King Dream is a Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll band helmed by Oakland native Jeremy Lyon, a lifelong songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who crafts dive bar anthems with heart, brains and soul. Hard-rocking yet poignant, his music combines a love for American rock masters like Springsteen and Petty with ‘60s West Coast psychedelia and more contemporary torch-bearers like My Morning Jacket and The War on Drugs — all brought to life by a band of Northern California’s most in-demand players.
Lyon has played Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, toured nationally and internationally, and also knows what it’s like to busk on the street. King Dream songs deftly balance hope and world-weariness. They seem wise beyond their years, and they also have a way of sneaking up on you. Their shout-along choruses and searing guitar solos are at home in a darkened saloon, to be sure, but also — you know the giddy, ragged vulnerability that arrives when you’ve been awake for way too long on a road trip? Between the good times and the clinks of beer bottles these songs inspire a wistfulness, deep in your bones, for a place you’ve never been.
Glory Daze is King Dream’s first full-length since the band’s 2018 self-titled debut, and it represents a massive leap forward. Ambitious in scale and scope, it clocks in at 24 tracks, divided into three parts. Technically, these songs are a record of Lyon not only maturing as a lyricist and musician — experimenting with different production styles, moving easily between fist-pumping anthems and ballads and electronic and R&B-influenced sounds — but also developing into a self-sufficient producer and engineer, a silver lining to the constraints of the pandemic.
But Glory Daze is also unmistakably a full-band effort, and its sound also reflects the group’s confidence and cohesion: What began as a studio band is now a tight-knit collective with decades of experience between them, including Adam Nash (guitar) and Nick Cobbett (drums), as well as Zak Mandel-Romann (bass), a close musical collaborator of Lyon’s since high school.
Narratively, Glory Daze traverses vast territory: a period in which Lyon separated from, reconciled with, and married his now-wife (Caitlin Gowdey, Rainbow Girls, who appears on several tracks and plays keys live with King Dream when she can); toured and recorded as a sideman with a slew of Bay Area artists (Whiskerman, the Stone Foxes, M. Lockwood Porter); dealt with the grief, anxiety and loss of community wrought by a pandemic and years of sociopolitical turmoil; and careened into his 30s with a healthy dose of reflection, self-doubt and, ultimately, an audible sense of confidence and satisfaction. The result is an expansive, multifaceted album that invites the listener to climb in, lean back, and trust that getting there’s at least half the fun.
“I make driving records,” says Lyon. “And this one’s about an hour-forty long, so I hope you’re going somewhere far.”
There are two pieces of evidence of the debut live performance of FAST TIMES – a new project from Bay Area music scene stalwarts Andrew St. James, Duncan Nielsen (Doncat, Geographer), and Cody Rhodes (Sandy's, CURLS, Geographer).
One is a shaky video taken by a member of San Francisco band Sandy's from the green room at The Chapel, showing an enamored crowd and a widely grinning St. James, minutes into the trio’s rousing track “Tuesday Night.” The other, from the opposite angle and taken just a few moments later, a still photograph by local music photography luminary Paige K. Parsons of Nielsen, smiling back, eyes sparkling.
The magic – overwhelming, slightly disorienting – that abundantly and undeniably entered the room, is there in both.
The result of a bond formed from years of supporting the various iterations of each other's musical offerings, the trio comprising FAST TIMES came together in the first part of 2019 as an experiment which now, months later, feels for each like a fated path. Their easily-found spirit of collaboration has already yielded a prolific, well-crafted tangle of songs, and those demos, now passed in secret through the Bay Area music community in the weeks following the Chapel show, continue to build excitement.
Steeped in nostalgia and given voice with the earnest lyrics of both St. James and Nielsen, and guided by the much-lauded Rhodes, the tracks are at once wistful ("10th Grade") and tender ("Heaven Sent"), while still reactive to the complicated miasma of the now ("I Believe"). They are familiar, but provoking. They live and breathe, resoundingly, in the present. Now, a much-buzzed future awaits, and as their name may portend, there’s no trio better suited for its arrival.