by Interviews

Later this month Providence-based emo post-skramz band Dreamwell will be releasing their heaviest album to date with In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You. Over the course of eleven songs, you are guided through a world of waking nightmares and hallucinations as you follow a character grappling with their mental health and reality itself. The band is in top form as they deliver a sound that is both intricate and crushing, a perfect compliment to the emotional imagery-laden lyrics. In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You will be out on October 20 via Prosthetic Records and Dreamwell will be touring North America in November.

Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with lead vocalist KZ Staska and guitarists Aki McCullough and Ryan Couitt over Zoom to talk about the new album, songwriting, the world’s weirdest bathroom, creating bits, and so much more. Read the interview below!

In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You will be your first release on Prosthetic Records. How did you decide who to sign with? What has working with them been like?

Ryan: They reached out to us, I believe.

KZ: They reached out to us about our last album, Modern Grotesque but we had already signed off the physical rights to that so they told us to keep them in mind when it was time for the next one. I think we shopped it to a couple different labels but they were the one who gave us the best offer.

Aki: Also I think all of us are fans of albums Prosthetic has put out in the past. One of the things that was important to me was that there’s a lot of other queer and trans artists on Prosthetic. Like Death Goals, Pupil Slicer, Thotcrime - a lot of bands that we’re friends with. I feel like there’s a lot of labels, especially heavy music labels, that are less supportive or put up with bands with bigoted behaviour. We’re more confident that because of their track record, Prosthetic would be a supportive place for us, as we have multiple trans and non-binary people in the band.

KZ: Steve is the one that we talk to the most for label stuff and he really seems to be actively reaching out to bands that he thinks are cool to throw them an offer. I don’t think that he’s super concerned, necessarily, with where bands are in terms of status or anything like that. Obviously, he wants to sign bands that he has some confidence will do well but he’s reaching out to smaller bands all the time it seems like. He’s a really good dude.

Aki: I’m in three other bands and I’ve been like, “Hey Steve, check this out!” He’ll straight up just send a full couple paragraphs like, “This is what I liked about this”. I’m like, “If I was in your position, I don’t know if I would be putting that much effort into that”. It’s stuff like that that I really appreciate. So far, it’s been very much like we bring the motivation, we bring the vision, and they have the resources to make it happen. It seems like they’re really excited to see bands that have that motivation. We have very specific visions for what we’re trying to do, not just musically but in terms of the layout and in terms of how we’re presenting the album and it seems like they’re really receptive to that. They’re not trying to impose their own thing.

KZ: That’s for sure true. They’ve been very hands-off in regards to how we’re being presented as a band and creative decisions like identity-based decisions, that stuff has all been placed pretty solely in our hands. A lot of the stuff that they would post on their social media building up to the release of “Blighttown Type Beat” was just taking notes from what I was doing and putting it in their stuff. They’re very receptive to what we want to do, how we want to be represented, and they’re just handling the behind-the-scenes stuff like setting up interviews and stuff like that.

Ryan: It’s also weird having a team for once. We can send an email and be like, “Hey! Can we have this for the socials?” Then five hours later you have something in hand that I’d only be able to dream of being able to make on my own. Like, “I don’t just have to go in MS Paint and try to draw something up and make it work. I can just have somebody do it! That’s sick!”

KZ: You don’t have to bother your boy at 10 pm and see if he’ll do you a favour or whatever.


Aki: I think I’m very used to like, “Unless I’m handing you money directly then I’m bothering you. I’m being a burden” but now it’s like, “No, we’re all in this together”.

Ryan: It’s like, “Oh wait, this is your job, I’m supposed to ask you these things. You get paid!” [laughs]

Aki: Steve also came out to our show at ZBR Fest in Chicago. We were playing Subterranean, this 100-cap room floor stage, and he was right up front for us. I thought that was pretty sick.

Ryan: Yeah, that was really cool!

You mentioned that this is the first time you’ve consciously and deliberately went into writing an album. What was this approach like?

KZ: I know I’ve talked about this a little bit in the past, but for Modern Grotesque I came into the band when the majority of the album had been written so my job was just to write as many lyrics as I possibly could and get stuff ready. I believe that as a writer, wherever you are in your life at that moment is going to inform a lot of what you’re doing. So the stuff I was writing is still pretty cohesive and belongs together but this time we knew that we were writing another album so from my end of things, I was able to be a lot more detailed and specific with my lyrics and how they fit together thematically as a piece of a bigger product. That felt really good. That really drove me to be more focused and deliberate with what I was saying and what I was trying to do with my writing. That was a really cool experience to finally get to have, to sort of be able to craft a bigger picture vision and pursue it.

Aki: With Modern Grotesque we talked a lot about how chaotic and stop-start it was and how much happened. Although this time was a more deliberate approach than the last few albums, we still were in many ways at the mercy of the Universe and our schedules and the kind of chaos that comes with being in a band that’s simultaneously trying to write new things, promote the old things, go on tour, and all of that. Just taking things as they come. So there were kind of two stages of writing it, actually maybe three…

Ryan: We had Justin in Iowa for one part of it. [laughs]

Aki: Yeah, there was the Iowa years. [laughs] We’re going to be doing this no matter what and we also want everyone in the band to follow their dreams, whatever they may be. Justin’s trying to go into archeology and it took him to a doctoral program in Iowa for a couple of years. Then he ended up dropping out to do this so hopefully that ends up paying off for him. [laughs] But we actually started writing this album back in 2020. That was also still during COVID.

We’d finished writing and recording Modern Grotesque. We were actually waiting for it to get mixed but we were also able to get into the studio and do the finishing touches because it was so hard to go anywhere in person. We were like, “Alright, we might as well start writing again”. We actually started writing it during that period between finishing Modern Grotesque and waiting for it to come out. At that point, we were still an unknown band, we didn’t have any idea how Modern Grotesque was going to do. We just figured that the next thing to do was to write more stuff. It was in that time that we wrote “Obelisk”.

KZ: Well, we actually started writing “Obelisk” before we were even done writing Modern Grotesque.

Ryan: It was right before we were gonna record Modern Grotesque. I got a new amp and I basically wrote what was half of “Obelisk” and then it sat on my phone for some months until we finished the album. Then we finally went back to it.

KZ: I remember pretty early on in me joining the band, we had a practice where our drummer Anthony wasn’t able to make it and we tried to practice a song without him and it was the worst shit in the world.


KZ: Ryan just dug out this riff and I played drums on it just to try to figure out a structure for it and that wound up being the first half of “Obelisk of Hands”. We decided to table it because it felt too similar to a couple songs we were working on so we didn’t want to put it on the same record. We revisited it when it was time to write this new one. We wrote the opening track in the kitchen of Justin’s house.

Ryan: There’s three writing stages. There’s the kitchen stage, the downstairs living room, and the normal room upstairs. [laughs]

Aki: We were trying to figure out what was the least disease-spreading way to write this album. So we had KZ upstairs so he could scream.

KZ: We could all be six feet apart in the kitchen but we couldn’t be six feet apart in the room we normally practice in. Then after that, there was a period of time where a couple of us would get together at two in the morning to work through ideas which is where the last song on the album was started, just with this nightmare tap-riff that Justin was playing at three in the morning.

Ryan: Justin has had this bass riff in his mind for, I swear, the last three years up until we finally made it a song. He would just play it every practice no matter what, he’d just be working on it, and every time we’d be like, “Alright bud, what you got over there?” He was like, “I don’t know, maybe it’s the last song?” because, at this point, we were writing a song a week to finish the damn thing.

KZ: I walked into you guys playing it and I went, “That’s how we start the final song!” It’s nonsense. It’s in an insane time signature. It starts with a bass tab. It sounds like a Gran Turismo menu screen. [laughs]

Aki: Last year Justin got back from Iowa from the last time in May and we were basically like, “We’re finishing and releasing this in 2023 one way or another. If we want to do that we’re going to have to record in September 2022, we’ve got to pre-pro it in August” so that left us June to August to write six songs. It was like, “Alright, six songs in six weeks!” We had a couple riffs and a couple structures floating around but it was basically every week, ten hours on Sunday. We tried to remember what we’d done the week before, tweak it a little bit, and then go on to the next one and just hash it out. We had to come up with something we all were happy with. We didn’t leave until we were at least semi-satisfied with it and could play it and get a phone recording of it. Then we’d come back to it the week after and be like, “Alright, how do we feel about that?”

KZ: We went on tour in the first week of September 2022 and we had the pre-pros saved on Soundcloud so we started that tour just listening to the pre-pros over and over again. We were still actively changing and writing parts by just talking to each other like, “Oh, Anthony, you should play this part more like this”. We were still finishing the songs in the van on that tour because we had to record it the week after we got home from that tour.

Aki: We like to suffer. [laughs]

KZ: It’s really incredible. I think the coolest thing about both of our records so far is that they both feel like they were meticulously and specifically crafted but actually if you looked at everything that was happening, it was absolute chaos for months on end. [laughs]

Ryan: We basically only had half an album at the time of our signing and were like, “Oh, shit we gotta do this! It has to happen, it has to get done now! Yeah six months, we’ll be done”. [laughs]

KZ: For the single “Blighttown Type Beat” I had an idea of a story I wanted to tell so I just started writing lyrics. Whenever I do that, if I’m writing lyrics to no music, I try to come up with a vague vocal pattern, not so it can be the vocal pattern I’m writing but so if there is a pattern in the first place it’s easier to augment it later when there’s a song to fit it to. As I was writing it, I actually started to really like the vocal pattern that I was coming up with so I finished the whole song and I was like, “Hey guys, I have a song. You guys have to write all your shit to what I’m doing”. That’s how “Blighttown” was written. Then there’s a song on the record called “I Dream’t of a Room of Clouds” which is a very mediocre acoustic song that I wrote seven years ago that we then totally overhauled to be a full band post-metal bit.

Aki: That was probably the most stressful one to figure out in one day.

KZ: Which is crazy because I’m so stupid and I don’t know how to play any instruments so it’s a very rudimentary song. [laughs] But it was very hectic trying to figure it out.

Aki: We had to transpose it.

Ryan: To go back to “Blighttown” real quick, that one was just fun because it was just basically me, KZ, and Anthony standing in a triangle at the drum kit. Justin was listening to whatever the hell we were doing. I was just mouthing riffs to KZ and he was like, “Yeah, I guess that fits”. Then I tried to translate it to guitar and I was like, “Anthony, just do this” and he was like, “Ok.”

KZ: I just had to over and over again very awkwardly yell the lyrics with nothing to accompany it, just totally a cappella until somebody figured something out. [laughs]

Aki: I’m so glad I wasn’t there that day. I would’ve been like, “This is stupid. I’m leaving!”


Aki: I was in California and you sent a video of it. I had access to my dad’s old guitar and I heard that and I was like, “I think this middle part should have a little bit of [guitar noises]”. I just came up with the stupid slidey riff in the middle after watching that video that they sent.

KZ: Which almost goes into what I was just saying about how our albums feel like they were written by people who know what the fuck they’re doing. As far as you knew, when we sent you those videos, we just wrote a song in a normal way but it was actually just an absolute circus trying to figure that shit out. [laughs]

Aki: I think there’s something to say for going with the flow of what’s happening and being like, “Alright, these are the circumstances we’ve been given. This is the time we have. This is what we can create with this time and this is what we have to have by this time. So this is what it’s going to be”. We can’t spend infinite amounts of time questioning it and saying, “What if?” Instead, we have to be like, “This is capturing this moment and what we could do in this moment”. Also just kinda going with your gut. Like I was saying, I saw that video and I was like, “Oh yeah that’s the riff I’m going to put down!” It just kinda happened. I think some of the best moments on the album - the ideas that at least I felt the most confident about, were the ones where I heard someone do something and right away I was like, “I know what I’m going to do”. There was no agonizing over it. I won’t speak for KZ but it seems like with some of the songs the lyrics happened really fast too.

KZ: Oh yeah! For sure that’s true. I was suffering which is always good when you have to write a bunch of lyrics for a really miserable album. [laughs] There’s the really long song called “It Will Hurt, and You Won’t Get to Be Surprised” where there’s ten thousand parts and it’s seven minutes long. I was like, “I don’t want to fucking write these lyrics at all! This is going to be a tragedy”. Then I had an experience, I was put into a situation, and I had lyrics by the end of the day. I just sat down and wrote the whole song in one go.

Aki: Did you have the name before you wrote it? Because I feel like I remember you had it.

KZ: I definitely had that name in my list of future song titles. I always have an ongoing list of a minimum of twenty song titles ready to rip at any moment. I knew I wanted to use it somewhere and again, I was put into a situation and I was like, “Well, this is where”.

Aki: I felt exactly like that where I was like, “I know what this song is going to be about, I know it’s going to hurt”. Then I read the lyrics and I was like, “Wow! That hurt! I knew that was going to hurt, I didn’t know how much it was going to hurt”. [laughs]

KZ: We don’t lie here at Dreamwell, LLC. [laughs] So when I tell you it will hurt, it will and you will not get to be surprised because I told you.

Aki: We’ve had our share of 1 a.m. group chat therapy.

KZ: Just love to have a little meltdown every once in a while. It gets the creative juices flowing. [laughs]

Aki: One of us has to be going through a situation or going through a time to kinda keep us in the right zone to do this. We can’t all be going through it, some people need to be functional human beings, but somebody needs to be going through a miserable situation to be able to play miserable music. I don’t know what we’re going to do if we get our lives together too much. [laughs]

KZ: I’m lowkey stressed out because my life’s pretty sick right now actually so I have no fucking clue what I’m going to do when it’s time to write more stuff! [laughs]

That’s the pure pop album.

KZ: I don’t want to do that bit. I don’t wanna be the screamo band that then puts out a clean singing album, that’s not my shit. I still need to be yelling, it’s the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t know what I’m going to yell about. I haven’t figured it out yet. I mean, fortunately, the world is not barren of other miserable experiences to be angry about so I’ll figure something out.

The album could just be, “I’M SO HAPPY” and that’s the whole song.

KZ: Something that’s very, very funny is in my head that’s what Modern Grotesque was. It was celebrating being in a pretty optimistic point of my life. There’s an insane review of the album on Rate Your Music where at the end, the person who wrote the review said, “I do hope to hear more from this band but if the lyrics are as honest as they seem, there might not be another opportunity for him to write any more” because it sounds like I’m going to kill myself. [laughs] I was like, “Shit! Is that how my album’s being perceived?? It’s about being hopeful and that person thinks I’m an actual suicide risk!” Which I say to exemplify if that’s how people perceived my optimistic album, imagine how the perception is going to be on the one I’m actually labeling as “abject misery”.

Aki: Just you wait.

Ryan: “This Will Hurt” was pretty peak crunch time for us too.

KZ: It was! I was really stressing that song hard.

Ryan: That’s one of the only times in the room while writing a song I’ve completely been like, “I wrote a whole part but I fucking hate it. Please, we’re not going to play it anymore. Stop it. We’re playing the thing you did”.

Aki: You came up with a thing and then I came up with a thing from that and then you decided you didn’t like your thing.

Ryan: It was like, “We’ll transition into that” and I was like, “No, we’re going to go straight to that because we don’t fucking need this anymore”.

KZ: That ending took fucking ages for us to work out. And we are still actively figuring it out right now too. [laughs] I think at some point you guys were playing something that was pretty cool and then I went to the convenience store and when I came back you were just playing more shit. Eventually, I was like, “What if we didn’t play more shit and you just played the cool shit from before? It can just be some cool shit. The song’s already seven minutes long, it doesn’t need another part!”

Ryan: Yep. And then we had a fade-out ending.

KZ: With an actual, straight-up harsh noise wall happening too. Pretty sick, pretty cool.

Aki: I hope this comes out before the album drops so people can just get all this out of context.

Ryan: Hell yeah! What other fun stories do we have about these songs? “All Towers” is basically me teaching Anthony how to actually play doom drums. It was a cold February in his basement and it was just me and him at practice for some reason.

KZ: The thing about Anthony is that he loves to play a million notes and that’s usually the right move for the stuff we play but sometimes it’s the wrong move. So we had to teach him, “You’re allowed to play two notes. It’s really cool sometimes to just play two notes”.

Aki: We all learned new things while we were writing this.

KZ: I had to tell Anthony to play blast beats. He was very hesitant to play blast beats. When we were writing the song “Lord Have MRSA On My Soul”, the way he was playing it sounded so much like it was a fucking Four Year Strong easycore song. I was like, “Respectfully, I’m not being involved in a song that sounds like this. Anthony, I think the solution - and you’re gonna hate this - is blast beats”. He tried them and he was like, “Fuck you’re right. The solution is blast beats!”

Aki: For anyone who’s reading this, if you’re ever writing music and you’re worried that your song sounds a little too pop-punk, just put some blasts over it and then it’s screamo.

Ryan: Blast beats every time.

KZ: Blast beats will always unpop your punk.


The artwork for the album was done by Helvetica Blanc and you’ve mentioned how integral it is to the album.

[KZ points to a print of Curse by Helvetica Blanc above their head.]

KZ: That’s some other shit. I just really liked this piece a lot. When I reached out to them for the art I was like, “It could literally be this” and they were like, “I’m not going to give you something that’s already done but I can make it heavily influenced by that” and I was like, “Please do! Literally everything down to the colour scheme is what I want you to do, please”. [laughs]

It’s so cool! What’s the significance of the artwork to you and to the album?

KZ: It is very abstract, the art is one person holding onto another person who is made out of fire. So it’s supposed to be a very straightforward depiction of holding onto things for too long. Things that are no longer serving you and instead are actively harming you every day of your life but being unable to let go of them. I’ve kinda broke the songs of the album into chapters and I themed those chapters around tarot suits and their corresponding astrological element. We’ve got one single from each chapter. The unreleased single, “All Towers Drawn in the Equatorial Room” {ed. note - this is out today!} is off of the fire chapter, “Obelisk of Hands” is the earth chapter, and “Blighttown Type Beat” is the water chapter. I had Helvetica Blanc make single art that would also be used as chapter art for the insert for the record. All of that stuff is themed around astrology and tarot and how those elements relate to the songs.

In one of your press photos you’re holding the King of Pentacles. What does the card mean? How is it significant to the album?

KZ: There was no reason why I was specifically holding the King of Pentacles. There’s a couple other pentacles scattered throughout those photos and those were the ones we used along with the release of “Obelisk of Hands”. Pentacles is related to the earth element so I put those cards in there so it would be like the earth theme. There’s unreleased press photos that I think will go with the actual album when it comes out where the tarot cards are a little bit more specific. They’re the birth cards or the astrological cards of me and another individual in their reversal. There’s some significance there in downfall and stuff like that. Otherwise, I tried to use the corresponding suits for the single photos.

How did the character and concept for the album come about?

KZ: Like I said earlier, I do think that if you’re being honest in your writing, even if you’re not trying to make a “conceptual” album, everything that you write lyrically is still going to be related just because it’s going to be informed by wherever you are in your life currently. I was experiencing a pretty severe emotional arc in my life, I would say. I was starting to get more familiar with my relationship to my mental health. I was starting to process the way that I interpret things and realizing that so much of how I experience interpersonal relationships and how I experience difficult emotional moments is sort of clouded by these distorted perceptions of reality and paranoid delusions and stuff. So I just started writing songs that were about this inability to see things clearly and process things clearly but instead seeing everything through this haze of static. It started making me think about how I wanted to represent that in the bigger picture so I started to write about someone who was actively experiencing waking hallucinations and dreams and trying to separate reality from what was in front of him and figure out how to get back to being able to actually perceive the real world.

“Reberverations of a Sickly Wound” includes spoken lines from a post on r/BPDWiki. Why did you choose these lines in particular?

KZ: No, it’s from a video.

Aki: We don’t associate with that website. [laughs]

KZ: I forget the guy’s name right now but he’s a psychologist and his work focuses on Borderline Personality Disorder. It was from a video of him talking about the favourite person concept which is a person you kind of hinge your emotional state on and the different kinds of relationships you can have with a favourite person. So I took samples of the ones that felt most pertinent to me and then I had Aki just do some studio shit to them to put them over the instrumental.

Originally one of my friends, who is a poet, was going to read something that he wrote. His name is William James. He's a really, really wonderful poet. He’ll pick an album, make a word bank out of the lyrics, and he can only use words that appear on that album to make his poem. He did one for Modern Grotesque so he was going to read that poem. The title, “Reverberations of a Sickly Wound” is also made of words that are from the lyrics of Modern Grotesque, specifically the end of “Sisyphean Happiness” when I say, “Wounded seraph, some sickly angel“. I wanted to tie it in with what he was doing but when it just didn’t pan out, it still made sense because then it became a thing of constantly recycling back to the same delusional thinking that I was following that was leading me to the places I was going in the first place.

My thing is like, even the stupidest titles that I have, have to have some tangential relation to the lyrics. I’m never going to call a song some shit just to call it that. I’m not on my Devil Wears Prada bullshit where I’m just going to call it whatever, it has to have something to do with the song.

Ryan: “Swords, Dragons, and Diet Coke”.

KZ: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Ryan: “Big Wiggly Style”.

KZ: Shut up.

Ryan: “Wapakalypse”. With Roots Above and Branches Below. [laughs]

KZ: I didn’t have a Hot Topic phase.

Those weren’t the working titles?

Ryan: No, those are Devil Wears Prada songs.


KZ: For us, working titles are always something about the song so the last song was, “Justin Riff 2” for a long time. “All Towers” was called “Doomwell” for a really long time.

Ryan: I think “Blighttown” was always “Blighttown” though.

KZ: “Blighttown” was always “Blighttown” because I wrote the fucking lyrics so I already had a title for it. “Obelisk of Hands” was “Glassjaw” for a million years.

Aki: Whatever band we’re ripping off.

Ryan: Before it was “Glassjaw” it was “All Good Glassjaws Go to Heaven”. [laugh] You won’t let us do “Skronky Kong” though.

KZ: No because it’s dogshit! It sucks!

Aki: [laughs] It’s a classic!

KZ: No it’s not! I hate it so much. I’m never going to write lyrics that belong to a song called “Skronky Kong Is The Problem”.

Ryan: Weeshnaw.

KZ: Shut up.

Ryan: But the riff sounds like a donkey.

These are all going to be on the next album.

KZ: I said I have a log of album titles ready to rip at any given moment. I’m never going to need to take advice on an album title, I’ve already got them. They’re already written.

Aki: We haven’t written a note of music for this next album.

KZ: You’re right. No, we haven’t.

Ryan: I have. I just haven’t shown the class yet.

KZ: Ryan’s always writing little riffs. Theoretically, at least one note of those riffs will be on the album.

Ryan: Just depends if y’all like them or not.

“Blighttown Type Beat” takes its name from the location of the same name in Dark Souls. Why is this?

KZ: Any time I play a FromSoft game and I get to a poison swamp I say, “Oh this is this game’s Blighttown-type beat”, that’s where the phrase comes from. The song is about a house in a dilapidated village that’s overrun with water and shit so it’s vaguely adjacent to what Blighttown looks like. I was like, “Shit, this song could be called ‘Blighttown Type Beat’”.

The video for “Obelisk of Hands” is made up of tour footage and features different places you’ve been to including Brandywine Falls and Randyland. Where is the strangest place you’ve ever been on tour?

Ryan: Randyland was pretty crazy.

KZ: Randyland is a weird-ass place, there’s no question about that.

Ryan: It was also the only thing to do in town though.

Aki: I have a good answer to this one! A lot of lore leading up to this moment but we were in Texas and everything was going horribly. [laughs] Long story short a lot of bad things happened and a lot of bad things happened to the van. We had to go to Sulfur Springs, Texas.

KZ: I just want to interject to say that I love so much that it’s called Sulfur Springs just because it feels like if I were to write the story that actually happened, that’s what I would want the town to actually be called. It doesn’t feel like it could possibly actually exist.

Ryan: It felt like a movie set town, yeah.

KZ: It for real felt like we’d stepped into a short story. It was crazy.

Ryan: I also hadn’t gone to bed yet so…

Aki: Oh, yeah that made everything weirder. So we were at the car place, we had an hour wait, and the dude’s like, “Just walk to the center of town. You should definitely check out the public bathrooms”. We were like, “What about them?” and he was like, “They’re special”.

KZ: He was very adamant we check out the bathroom that they had in the middle of town. He went, “Have you ever just peed outside? With people around you?” and we were like, “Obviously no. What the fuck are you talking about?”


KZ: Just to explain the town, we tried to find a coffee shop and we were fucked. We were just absolutely fucked to find a place where we could get coffee without also having to sit down for breakfast. It was a terrible little town. In the middle of town, they had these two outhouses effectively, basically porta-potties that were like two-way mirrors. So the outside of them was reflective but then when you went inside they were fucking windows and you could see everything around you.

Oh my god.

KZ: Which is an experience I never want to have when I’m pissing.

Aki: It felt different.

KZ: Just the fact that the man at the mechanic was like, “You guys gotta take a piss in the center of town.” [laughs] It was just fucking out of control.

Ryan: To be fair, it was the only thing to do in town.

KZ: It was! He was right, that was the worst part! He was objectively correct.

Ryan: But taking a public shit while watching elderly people line up to use this two-way mirror is not a feeling I ever want to experience again.

KZ: No! It was horrible! Absolutely horrible. That is a good answer. That has to objectively be the strangest place we’ve gone on tour for sure.

Aki: This was all five hours before our load-in for our very first show with The World Is which was by far the biggest show we’d played at that point. It was supposed to be this really big, defining moment for us and it was, but that wasn’t how we expected to get there at all.

Ryan: We had to drive through a monsoon in Little Rock, fix half our van, get new tires, and fucking get to Texas. We never got out of Texas.

KZ: The van never made it out of Texas.

Ryan: But we made it to the fucking gig!

KZ: We got to the gig! If Dreamwell is going to do one fucking thing, it’s get to the goddamn gig.

Ryan: Except the Canadian run back home but we don’t talk about that.

KZ: I don’t know what you mean.

You have tour dates coming up in November for the US and Canada.

Ryan: We’re going back! We’re making it up.

KZ: We did basically hit all the spots that we had to cancel and then added a couple extra on top of them so that’s what we’re doing. I forgot we’re playing Canada if I’m being honest with you.

Aki: Hell yeah!

Hell yeah! What are you looking forward to the most about these shows?

KZ: We’re ending it by playing with Gospel. That’s pretty cool. That’s exciting. We’re playing at a new Brooklyn venue that we’ve never played before which is also exciting.

Ryan: Yeah, TV Eye.

KZ: TV Eye, baby! I just love to be in both Minneapolis and Chicago so I'm pretty thrilled to be in both of those places. Hanging out with Blind Equation is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can not fucking blow my voice out this time.

Ryan: That’d be ideal.

KZ: God, that would be so sick.

Ryan: You don’t have to be on the straight-edge bong all weekend.

KZ: Dude, I got the straight-edge bong ripping on my counter right now. I’m not fucking around at all. I’m ready any time to inhale some steam.

Aki: I wanna eat that vegan sushi again in Montreal! Eat some all-dressed chips.

KZ: Fuck those! You can get those down the street from Justin’s house.

Aki: Ruffles?

KZ: Yes!

Aki: I didn’t know that! They hit different in Canada.

Ryan: I am ready to go back to Montreal though. Me and Justin got this chicken tikka masala poutine at 2 a.m.

KZ: Montreal fucks. Montreal is sick.

Aki: Wasn’t that in Kitchener? I think that was in Kitchener. We were not in Montreal at 2 a.m., we were in Vermont.

KZ: That is true. It might’ve actually been Kitchener.

Ryan: It was Kitchener. Are we going back to Kitchener?

KZ and Aki: No.

Aki: We’re going to Toronto though. Maybe somebody from Kitchener can bring you some tikka masala poutine.

Ryan: My bad, tour’s cancelled. We’re not going to the right places.


Aki: We’re very food-motivated.

KZ: That’s real.

Aki: We also do like playing music. We’ve been playing these new songs for way too long because we’ve been really hyped on them and been like, “This is the best stuff we’ve written”. We’re actually going to be able to play them and people are going to know what the fuck they are. It’s been wild. When we were at New Friends in Toronto, I think that was the first time that we’ve started playing a song and there was any sort of reaction to us starting a song. It was when we started “Sayaka”.

KZ: The moment Anthony started playing the drums during “Sayaka” people started cheering. It was crazy! We started putting “All Towers in the Equatorial Room” in our set at the fucking Modern Grotesque release show. Which was, to be fair, several months after the album came out but still we’ve been playing that shit since 2021. Then we really started putting more In My Saddest Dreams songs in our set for the September tour last year. I know in our Hate5six video we play “Body Fountain”, “Blighttown Type Beat”, and “All Towers”. Our friend Robin said that she’s been listening to a bootleg version of “Blighttown Type Beat” that she ripped from the Hate5six video since it dropped. She’s glad that she can listen to the actual song now. We’ve been playing these songs for a minute and it will be the first time anyone actually knows what they are.

Aki: As we make the rounds through Canada and the Midwest, we meet more and more people and we know so many more people than we did last year. I think because of that, these shows are all, “What friends’ bands do we have in this city? Let’s have them play!” So every single show we’re like, “This is going to be a good one!” There are bands that we’re hyped about that we’ve been wanting to play with or we’re friends with them. All the bands we’re doing portions of the tour with are bands that we had some sort of existing connection with and were like, “Oh yeah, this part’s going to be sick! This show is going to be sick!” There’s a lot of exciting lineups that we haven’t announced yet, some that I don’t even know what they are but I know they’re going to be good! [laughs]

KZ: I’m excited to play those couple of shows with Bleached Cross too. That’s going to be really fun. I drove to Chicago to surprise my partner when they were there for work. I surprised them at a Bleached Cross show so it’s going to be fun now to play shows with them.

Aki: Three of them are in Frail Body who we’ve been friends with for a while and we finally get to play with them in October.

KZ: We’ve played with Crowning, which has Lowell from Frail Body, and now we’re playing with Bleached Cross which has literally all of Frail Body. I feel like for the next step we have to play with Pains which has two members of Frail Body if I’m not mistaken, and then we’ll get to do a tour with Frail Body.

Ryan: How many bands is Frail Body?

KZ: Four bands, I think. Right now what we’re doing is the Pokemon evolution stages of getting to tour with Frail Body.

Ryan: They’re like Exodia.

KZ: We’re piecing together the pieces of Frail Body until we get the Frail Body tour.

Ryan: I need a spreadsheet to figure this out. Like a family tree.


Aki: There’s also the Milwaukee show. Coma Regalia and Snag are doing a record release show. Blind Equation, who we’re touring with, and Riotnine, who is also really cool, are also on that show. Really excited about that one.

KZ: The Midwest is going to be dope. The Midwest just fucks. I’m just excited to be in the Midwest again if I’m being real. I fucking love the Midwest. I could never live there but I do love it.

Aki: Touring in the Midwest is honestly so sick. Whenever we’re touring regionally in the Northeast it’s always just like, “God, why are we so fucking stressed? Oh yeah, all these roads are fucked. We’re piling all our gear on stage around us at a fifty-cap venue that took us an hour to find parking for”. Then when we go to the Midwest and we play a really sick venue where everyone is really excited to see us. We’ve had a lot of great times playing in the Northeast but it’s just part of New England culture to shit on it, and be like, “This place sucks”. [laughs]

What makes the Midwest better to tour in?

KZ: Our great nation’s first cities cropped up in the Northeast and you can fucking tell that those are the first cities we tried to make because they suck and they don’t make any sense. Then you go to a city like Chicago which is objectively a big city but it’s insanely easy to navigate. You just get there and you’re like, “Oh y’all figured it out. By the time this shit started happening you figured out how to make a city”. Minneapolis on the other hand is a really small city. It doesn’t feel necessarily like you’re in a city when you’re there. It’s still really easy to navigate. I got Twitter homies bringing me root beer and donuts at shows. I don’t have that in New England.

Ryan: They’ve got really good hospitality in the Midwest.

KZ: Hell yeah! Midwest fucking just rocks in general.

Aki: I think there’s something to be said about scenes like Indianapolis too where it’s in a really objectively conservative fucked up state with a lot of bad shit going on. I think in a lot of places where that’s happening you find some of the tightest-knit communities with the coolest stuff going on because people really have to stick together. They don’t take for granted what they have. Healer is the coolest venue we’ve ever played in.

Ryan: I was just gonna say! My introduction to touring the Midwest was sleeping on the floor of an abandoned strip mall.

Aki: They have some really cool decorations.

KZ: Healer rocks!

Ryan: Healer DIY, shoutout to that venue.

KZ: Healer forever, dude.

Aki: It’s really hard to do headliners at all in this day and age, in this economy. Especially after you’ve just lost your van. So this is like our “greatest hits” tour so far. The places that we really enjoyed playing and had really great crowds come out at. So congratulations Canada! [laughs]

KZ: It’s almost exclusively places that we’ve played good shows in. Hopefully, that continues to be true. [laughs]

Aki: We are hitting two new cities. We haven’t played in Detroit yet and we haven’t played in Fargo.

Ryan: I’m excited for Fargo!

KZ: Me too! We get to fucking link up with Ben Hoos.

Ryan: Oh my god, finally.

How would you describe the scene in Rhode Island / New England?

Ryan: It’s interesting. It’s good but I feel like it’s really pocketed and the individual scenes don’t really intermingle all too well. They’re so small. There's five venues and every venue has something going on every night. The thing about Rhode Island is that nobody wants to drive farther than twenty minutes.

Aki: Most of us live in Rhode Island except for me so that’s part of the reason why Providence is our home base. Between Providence and Boston, the scene’s a lot more active in Providence in that there is at least a local DIY punk, screamo, heavy music scene. There’s definitely some stuff going on in Boston, we’ve definitely played some great shows there. There’s people booking cool shows but the city is struggling in a lot of ways, mostly with gentrification. It has San Francisco syndrome in a way where it’s so gentrified, it’s so expensive. It’s kinda the biomed capital so there’s so many people making way more money than all the artists. They’re displacing all the artists. There’s barely any practice spaces, there’s barely any places where people can set up drum kits, and the renting situation is really bad so it’s really hard to have a band in the city of Boston and be able to practice and play shows. The city got hit really bad with COVID and lost a bunch of great venues like Great Scott. It’s really lacking those 100-150 cap venues.

KZ: Yeah, accessible venues are harder to come across now where smaller bands can play. There’s not a lot of venues in Boston that make sense for bands of our size anymore. So it’s a lot of trying out new locations that aren’t necessarily built for our shit and not going over very well because we’re not playing the shit that they’re equipped to handle. It feels like now in Boston, if you’re not big enough to be playing the Sinclair or the Brighton Music Hall or at least the Middle East Upstairs, you’re kinda fucked. You don’t really have options other than that, that are really accessible and consistent. It’s just harder.

Ryan: A lot of the basements in Boston got shut down or people just simply moved out.

KZ: There used to be a lot more cool house and basement venues in the Greater Boston Area and it’s not the case anymore. Or at least if they are still active, we haven’t found them.

Ryan: There were some good things going on up in Lowell for a little bit and then it all kinda fell apart around COVID. The only place that’s been better since the third year of COVID is Rhode Island. The scene has skyrocketed a bit because there’s still the Iowa scene going on and there’s a lot of young, punk college kids doing shit.

KZ: That’s always been Rhode Island’s thing, having these fucked up weird factory spaces that you can just move into and do whatever you want in. It’s less true now than it was back in the 90s and stuff but it is still true. It’s easier to find places you can set up a weird DIY venue here because Rhode Island is much more of an industrial city. Me and Ryan live in the same building and it’s literally just a refurbished textiles factory. That’s what a lot of the property is. So there’s venues like the Dirt Palace that are in an old factory and it’s easier to find spaces like that here than it is in Boston.

What does the future hold for Dreamwell?

KZ: I don’t know. I think, personally speaking, I try not to think about it too hard.

Aki: I was going to say the same thing.

Ryan: Yeah.

KZ: Not even for any reason other than Modern Grotesque was born of us just doing shit that felt right and In My Saddest Dreams was born of us doing shit that felt right. I don’t personally want to get into a position where I’m trying to anticipate the next thing or I’m trying to make a specific thing happen. I want to continue living in that state of like, “I’m just doing what feels good and what feels like what I should be doing”.

I’m very much always going to be of the mentality that no matter what and no matter where things go, that we’re the same band that I’ve always been in for ten years. I’ve never treated the shows that we’ve played that have been bigger any differently than I’ve treated shows that I used to play at Knights of Columbuses and shit like that. I’ve always tried to think of being in a band as the same thing no matter what the circumstances are so I just wanna keep making shit that’s cool.

Aki: I think the unspoken thing that this band has always been for all of us is an escape from the capitalist hell that is the rest of our lives, doing something with meaning that belongs to us instead of belonging to some fucking rich asshole. I think if we start thinking too much about growth and all of that capitalist shit then it just becomes bleak. We are very serious about staying on top of our shit and dealing with money and people’s time and making sure we’re all in a good position to keep doing this but I think we wanna be getting those same things out of it which is a sense of purpose and being able to share what we’re doing with a wider range of people, hopefully.

It’s not for everybody. It’s not supposed to be for everybody. There’s a lot of people it’s explicitly not for. Not for bigots and pieces of shit, which is a lot of people so that kinda limits our growth potential. [laughs] We’re probably going to continue doing our own thing.

The future is kinda scary to think about. The world’s kinda fucked so I feel like at least I’m just like, “Yeah, next tour. It’s going to be sick!” We’re going to write some shit and hopefully, the climate catastrophe won’t be too bad by the time we start recording the next one. We’ll see what happens. But big things coming soon. [laughs] Apocalypse, terror.

Ryan: I like to keep everything a surprise and not just put myself into a hole. And by that, I mean, “Oh damn we sold ten shirts? That’s crazy! I didn’t expect more than two! That’s cool”. I wanna keep going with that.

Aki: Set the bar low, assume everyone hates us. [laughs]

Ryan: I don’t know what the hell’s happening when we’re playing on stage anyways.

KZ: Honestly, I think the worst fucking thing that you can do when you’re going into making more music is be like, “Alright, the next album has to be even bigger and it has to be even heavier and it has to be even more conceptual”. I think you should just shut the fuck up and write music that sounds cool. Whatever it comes out as is what you should be doing. It's always the wrong move but I think once you start really trying to do such a specific thing I think it is with the stuff we do.

Aki: Or if you are making it more whatever, doing that for ourselves and for our own fulfillment rather than doing it to impress people.

KZ: I just feel like you should write shit. If you’re not Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Scott Walker then having this hyper-specific thing you’re trying to do just feels silly. It feels like you’re limiting yourself.

Aki: I always wondered how bands would write one really sick album and then just kinda fall off. The more that we play bigger things or do the whole label and press thing, the more I get it because with everything that happens, we’re being more exposed to other people’s expectations and their thoughts and opinions on us. It’s really hard to be able to continue to focus inward and make sure that our intention is based on creating something for us before we’re creating something to satisfy other people’s expectations. So that’s our long-winded answer. In short, big things coming soon but we don’t know what they are.

Ryan: Make art, don’t make product.

Aki: Maybe we’ll go to another continent next year, that’d be sick.

KZ: That’d be pretty cool.

Ryan: Another continent. [laughs] Let’s go play with some penguins.

Aki: Antarctica tour 2024!

KZ: I don’t know about all that.

Ryan: I don’t want to go back to Arizona. It’s too hot. That’s your realm.

KZ: Yep. It exists in other seasons, you know.

Aki: Nah, only hot seasons.

KZ: It’s not like that part of the map is locked when it’s winter. We can play there in December.

Ryan: I just know that two weeks after we got home from that tour, I found a thorn from the Texas desert in my shoe. I was just walking around at work like, “What the fuck’s poking me?” Then I looked down and it was just embedded deeply in my foot.

KZ: I had to pull a cactus thorn out of my shoe at least a month after we got home. It was fucking crazy. It was so in the bottom of my shoe, every once in a while I would feel something sharp but not consistently. It would just be sometimes and I’d be like, “What the hell is that?” Finally, I noticed it and I had to fucking open up my shoe to pull it out. It was so fucked up. I had to peel the bottom off from the binding and reach inside of my shoe.

Aki: How did we get here? We have collectively one brain cell and five cases of undiagnosed ADHD.

KZ: A big thing for Dreamwell is we just have bits that we do but we stop realizing they’re bits and they become pieces of our actual vocabulary and other people have to just be witness to nonsensical conversations. It’s really cool.

Aki: So if you want to know what’s coming next for Dreamwell, probably more bits and more stupid shit. [laughs] Hopefully more music but you can count on the first two more.

KZ: Coherence isn’t in the pipeline anytime soon.

Coherence is overrated.

Aki: I think we’re getting kicked off Zoom again.

Ryan: We’re creating too many bits.

Oct 21DuskProvidence, RIThis is Emoviolence IV
Nov 02Turbo HausMontreal, QCw/Lowheaven
Nov 03Bar OrwellToronto, ONw/Lowheaven
Nov 04Pleasant UndergroundFerndale, MIw/Bleached Cross
Nov 05SubterraneanChicago, ILw/Bleached Cross, Thotcrime, IWAN
Nov 07The AquariumFargo, NDw/Blind Equation
Nov 08Seward CafeMinneapolis, MNw/Blind Equation
Nov 09PromisesMilwaukee, WIw/Blind Equation, Coma Regalia, Riotnine, Snag
Nov 10Black CircleIndianapolis, INw/Blind Equation
Nov 11Mr. Roboto ProjectPittsburgh, PAw/Blind Equation
Nov 12TV EyeBrooklyn, NYw/Gospel, gif. from god, Misericorde