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SoundCheck: Dream Ritual Opens Up Their Sound To New Possibilities

Courtesy of Dream Ritual

Dream Ritual has been a band for five years. In that time, they’ve released two studio EPs. This year, they have a new eight-song album out that differs quite a bit from their previous two offerings. I sat down with the band to explore their musical journey to this new sound.

As guitarist and vocalist Jason Nunn explains, Dream Ritual had an idea in the beginning of what they wanted the band to sound like – particularly a heavy 90s alternative sound.

“As we’ve written more and played more shows, we’ve kind of not, like, boxed ourselves in so hard. But now it’s kind of like anything goes,” said Nunn.

“Trips Around the Sun” was recorded in downtown Springfield at No Coast Recording with producer Adam Schoeller. It was the first time the band took their time, not knocking out an entire recording project in one day. Bass player Dakota Caldwell recalls how this was a game changer for the band.

“Having the time just to be able to try new things and see how they sound is a luxury that we appreciate a lot,” said Caldwell.

The No Coast studio provided Dream Ritual with the chance to experiment with new sounds and even new people from time to time.

“The funniest part about it is, it’s kind of like the downtown location, there’s always like, random walkers around. In the middle of us recording, some guy came in and was like, ‘Y’all jammin’?’ Just walked right in,” said guitarist Ethan Hollingshad.

“Adam thought we knew him and we thought that Adam knew them and so he was just looking at us and I was looking at him like, ‘You’re just gonna let these guys come into our session?’ And he’s looking at us like, ‘You’re just gonna let these guys come into the session?’ said Nunn.

“And it was just me at the time, also. There were no guitars happening that this bystander could hear. It was just a drum set in a big open room and he decided that, ‘Yeah, I should join them and see what they’re doing!’” said drummer Blake Mixon.

“He was even talking to his buddy, ‘Hey! They’re jammin’ in here, bud!” said Hollingshad. 

Random walk-ins aside, Dream Ritual knew they were on the right path to the new sound they were looking for. Mixon says they had a discussion as a band before the recording session started. 

Credit Jessica Balisle / KSMU
Dream Ritual in the KSMU studio. From left to right: Blake Mixon, Ethan Hollingshad, Dakota Caldwell, Jason Nunn

“If we’re going to put out a full-length on our own, let’s do it right.’ I think we all kinda took that mentality into the session. Not to speak for everyone,” said Mixon.

“Wow, dude,” said Nunn.

“That’s how I felt,” said Mixon.

“Not to get too mushy about it, but it’s like, it is a very good representation of what we’ve all accomplished together as a group,” said Caldwell.”

With the new sound also came a new style of lyrics. An example of this is apparent in the song “Trips Around the Sun, Pt. 1.” The band went to Joshua Tree National Park in California for Nunn’s bachelor party. They noticed signs around the park alerting them of two missing hikers. Six months later, the band learned they had been found dead. One had fallen into a ravine and broken her leg. Unable to get her out, her hiking companion shot her and then shot himself after spending several days without food or water.  This tragedy inspired Nunn to write the song.

“I had never really, like written lyrics that way before. It was always kinda just like my own experience or whatever. And so this record is really kind of the first time I’ve taken some inspiration from outside things that didn’t directly happen to me,” said Nunn.

With time for experimentation and the right inspiration, Dream Ritual’s new album is reflective of the band growing up.

“I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, because yeah, I mean, it still sounds like us to me. But it feels like we’ve kinda figured it out, like, we can use all these other things that we really like and still sound like us,” said Nunn.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.
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