Inside The Dark Honesty Of Dream State’s New Album Primrose Path
Dream State are one of the most exciting young bands on the planet. Only two EPs into their career, the Welsh post-hardcore gang were given the Kerrang! Award for Best British Breakthrough in 2018, and have continued to build on the success of their limited – but incredibly impactful – material. Now, though, the time has finally come for their debut album proper.
Due out on October 18 via UNFD, Dream State’s highly-anticipated first full-length goes by the name Primrose Path, and it’s a typically deep and meaningful body of work from a band who specialise in music you can’t help but latch on to. But it doesn’t mean vocalist Charlotte-Jayne ‘CJ’ Gilpin had an easy ride during its creation.
“My need to self-medicate was still happening during the album writing,” she tells Kerrang!. “You can hear it in [lead single] Primrose; it was a big realisation of the cycle I was stuck in. I was still drinking a lot of nights and finding myself trying to self-medicate, and having a lot of health anxiety, too. I was agitated a lot and not as friendly as I would have liked to have been, just from stress – I had a lot going on. I learned a lot about myself during that time.”
As she takes us inside all things Primrose Path, though, CJ proudly confesses that she “wouldn’t change it for the world…”
Tell us about the title of Dream State’s debut album, CJ.
“It’s called Primrose Path and it’s an idiom meaning: someone who’s in the pursuit of pleasure, even though they know it’s gonna bring disastrous results. We’ve all been there once in our lives.”
What made that feel like a fitting title?
“Obviously I was being quite honest in the EP [2018’s Recovery] – that was like the awakening and self-realisation that I’ve got some issues, but then even after that it’s never plain sailing. I was always in pursuit of pleasure, despite knowing full well the negative consequences of things. It fitted in nicely and just felt right. I’ve already got a concept for the next album – we don’t need to go there yet, though (laughs).”
So are Recovery, Primrose Path and the next album all going to flow into one singular narrative?
“I think so, yeah! I’m always honest in my lyrics, and when you listen to artists you can see the growth in them and their stories. It ends up being linked anyway, because it’s just my story. You hear the growth in me, and my boys, through the music.”
You described the EP as the awakening and self-realisation of your issues, so how would you describe this album?
“Just being aware and being that little bit stronger, but still remembering there’s that human aspect to yourself, and to not beat myself up about it, because I beat myself up a lot. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve realised everything now, I got well again,’ then next thing I know I’m back to square one, and I’m like, ‘Okay, so I haven’t got it all figured out yet.’ But I’m more enlightened now, I’m stronger, and this time it’s a lot easier to get back up. It’s like, ‘I’ve been there before, I can do it again.’”
Where did that enlightenment come from?
“Just self-realisation. It’s been very spiritual. I have a lot of epiphanies in my own dreams – hence Dream State – and I dream deep, and I’m quite aware in my dreams. I’ve had big dreams where I’ve woken up the next day and I swear I’m a different person. I’m just more enlightened and more aware. I think it’s self-growth. The only way to change is for me to learn all my negative traits and the worst parts of myself. I know them now (laughs)! And I’m still getting to know a few more.”
Making an album can be stressful in itself – did that make you worse?
“When we went to the studio, I realised what my issues were because I felt really strong there – I love being in the studio and I love making art. I feel whole when I do it, and it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. But even during some of those nights, I attempted to get a bottle of red [wine] in. I’m lucky I had a really great producer in Dan Weller, and he’d be like, ‘Is that a good idea, Char?’ And I was like, ‘Probably not, no.’ It’s good to have people like that to keep the balance. There were times where I did find it hard, but it taught me I can deal with my emotions sober. So it was a big awakening, like, ‘Wait a minute, I can actually do this!’ And I was getting up in the morning, going to a gym nearby, and learning there are better ways to deal with things.
Was getting over the need to self-medicate a gradual process throughout the recording of the album?
“After we recorded the album we did our headline tour and I had some nerve issues. I was on [anxiety medication] Pregabalin and I felt incredible on them, then when I ran out I was having ferocious withdrawals. And because I felt so relaxed on that whole tour, I was like, ‘I wanna be able to feel like that without the need to self-medicate.’ So it put this idea in my head of, ‘How can I achieve that?’ And I was like, ‘I’m gonna have to change!’ So I started to do more things that felt right. The first time I sat down to meditate, I did it in my garden at night, and I did it for a whole hour. I was able to drift away, and I was like, ‘Damn, I’m good at this!’ And now I’m in a routine of doing it and it feels really good. I’ve gotten into essential oils, too, like bergamot, tea tree and lavender, which are supposed to relax you. I’m not using drugs anymore, I just use oils (laughs). I rub it into my hands and inhale it really deeply. It makes me feel a bit more clear and relaxed in the mind.”
Do you feel like all your problems are solved now?
“God no! I’m not gonna be that naive about it. When I started meditating, I went into a really blissful state where the only worry I had in my head one day was, ‘Do I wear my hair up or down?!’ It was amazing. I was like, ‘I’ve never felt this way before, this is incredible.’ And then with all the band stress and issues with loved ones going through their own thing, I suddenly felt like the anxiety was back and I wasn’t able to think. Literally the week before I’d be in the garden doing yoga at six in the morning, going, ‘We should all be appreciative of our lives, everything is wonderful and blissful, and I realise all our problems now!’ and a week later I’m like, ‘I’m gonna cry!’ I really didn’t think I’d go back, I thought I’d stay up there on that high, but it’s just not true. It’s that Yin and Yang balance. But I don’t even crave anything [drink/drugs-wise] anymore and I’ve never felt like that before. Touch wood. Meditation feels like the way forward – it’s my new addiction (laughs).”
We’ve talked about Primrose, but what else are you singing about on the album?
“Just my need to help others and trying to find meaning in my life. I don’t wanna give too much away, but there’s a few little surprises on there. There’s some really hard honesty, and there’s gonna be one song in particular that I probably won’t talk about. Only because it doesn’t affect me personally, it affects someone else. It’s quite brutally honest – probably the most honest I’ve ever been. It’s a very emotional song. I keep forgetting about it and then it runs into my head and I’m like, ‘Ugh! Have I done right by writing that?’ But it was at a time when I was feeling a lot of pain, so it’s there now. I can’t take it back.”
How do you feel about people hearing it?
“Well, I’m glad I did all this meditation, because before I would have been freaking out (laughs). After I wrote it and recorded it in the studio I went into the control room and Dan was like, ‘Are you alright, mate?’ And I was like, ‘No… I’m on the edge.’ I went full-on method acting with it – I had to really go into that subject and get into that dark space to bring out everything in it.”
You talked about trying to find the meaning in your life. Is that something you’ve done?
“Yeah, it’s just being true to my spirit – I love music, I love art, and I love trying to make people feel good. People say when you help people, you gain also and it’s selfish, and I think, ‘Is it, though?’ It’s a wonderful thing that you can help someone and feel good yourself. That’s amazing! Why’s that something selfish? The band’s not just a band for me, I get so many messages every day from people that are just in pain, and they say how [singles] New Waves and White Lies have really helped, and they thank me for my honesty, because they feel less alone in their own battles. I always wanted to do music or counselling, and it’s just like I’m counselling through music. It’s the best of both worlds – I get to help, counsel and write and do music. It’s great!”
What made this process different from doing the two EPs?
“It was just more stress because of the time limit. We had a deadline and we missed the first one. It was supposed to be out way before now, but I said, ‘I can’t rush this art – I’m putting it out into the world, this is something I’ll look back on in my life when I’m an old lady. I wanna be proud of it, I don’t wanna rush it for the sake of it. I know attention spans are short, but if people can’t stick around, then oh well, so be it. Please let us put out something good.’ And the label were really good and understood the pressures we were under. So the only difference was the stress levels and pressure of trying to make something that follows up the success of the EP and does better, and takes us up that extra level.”
What was your biggest inspiration, musically, on the record?
“I had a lot of new influences. Lyrically, Father John Misty, for that more conversational style of songwriting. Then sound-wise I was really into Billie Eilish’s album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. I just like the songs, the vibe and the melodies – the songs are a bit quirky, a bit different, and very real. They touch on different subjects to the normal commercial music you hear these days. So I’ve definitely taken some inspiration from that that you guys will hear on the album. I also went back to my roots; Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was my reference album, because I love Linkin Park. I was just remembering what I loved and what instilled this love of rock in me in the first place. Hybrid Theory was such a sick album, every song was a banger and I was like, ‘I want all of our songs to be bangers!’ When we sent them off to the label they said they really struggled picking [singles] because they loved all of the songs. That felt nice. It made me feel more confident. Although maybe they say that to all their bands (laughs).”
Primrose Path is due out on October 18 via UNFD. Dream State tour the UK this year at dates below – get your ticket here.
Dream State UK tour 2019
27 Glasgow Cathouse
28 Manchester Club Academy
29 Birmingham Asylum
30 Bournemouth Old Fire Station
1 Swansea Sin City
2 London ULU
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