Artist Spotlight: Freak Dream

Local musician Elliot Langford heals and experiments with new solo project

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Elliot Langford, the artist behind Freak Dream, stands in an alleyway off of Vancouver’s Commercial Drive Sept. 20, 2016. (Alyssa Laube)

Since the millennium, Elliot Langford has contributed to some of the most interesting indie bands to sweep Vancouver. Way back in 2008 he was a part of experimental noise-pop group SSRIs—a personal favourite of mine that, incidentally, introduced my teeny-bopping self to the city’s local scene. Some of his other projects, including the psych-folky Sprïng and Beatles cover group Taxmen, came and went.

Time passed and tours ended, but playing bass in the well-adored political punk band The Rebel Spell remained a steady source of creativity and passion for Langford until they lost their late frontman, Todd Serious, last year.

Today, Langford is back to being as busy as ever. He’s joined jazz-punk group Big EviL and math rock band Togetherness, along with making appearances in Jo Passed, Summering, Gay Nineties, Youngblood, Les Chausettes, Glad Rags, and Sightlines. Such a packed schedule can be partially attributed to the fact that he lives in a pseudo-venue with a bunch of other artists, many of whom he writes and plays alongside.

Even though Langford has now moved past The Rebel Spell, he will never forget Todd Serious or the band. Now, as an amalgamation of his musical hyperactivity and mourning, Langford is releasing an entire album dedicated to Serious and two other friends he lost through his 20’s under his new solo project, Freak Dream.

“I was sort of going through sadness mixed with frustration and anger about that, so I wanted to get some of that off my chest too. I wanted to feel like I could do that and not be embarrassed that some of it is just sort of high school angst poetry,” says Langford.

While that description doesn’t give nearly enough credit to the music, his writing on the record is unabashed and noisy. Tracks like “Almost Gone” are chaotic, but the chaos is well-organized. Listening to the whole collection of songs feels turbulent, violent, but somehow resolved and peaceful.

For Langford, that quality is part of what made creating the record “really cathartic,” both as an accolade to his dearly departed and because of its honest and blunt style.

“More than it’s angry or sad, that’s the feeling that I’ve really appreciated,” he says. “I think that some people who aren’t familiar with heavy music might mistake it as being just angry, but for me it’s cathartic.”

“Trying to remain optimistic and positive and moving forward even when things aren’t going so great is kind of a consistent theme in the songs,” says Langford.

They were also a chance for him to explore musical extremes that hadn’t fit into his other bands, along with an opportunity for complete freedom of expression devoid of shyness or insecurity.

“I just wanted to do outrageous shit,” he says.

An influence from Langford’s teenage years—Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral album—is already bleeding into Freak Dream’s sound. Heavy, industrial beats blast through most of his new songs, and Reznor-esque screams often make it into the most calamitous parts of each track.

As a DIY producer and musician, Prince was also an inspiration for the project, as was metalcore band Converge and noise rock group Health.

Although he played and produced every part of Freak Dream’s record on his own, it has officially taken the stage as a live band. With Langford on vocals and a band behind him, the project’s name will be appearing on bills within Vancouver on the regular. As a matter of fact, the first multi-member performance was at a tribute show to The Rebel Spell.

 

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