmental Science major and frontman of the Austin band Dreamboat Will Maxwell about the difficulty of being a student musician.
After moving to Austin from Maine, Maxwell joined Dreamboat and has been making music with them for almost two years. After releasing their first EP, “Strong Legs,” almost a year ago, the band has continued playing local shows and touring the South. Today, November 11, they released their first album, entitled “Loose Tooth.”
In his interview, Maxwell described Dreamboat’s sound as “soulful and happy-sounding,” influenced by rock n’ roll and a little bit of everything else. Listening to their music is like recalling a happy memory, mellow but cheerful, and “Loose Tooth” continues in the band’s tradition of making music that will make you feel a little bit better about humanity.
The album offers a contrast, yet one that is welcome: Spanning five songs, the music explores a variety of sounds, yet is tied together by witty lyricism and a confessional, if at times self-effacing sincerity.
The album begins with “Neighborhood Bar,” which functions as a perfect opener to the album. The song begins softly, and as it progresses, the acoustics crescendo enthusiastically as they implore you to “take [them] down to your neighborhood bar.” Full of vim and vinegar, the song almost insists that listeners to sit down and enjoy the rest of their album.
Maxwell noted in his interview with “Study Breaks” that he met his fellow band mates while working at the restaurant Texas French Bread, and somehow, the work seems to reflect the camaraderie of the service industry. It asks listeners to pull up a seat and listen, as if they were early morning conversations between close friends. To achieve that intimacy and warmth in five songs is impressive, not to mention a delight to experience.
If the first song is an invitation, “Spent the Day in Bed” is a story that establishes the playfulness of the band. Singer Mary Bryce’s voice is sweet and heartfelt, and the melody matches the exuberance of drummer Paul Pinon and guitarists Maxwell and Jake Miles. The tune is rounded by bassist Harrison Anderson, who provides the piece with a playful rhythm.
Though he covers topics that range from political musing to jokes, Maxwell has said that he often writes about love, and indeed the next three songs on the album deal with affection, its trappings and the things that distract from it, such as emotional growth and a wistfulness for places far away. Sometimes songs about love can feel like the lyricist is intoxicated rather than infatuated, but “Loose Tooth” avoids these snares: The songs are euphoric but pensive, dealing with emotions deeper and more diverse than superficial attraction.
The next song, “Used to Have to Be Too (Wanted),” was my favorite on the album. Nostalgic and reflective, the ballad is sung by Miles and centers on changing how you perceive the world and your actions, with hints of a romantic relationship in transition.
“I used to love you and I still do,” proclaims the vocalists, “and I still do, but I put you under my pillow, you old loose tooth!”
After this, Dreamboat slows things down a little, before then revving them back up with “Kiss You on The,” a song that saunters in but is brimming with passion. Mirroring the transition from the hesitancy of a crush to the jubilation of a lover, Bryce leads the group from tentative murmurs into a romp, where voices, instruments and echoes bump off of each other into every direction.
The album is melancholic but not mournful; none of the songs beg you to stay. Like friends who remind you that you are always welcome, the album’s conclusion is really just an invitation to return.
“New England,” the final song on the album, is less boisterous than the previous four, its lyrics crooning for what feels far away. “Days feel longer when you’re not around,” Maxwell leads. “I’ve been trying to get both feet off the ground.”
For those of us who know the struggle of having to let go of something familiar to have something new, the piece rings with empathy. For Dreamboat, whose tenor has become noticeably soberer, more self-aware, the song is a reflection of their growth. When we talked with Maxwell last month, he hoped that Dreamboat’s music expressed a love of humanity. “We’re all human and there’s a lot of good within that,” he said, “but there’s also a lot of uncertainty.” If expressing that cautious optimism is the aim of the album, they have certainly achieved it.