Hometown: Athens, Ga.
Members: Dan Donahue, Page Campbell
For Fans Of: Azure Ray, Beach House, Bon Iver
Some years back, Dream Boat’s Dan Donahue found himself in a classic dilemma, harboring an unrequited crush. The object of his affection was Page Campbell, a compatriot from the Athens, Ga., music underground who played with such well-regarded bands as Hope for agoldensummer and Dark Meat.
“Early on, I was trying to be her boyfriend, but we lived in different cities, and she wasn’t having it,” Donahue says. “I thought for years that she didn’t like me that way.”
But music, as it often does, eventually brought them together. They started bouncing songwriting ideas off each other, with Donahue sending Campbell lyrics to work with. Slowly a romance grew, along with an impressive catalog. After a while, starting a band seemed obvious.
“Dream Boat wasn’t really intentional,” Campbell says. “Dan is really prolific, writing books and books of lyrics. They’re written in a way that it’s really easy for me to find music for them.”
Dream Boat’s debut album, Eclipsing, (out Dec. 4 on Cloud Recordings) showcases the easy harmony between Campbell and Donahue, who are now engaged. Written as they fell in love and began to weave their lives together, Donahue’s lyrics are deeply personal and abstract at the same time. Campbell did the heavy lifting on the music, nestling Donahue’s poetic words amid arrangements that are at once haunting, bright, psychedelic and straightforward.
Other members trickled in; Page’s sister and bandmate from Hope for agoldensummer contributed harmonies. E6 compatriots like horn player Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel) and John Fernandez (Olivia Tremor Control/Circulatory System) joined up.
“If there was anyone on the exterior who really influenced our sound was John Fernandez,” Donahue says. “He was doing this otherworldly beautiful stuff. We saw him on the street [in Athens, Ga.], and he was the first person we asked to be in the band. I think when John said yes, it was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to be a band.’ I think seeing John do something on his own that was sonically unmatched, I was moved to feel like we were in the right place with the right people. There was a point where people were asking to come in and do stuff and we were like, ‘Yes! Come on!’”
Eclipsing was recorded in Athens, Ga., with Suny Lyons, the producer behind albums from Phosphorescent, pacificUV and more. With his knack for capturing space and ethereal moods, Lyons was the perfect choice.
“I feel like sonically it definitely has a lot of space and repetitive, meditative rhythms,” Campbell says of the finished product. “I feel like it was a time where there was a lot of evaluating ourselves and our lives. It’s very pensive, and I feel like the mood, hopefully, is one of exploration and being calm, feeling sublime, where everything is crazy around you and you feel calm within it.”
Donahue continues, “After writing for so many different people and bands, it definitely felt like it was up to me and Page to build this world. And then, when we figured out what that was, to invite our friends.”
All that was left, then, was the name. And rarely does a group choose one that fits their music so well. But, like so many other things about their music-making process, it wasn’t something Donahue and Campbell agonized over. In fact, it may have come to them in a dream.
“I have this amazing recurring dream,” Campbell says. “I would come home early from work and put on NPR. And it was news, and I’d doze off. I had this dream that I was on a boat, and this older man was rowing me down a small, beautiful creek. And the man was talking to me and saying everything they were saying on NPR. I think the words Dream Boat, to me, never meant handsome person. In my mind, it literally is a boat in a dream. So much of our experience as a couple has been traveling to and away from each other. Dream Boat really resonates with our experience because we’re always moving.”
Campbell and Donahue are still on the move, bouncing between Madison, Wisc., and their musical home in Athens. But now, they’re together, with a great record in hand and friends all around. What more could a boy with a crush dream of?