Carlisle four-piece The Lucid Dream are one of the most progressive, forward-thinking outfits to emerge from the UK psychedelic underground in decades. Not content with following any prescribed formula or template, their penchant for experimentation has seen them incorporate elements of dub, noise, and more recently acid house into the band's sound.
The band's fourth album Actualisation came out in October and represents arguably their most ambitious statement of intent to date. Not since Primal Scream's transformation into clubland icons or The Beta Band turning Britpop inside out has a band from these shores changed direction more times and succeeded with every move.
Last weekend, the four Lucid Dreamers - Mark Emmerson (vocals, guitars, programming), Wayne Jefferson (guitars, synths), Mike Denton (bass) and Luke Anderson (drums) - wowed a packed Klub B90 at Gdansk's SpaceFest! and DiS caught up with them beforehand to discuss Actualisation, Brexit, and where their next audio venture might take them.
DiS: The Lucid Dream have been labelled "psych" ever since their first EP Erbistock Mill dropped in 2010, yet every subsequent release has been predominantly different and in many ways a stark progression to its predecessor. Do you feel you've outgrown the psych scene now? Is there even a psych scene as such, as it seems to have burned itself out?
Mark Emmerson: We don't really pay much attention to scenes or anything like that. The psych scene was always going to have a limited shelf life anyway. It's the same with anything. Imitators come on board and the ones that stay the distance are those with something different to offer.
Mike Denton: How many times can you play E, A and D and just write the same notes over and over again? Eventually, people will get bored because it all sounds the same.
ME: We've found B now so we're already one step ahead of the game! For us its always been about what's going on in our world. What we're listening to. What influences us. Because of where we're from as well. Carlisle is quite remote so there isn't anyone else in the city doing what we do.
Do you find being from somewhere like Carlisle has played a huge part in what you do?
ME: It really has. I don't think we'd sound like this if we came from anywhere else.
Luke Anderson: We're very smart and headstrong. When you come from a place like Carlisle you learn very quickly to think for yourself and not take any shit off people. You don't look to others to make decisions. It's all down to you.
ME: It's a hard northern city. I've said that to people before but it really is. Weirdly there are a few parallels with Gdansk from what we've seen of it so far! You have to make your own decisions as well. Because Carlisle is in the arse end of nowhere you become isolated but that's a good thing. It makes you original and exactly who you are.
Is there any kind of scene there?
ME: I wouldn't say so, no. There's a group of younger people who we've influenced and helped to get on the right path musically. Because it's that small, every other band in Carlisle is doing something different so I don't ever see it kickstarting a scene as such. There isn't really enough going on either in many respects.
I mentioned earlier that every record you've put out has been different to the last one, and your most recent album Actualisation is very influenced by acid house. What inspired you to write an album like that?
ME: Basically, after we put out our last album Compulsion Songs in 2016 I just started listening to the old Hacienda mixtapes again. Our tour DJ Johnny Thieves got me onto this Chicago stuff I hadn't heard before so it was purely down to listening choices. It wasn't a self-conscious decision or any idea that was forced in advance. It just happened to be what we were listening to at the time. When I wrote the album it's all I was listening to and in many ways, still am. It was all written on the 808 and 303 reissues and that was it. That's why it sounds the way it does.
So do you class yourselves as a guitar band playing dance music or a rave band playing guitar music?
ME: We don't really see ourselves as sticking to any one thing. We've always been influenced by bands who are on the same wavelength as us. Bands like The Beta Band and Primal Scream. They wouldn't release the same thing twice and to be honest, why would you want to?
LA: It's not as if that doesn't happen anymore when you come and see us live. We still play some of our older, guitar-based songs like 'Epitaph'. Stuff that people know. We've just brought other things into the mix as we've gone on which people who've got into us more recently know, so in a way, it's also about bringing all those elements together.
ME: I don't think you can go and watch a band as diverse as us play live and describe us as just a guitar band or whatever. There's a lot of dub reggae influences in there as well as acid house.
Where do you see yourselves going next?
ME: Who knows?
Wayne Jefferson: I don't think we could ever define ourselves really. We've never been confined to any one particular sound. It's not rigid. We're not stuck with anything. We'll make our own boundaries wherever it goes.
Going back to the psych scene, do you think that became very constrained? Very rigid even?
ME: It's ironic because psychedelia is meant to be about thinking ahead and opening your mind apparently, yet musically that's exactly what it isn't doing.
LA: Mark's hit the nail on the head. People just back themselves into a corner and recycle the same old riffs. Release the same album over and over again. Which is fine for some people but not for us.
ME: Also with us, everything's completely natural. We're not just trying to do something for a reason. When we started the band it was more about having somewhere to go on a Friday and Saturday night, play tunes and make music. We've always been very isolated. I genuinely do not know what's going on in the rest of Britain. It's not through ignorance, just because we're so far away from everywhere else. There's only so many hours in a day as well. We all have very busy lives outside of this. Being a musician in 2018 and all that means we also have day jobs. So we really don't have a clue what's going on elsewhere which is why what we do might seem weird to some people.
Then, of course, there's the possibility of Brexit in three months time. Do you see that changing things for UK bands playing events in mainland Europe like SpaceFest!? Has it already impacted on The Lucid Dream's overseas bookings for next year?
ME: It's going to change a lot of things isn't it? We know it's going to make playing overseas very difficult with visas and carnets. Eventually, bands like us will end up being priced out of Europe.
LA: It's going to come to a point where you're trying to book a tour and having to pay for working visas so we know that's going to cripple us financially. We don't do huge tours anyway but even just playing festivals like this and having to apply for visas first will be a nightmare. We looked into playing America and the cost was ridiculous. We just couldn't afford it at our level. Even if we play three or four shows we'd still end up losing a lot of money.
ME: I don't think some people realise just how much of an impact Brexit will have on touring musicians. It's going to change everything. Going on tour will never be the same again for most bands. Even selling our records on the continent could be an issue as well. Brexit had a big influence on Actualisation. 'Alone In Fear' for example. I think it's a shame more bands don't appear to be only influenced by it. More bands should make records that ask questions. We've learned our mindset from bands like Public Image Limited and even Moby. He wrote a lot of political stuff.
What advice would you give to a new band just starting out?
ME: Do what you want. Don't listen to anyone, literally. There's four of us and if we're happy with it, fuck everybody else! That's all that matters. Don't be influenced by record labels or so-called tastemakers. Do what you want. Music is about enjoying it yourself. If someone else likes it that's a bonus but you don't make records for others. If we did that then Actualisation would never have happened! When we put out 'SX1000' as the first single off the album some people were really confused, but that inspired us. Bring on the haters! But we were happy with it and that's what matters. Every band makes mistakes along the way. We have, especially when it comes to putting our own records out. We've learned on the go over the last ten years. Me, Luke and Wayne have actually been playing together in bands for nearly twenty years now. Mike's been with us for nine so we've learned a lot along the way.
WJ: Any band starting out needs to realise it's a slog. A long process. Things won't happen overnight, so just make sure you're in it for the long haul.