Originally published in Spinner, September 25, 2012
Even though ’80s band the Dream Syndicate have been dormant for nearly 25 years since their breakup, the group’s music had recently been recognized in the press by Japandroids. One of the songs on Japandroids’ acclaimed 2012 record Celebration Rock, is “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” which is similarly named after the Dream Syndicate’s 1982 debut album, The Days of Wine and Roses. And they even invited Dream Syndicate founder and singer, Steve Wynn, to their show in Brooklyn, New York.
“I know about them,” Wynn tells Spinner about the Canadian duo. “Somebody sent me an interview where the singer [Brian King] was saying that Live at Raji’s was the biggest influence on their new record, which is very flattering and also an unusual choice because people always talk about Medicine Show and The Days of Wine and Roses. But I always thought that in a way, it’s not the best record we made, [but] the one that most typified what we did, so that was kind of cool.”
Japandroids recent compliments seem serendipitous now as Wynn, who has maintained a lengthy and productive solo career, has revived his old band to coincide with the 30th anniversary of The Days of Wine and Roses. Consisting of founding members Wynn and drummer Dennis Duck, plus bassist Mark Walton and guitarist Jason Victor, the reunited Dream Syndicate kicked off the reunion last Friday, Sept. 21, in Spain.
“There was a festival in Bilbao that I had done last year,” Wynn recalls, “and they wanted to bring me back with one of my bands. Neither the Baseball Project nor my solo band was available for it. I thought this might be a really good time to try out a Dream Syndicate show. I had the thought for the last couple of years that the best way at this point to do the Dream Syndicate would be with Dennis and Mark, who were the rhythm section for the last four to five years of the band, and with Jason Victor, who has been playing these Dream Syndicate songs [as part of my Miracle 3 group] with really the true spirit of what the band was all about.”
The other founding members of the Dream Syndicate, guitarist Karl Precoda and bassist Kendra Smith, aren’t part of the reunion. “There had been times [over] the years I had approached each of them about doing something,” Wynn explains, “but I feel the Dream Syndicate at this point is me and Dennis. It’s the songs, the spirit, the sound — it’s what we represent, what we experience, what we’re trying to do. I’m just more interested in this point in having a band onstage that would represent all of that and also take it forward in an interesting way.”
Not only will it be an opportunity to do songs from The Days of Wine and Roses and its follow-up Medicine Show, but the shows will also contain material from the band’s last two albums Out of the Grey and Ghost Stories. “Those were songs that I really liked and just never seemed right with the records I was promoting [and] the bands I was playing with in recent years,” Wynn says of the music from those latter albums. “I’m really excited to play those songs. And those were the records we made with Mark Walton and Dennis. They’re a great rhythm section. [Jason’s] got the anarchy and the noise and the way of rubbing up against the sound in an cacophonous and exciting way that Karl had , but he also has the talent and dexterity and ability that [guitarist] Paul [Cutler] had.”
The Dream Syndicate were one of several bands to have emerged from the Paisley Underground scene in the early ’80s, drawing comparisons to the Velvet Underground. (Wynn maintains their influences also include Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones and Black Flag.) After 30 years, the album still sounds timeless as if it could have been recorded by any indie rock band today.
“It’s funny how the things that do feel dated after a while usually involves the artifice, the production styles, the clothes you wear, the way your record cover looks,” says Wynn. “But a band playing on stage can have the same excitement now than it did 10 years ago or 40 years ago. A good band onstage like Japandroids should give you the same excitement you would seeing Howlin’ Wolf in 1955 or the Dream Syndicate in 1982. That’s where you strip away all the extra glitz and glitter and get right down to what’s happening.”
After the debut, the Dream Syndicate released three more albums. By that time, Wynn was thinking about working on other projects but felt that in order do those, he had to break up the band. “I’ve never made a solo record,” he says. “I’ve never been in any recording or touring band that wasn’t the Dream Syndicate. I needed to try these different things. I’ve done a lot of that — I made 20 records since the Dream Syndicate broke up. And now it feels like a good time to kind of take all that’s happen and to bring it back to where I started.”
Asked if he would bring the newly revived Dream Syndicate for some shows to the States following the Spain dates, Wynn hints at a possibility. “I kind of decided it would be nice to have a very contained way of trying it out first,” he says, “and seeing if it feels good, if it feels interesting, how people react and how we would react to each other. And if it’s good, we’ll keep doing it.”