Lucy Dreams

Teen Dreamers
Decatur’s Golden Kids

Lucy Dreams make pollution-pretty pop that’s most closely comparable to Slowdive’s English shoegaze, albeit a bit happier take. But that couldn’t be what the five-piece had in mind when they crafted the intricately layered tunes on Vivian, their debut LP out this month.

That’s probably because the five-piece is so young, and they’re still in the early stages of playing music knowledge catch-up. They made a near-perfect album rich with lush harmonies and elongated synth that’s supported by a pedal-loving bedrock, but did they even have a clue it’d turn out so damn good?

Not a single one of the Lucy Dreams kids is of legal drinking age. Guitarist Nick Lynds, a 19-year-old Georgia State sophomore, is the oldest. Three members are stepping foot on that college campus for the first time this semester as straight-outta-high-school freshmen. And Dani Lyman, a reserved Jane Birkin lookalike who plays keyboard and sings mostly back-up, is still a junior at Decatur High School, where the rest of them graduated from.

At such an early stage in their music careers, it would seem they have a lot to learn. But despite ranking as mere toddlers musically, they’ve actually figured a lot of it out – and fast. Within a year of playing, they’re releasing an album on Pretty Ambitious, an up-and-coming but promising label that counts Mermaids and abby gogo on its roster. And Bon Allinson, who worked at Little Azio with bassist Graham Tavel a few years ago, has been behind them since their demo days. Allinson asked them to play their show at 529 last December.

“They put on a Sonic Youth album and analyze the whole album,” Dani says laughingly of Graham and frontman Lloyd Wingard. “Then they’ll put on another one.”

A technical misfire at their second-ever show – and their biggest to date – is one reason to speed up the seriousness. It was an opening slot at a sold-out Black Lips and Deerhunter show that served as Eyedrum’s last event at its MLK Jr. Drive location. Naturally, the crowd was sweaty-thick and there were plenty of media folks roaming around.

The trouble started as soon as the band arrived at the venue, as they watched Deerhunter – a favorite band shared by a few members – sound check.

“They were sound-checking for an hour and a half, and we thought it was because they’re such a big band,” Lloyd says with a shrug.

Once they were told they needed to check – Lloyd says they stood around like “really really awkward teenagers” until then – they realized there was a setup issue. The vocals didn’t work at all, and the crowd was filling in.

“I sang in the mic like I was actually singing…and halfway through our set I just gave up on the mic and was just making a lot of noise, because I know people love noise,” Lloyd says.

Not only were the vocals nonexistent, but they’d also had so many name changes that the Black Lips’ Cole Alexander thanked them incorrectly onstage. Oops.

Lloyd recalls that “the most amazing part” of that experience, however, was Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox appearing onstage to try to figure out the issue midway through their set. Drummer Jacob Armando remembers being asked to hop on the bill quite fondly.

“I had the flu and I went around in the street running barefoot, like, ‘Fuck yeah!'” he says, arms waving above his head.

Clearly, they’ve recovered from that snafu. Considering their impressionable ages, a screw-up like that could have been a detrimental blow – the quitting kind of blow. Not for these kids. They’ve trudged on tirelessly since, playing shows and readying for the release of Vivian.

While the boys sit outside Suburban Lanes where a few bands are playing a show, random people shout at them to come inside. One guy, a stranger from an Alabama band that already played, even sits down with them. He asks what kind of music they play.

Atmospheric noise-rock, noise pop and shoegaze are all thrown around. Then someone says to keep the “S word” out of the interview.

“I like shoegaze, and I play my guitar with the tremolo pedal, but we’re not shoegaze,” Lloyd says. “There’s too much of this man right here,” he says, pointing to Jacob, “for it to be shoegaze.”

“That’s the thing I love about this band,” Nick says. “Everybody has their thing. All the songs reflect that. We all work together to create the song as a whole.”

Nick wasn’t part of that whole from the get-go, though. He more or less weaseled his way into the band by posing a super-fan. At a coffeehouse show last winter, he was jumping up and down, wildly twirling a T-shirt above his head.

“That was him!” Dani and Jacob exclaim in unison when I describe the sight.

Nick’s desire to be part of Lucy Dreams stemmed somewhat from jealousy – and that he really did like the music so much. He’d graduated from Decatur High two years ahead of the boys and didn’t know them well. He was still playing with Wowser Bowser when Lucy Dreams appeared on the Black Lips/Deerhunter bill. That’s when he “took notice.”

“I hatched this plan in the back of my mind to pester them until somehow they asked me to join the band,” he says. “I never thought it would actually happen.”

The timing wasn’t too bad, actually. Nick hopped on once the band was better solidified and going by a permanent name. They were Circa ’90s (a reference to a “loud, Butt Face grunge pedal” they use, not their birth years) then Buffalo Buffalo (an homage to the average English nerd’s favorite sentence) before finally settling on Lucy Dreams. They came to the decision by way of a shared Google document they all contributed to – something they don’t realize is humorously indicative of their generation.

“We were so done, we were so done, more done than you can ever convey,” Graham says of the naming process. His dog, Lucy, gave him the final push needed to finalize the name. “I saw [her] and she was fidgeting on the sofa and I was like, ‘Lucy Dreams.'”

Graham called members individually to get their opinion, somewhat tricking them into agreeing on it.

So if Lucy is a dog, then who’s Vivian? It’s their recording engineer’s baby.

“Vivian was born while we were recording our record,” Graham explains.

There’s little on the album that reflects how they’ve dubbed it. And the name Lucy Dreams – it suggests they’re a psych act, but the hazy, indecipherable vocals and sluggishly cheerful melodies are only distant relatives of that sound.

They’re probably some of the most together-sounding teenagers out there (both on record and live), but they’ve still got some ironing out to do. Questions about touring raised some issues – “we’ll figure it out” was the consensus. The guys all have college schedules to work around now, and of course Dani has two more years at DHS.

Like Nick, Lyman wasn’t part of the initial lineup, though she joined early on. One night when a few of the boys were “hitting the dub real hard” (clarification: drinking Evan Williams), Lloyd decided he needed a girl with “no strings attached” to harmonize with. He knew Dani from Rock and Roll Revue, an annual Decatur High School program where student musicians audition, are arranged in bands and perform cover songs.

“It was at like two in the morning and Jacob messaged me,” Dani says.

She agreed to play with them at SkaterAid, a yearly charitable skating and music event in Decatur. They ended up practicing together every week, and Dani almost quit.

“I think I kind of did want to stay in, but we were practicing on Fridays and I wanted to hang out with my friends and shit,” she says. “I just decided to stay. And then we opened for Deerhunter. And these guys are my best friends now.”

Dani says once she’s done with school, she wants out of Decatur. Jacob says he felt the same way until he graduated and got his own place. True, it’s hard to tell what the city’s really like while your parents are still hovering over you. All of their opinions of Atlanta will change once they hit 21.

It’s possible they won’t be together by then, but let’s hope they at least keep playing, even if that means they branch off. Producing such good music at such a young age – with so short a grooming period to go on – implies something even better is on the way.