The Dream Rebel Talks About Queen of the Cliff, Early Influences & New Orleans

The Dream Rebel is a New Orleans-based indie and alternative vocalist/multi-intrsumentalist who is dropping his new EP, Queen of the Cliff, on Friday September 29.

Over the summer, Pop Break caught up with The Dream Rebel to talk about the story behind his persona, his musical influences, and the creation of Queen of the Cliff.

Could you tell me a little about this project specifically, like how you came up with the moniker, “The Dream Rebel,” and how it compares to past musical endeavors? Can you give me some context for this project?

This project is totally different from anything I’ve ever done, really, in the past. I came a little from folk finger picking background, and then I just started listening to a lot of older stuff like Queen, and Lennon, and a lot of stuff like from that 60’s and 70’s time period. Bowie, definitely, Bowie. I kind of always wanted to do something like this.

I guess it was always kind of heading in this direction. But as far as how I came up with “The Dream Rebel,” I don’t know. I remember one time I just said it and it just felt right. My whole life, every single project, I haven’t really thought, “Oh my God, this name is incredible!” But “The Dream Rebel — it just feels right. It feels like that kind of a persona that was already happening. It was just like, well, that’s it. That’s what it is.

Did you start listening to this ’60s and ’70s rock later in your life or had that been part of your life when you were younger?

When I was younger, my mom and dad would put on Elton John and Billy Joel, and some older stuff. But it wasn’t to the extent that it is now. My mom especially grew up loving Queen and the Beatles and all that stuff. So I definitely heard it, but I never really thought I would be here, later in my life, when I was younger. But things progressed, and this is actually what I love. And also, I started playing guitar, and that’s awesome because I don’t really think there is anything better to learn than classic rock guitar.

Do you feel like that music scene in New Orleans had an influence on you, or made you want to be a musician?

Honestly, I think that just being in New Orleans at night, for whatever reason, I feel like that is so inspiring to me. It might just be going around and watching all these bands play, because being there at night, you can walk down down the streets and you can hear all these bands play, and snippets all people playing on the corners. And that, I know for a fact, played a big part in the name “The Dream Rebel,” because it is hard to describe what exactly “The Dream Rebel” is or where it came from…but I do know there are certain things eventually people will…the vision will be there. It will be easier for other people.

The Dream Rebel
Photo Credit: Dylan Maras

Can you tell me a little about your experience writing and recording this EP?

I went out to L.A. and recorded in what is now…what was before Sound City Studios, which is pretty iconic and I was pretty thrilled about being able to do that…It was incredible.  I worked with Gavin Paddock. He is a producer over there and an incredible talent. So freaking good at everything…he played drums. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better drummer. And as far as writing goes, the songs were written sort of spaced out. One of them was written two days before I went to L.A.  I wasn’t sure it was going to be on the EP, though, because, it just wasn’t done. Tsong was “Stay Still.”  

It was so weird. It’s a song that was about something very personal to me, very special, and I didn’t want to rush it. So I just sat there, and it felt like somebody else was writing it for me. Literally, I remember the part that wasn’t finished was from the second chorus on. So basically that whole epic part at the end was not there. And literally the first thing I sang was the lyrics. The other songs were written probably spaced out, in between. “Hurt Me Bad” was the first one of the EP to be written. And that was probably a year ago. I love writing. I absolutely love it, and I am always doing it, even when I’m driving or anything really.

So was this your first experience recording something of your own on a more professional level?

Well, I did do some professional stuff in New Orleans as well, for a different project. And that was more of the folky stuff, but it definitely was a step up. Just because as you get older, you kind of hone in more, from just experience in general, knowing what I want, having been in the studio before. I only had six days over there. And to think, two of those days, we were doing drums. So really, we are kind of stretched for time. It was awesome. It was such an awesome experience.

Since you came from folk, what was it about this classic rock style that drew you in? Was is mainly using your guitar in a different way?

That definitely helped a lot. Whenever I started playing electric guitar, that helped writing so much. But also, I think that I wanted to sing stuff that was powerful and epic and uplifting. You know, would have something that would make people feel something. As opposed to, well, folk music, can do that as well. There is a ton of incredibly beautiful folk songs. I mean, any genre, really can do that. I want people to listen to it and just have to stand up, you know?

I really enjoy singing that kind of music as well. I want to make as big of an impact on people as possible, as big of a positive impact. Throughout my whole career, I don’t think you’ll ever hear a song from me that is in any way leading somebody in a negative way. I never want to do that. There’s always going to be some form of hope in my writing style.

Do you feel like that’s the sort of music you tend to listen to, also, or is that sort of a personal endeavor to not disperse more negativity?

I couldn’t really imagine myself writing any other way. It’s always been that way. And I think music is meant to help people. I couldn’t really see a point in leading people in a negative place after listening. If it’s a sad song and you’re really feeling pain, that’s one thing. I just feel like there’s always hope. That might be something that’s just built in me.

Who in the music scene today inspires you or are you listening to currently?

Honestly, a lot of the stuff that I listen to is not from this era. But as far as bands that are out there, I think Muse is freaking awesome. Edward Sharpe. I know everybody gives me Killers references. Which is a big compliment for real. They’re incredible as well. I’m trying to think of any other people out there that I’m really digging right now. Maybe the Arctic Monkeys.

What’s your go-to album of a past era?

Oh, Ziggy Stardust, by Bowie. Hands down. I listen to that thing, I mean I have been listening to it on repeat for a while now. If I’m ever on a road trip, it’s definitely going to be on the playlist. I like the whole concept of it, too. It’s awesome.

You mentioned you were on the radio. What was it like to hear yourself? Were you in the car?

I was driving up to Nashville, actually. I didn’t really know what time it was coming on. One of my managers told me it was going to be late afternoon/early evening. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be in Pacific Standard Time, so I was listening for quite a while. Because I’m always also kind of early, for the listening. I think started listening around 1. So that was pretty awesome. And I was also on the radio for a month before that back in New Orleans, but not on such a big station.

What are your future plans? Are you planning on touring or will you keep writing?

We’re still working out details with tours and stuff, but I’ve been playing around New Orleans right now. I’m always going to keep writing as well, and then I want to get back in the studio soon.

The Dream Rebel’s EP Queen of the Cliff drops September 29.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.