INTERVIEW: Elliot Langford of Freak Dream (Vancouver Cyber-Punk)

Freak Dream’s new record and debut full-length, Into the Sun, just came out on Toronto’s Artoffact Records, and it’s just as “intense and extreme” as the band’s mastermind, Elliot Langford, hopes. It’s also a slippery beast, toying with various genres without sitting neatly in any of them.

Click here to read my review of Into the Sun by Freak Dream.

“We’ve been calling it ‘cyber-punk,’” explains Langford. “A heavy mix of punk and electronic music with hints of glam, goth, noise-rock and industrial.” Cyber-punk, of course, carries its own associations — the nightmarish, tech-reliant futures of William Gibson, Blade Runner, and more recently, Netflix’s adaptation of Altered Carbon. Listening to Into the Sun, those associations line up perfectly. In its gentler, poppier moments are the cyber-punk landscape’s array of bright, neon signs, but never far away is a dark underbelly of violence.

“For me, loud and intense music is as close as I think I get to, like, a ‘spiritual’ experience,” he says, and that’s something he hopes to offer others through his own music (which is definitely loud and intense).

“I like being lost in the world of sound,” he elaborates, “I like expressing extreme emotions, I can get sort of hypnotized by the whole thing and come out of it feeling like I’ve worked through some sort of unconscious tensions. If people are affected emotionally in that sort of way by [Freak Dream’s] record or live show that’s cool.”

Langford recognises that not everyone’s the same, though, telling me that he’s also happy “if they just think it sounds cool or they like some of the lyrics.” In fact, he’s even happy when people don’t like Freak Dream.

He gives an example to explain that, saying: “One person commented on a video of ours that he was ‘surprised how much he didn’t like it,’ which I liked also, because I am trying to make this band pretty intense and extreme. I don’t expect everyone to like it, and I’d rather people really dislike it in a way than just think it was sort of OK.”

It also turns out that Langford and I share the same favourite track on the new record. When I ask him, he says:

“That is a hard question, but I’ll say ‘Into The Sun,’ because it was one of the last ones I finished, and it took a long time to figure out that song. I had the first 30 or so seconds written for a long time and then I wasn’t sure how to turn that into a full song for a long time, but I like how epic it is now. Also, Ryan, our drummer, contributed a lot to that song and really gets to shine in it which is nice.”

“Either that song or ‘Bash Hop,’ because I managed to write a song with only 4 chords, and it’s probably the most melodic song… Even though it ends in screaming,” he laughs. “But, come on! It’s an 8-song album, I obviously like all the songs quite a lot.”

Prior to starting Freak Dream as a solo project, Langford was a member of The Rebel Spell, SSRIs, Sprïng, Big EviL, and Togetherness, so I’m interested to get his take on life in a band compared with flying solo.

“The positives are it’s nice to not have to argue about creative decisions or to feel any competition between band members,” he tells me. “You can work on the project any time you want. Also the more people you have in a band, the harder it is to organize rehearsals or shows or tours or anything.”

“However it’s fun to feel like you’re in a gang or a team when you’re in a band of a few people, and I miss being in a band that felt like that. And it can be nice to have the input of other people’s creative ideas when you get stuck. But Freak Dream has been performing as a duo, so it’s a nice in-between currently.”

Speaking of performing, Langford’s favourite venues in Vancouver are the small, creative space which are driving the scene right now.

“I would say that Red Gate, 333, The Black Lab and The Toast Collective are playing a huge part in keeping Vancouver’s music scene alive,” he says. “Along with a few other underground spaces, those are really the only places small live shows are happening these days. Of those spaces, I’m most personally connected to Red Gate; I work there sometimes doing sound and hang out there pretty often. Once in a while, I go to a big show at the Commodore or the Imperial, and that’s fun, too, and the sound at those places is amazing, but generally, for hangs and good vibes I prefer those aforementioned spots.”

There is also a long list of local bands he likes to see at “those aforementioned spots.” He rattles them off:

“Rinse Dream, Rong and Primp (who all recently played our release show), along with Swim Team, Ridley Bishop and Clarinets, Yep, Jo Passed, Dumb, Actors, Wire Spine, Supermoon, Woolworm, Alien Boys, Little Destroyer, Lié, Devours, Pale Red, Champion Lawnmower, Hitori Tori, everything Nic from Shearing Pinx does.”

Giving up on listing every great local act, he finishes, “You know what? I’m just gonna say everyone should check out the Red Gate Mixtape, ‘cause there’s 37 different sweet local bands on that.”

Click here to read my review of Into the Sun by Freak Dream.

Into the Sun is out now on Artoffact Records. Snag your copy on Bandcamp.