In what seems to be an impatient musical world filled with singles and shorter-length EP releases, there is really something special about a band that showcases the beauty of a concept album and can do so with superb integrity. Dayseeker’s latest release, Dreaming is Sinking /// Waking is Rising, tells the tragic story of being left behind, walking through the process of shock, anger, contemplation, and sorrow. Listening through the album is an imaginative experience – one minute you’re swept away by the raw power that comes out in the band’s musical capacity, and the next minute you’re completely tangled up in the bigger picture of the story. Like the title implies, the dream that Dayseeker creates for the listener is like an anchor around the ankle, completely immersing them in the deep reality the band has created.
It’s been two years since Dayseeker released their sophomore album, Origin. The band’s persistent fortitude comes to fruition with the follow-up, Dreaming /// Waking, a story that encourages life to be lived with beautiful imperfection and rising courage. Vocalist and songwriter Rory Rodriguez takes a few minutes to walk me through the story that unfolds, his mind an overflowing well of creativity, his imagination conducting the story of a man in a coma finally waking up to find that his life has completely changed.
Rodriguez’s ability to adapt reality to song shows just how far his songwriting has come since their first studio album, What it Means to Be Defeated. There’s no doubt that the California boys are proud of their journey. Tying their newest record back to their first with “Sleep in the Sea Pt. II,” Dayseeker revisits their roots to prove that music is not only served by innovation but also by resolution. Throughout our conversation, Rodriguez displays the utmost optimism, for where the band has come and for what this album means. In spite of honest struggles through the writing process and album release, the band displays their fierce commitment and celebrates victory with this record.
How has the (response) been with the new album out?
It’s been good for the most part. It was a little chaotic, initially, because our Facebook page was hacked by some people in Pakistan or something. That was a little scary because they hacked our page four or five days before the album was supposed to come out. But we luckily got it back on the Monday before. So other than that, the feedback has been great. There’s a lot of love and a lot of positivity. I’m excited for it to be out for a while and hopefully more people will hear it and hopefully like it as much as we liked creating it.
I know this was a two-year process. What did you do differently this time?
Well, we had a newer member in the band. He’s our new guitar player. He had a different style with his writing than our previous guitarist. We also did a lot more demoing and pre-production before going into the studio this time. We had almost the entire album demoed out before we even stepped into the studio. This was also a concept album, so that was a little bit different in the writing.
Yeah, can you tell me more about how that concept came about?
I really liked this band when I was younger called Boys Night Out. They did a concept album called Trainwreck, and it was a fictional story about how this man tragically ends up killing his wife in his sleep. It’s about his recovery to hopefully becoming sane and everything. I just loved the way they tied in the whole album. It was a whole experience, if you actually listened from the first track to the last track.
So I indirectly knew a guy that has been in a coma out in California, and – I think through him and through a lot of real-life experiences – we just opted to try to do everything as a full concept. I read this book called “The Coma” by Alex Garland and that helped bring a lot of inspiration. It is essentially fiction throughout the whole album, but there is a story that is kind of unfolding if you listen closely.
“For this album, we actually had to map out the track order … because I had to make sure it was cohesive to the listener. It’s the first album – and will probably be the only album – that I’ll actually write in order.”
So did that approach change the songwriting process for you at all?
It did a bit, yeah. In the past, I could start writing any song that I wanted at any point, and then we would rearrange the songs once the album was finished to see which songs would be good openers and closers. For this album, we actually had to map out the track order before we actually could even start writing lyrics, because I had to make sure it was cohesive to the listener. It’s the first album – and will probably be the only album – that I’ll actually write in order. So the first song I wrote for the album was track one, and then it went that way until I wrote the last song on the album. I did it that way, again, so that the story felt more cohesive and flowed from beginning to end.
Your melodies are really unique in the heavy music genre. To me, at least. Where do you pull melodic influence from?
Oh thank you. I really like this artist; his name is The Dear Hunter. He’s very classically- and highly-trained in theory. His melody writing has always been interesting to me. It gets harder as I get older to keep writing melodies that aren’t already used or something that I’ve already written before.
I’ll usually start with a chorus or a part in the song and hum out a melody. Or I’ll hear a melody in my head. It’s funny, once I find a melody that I like, then I’ll actually find out what I’m writing the song about, and I’ll put lyrics to the melody. But it gets hard, especially toward the end of the album. There were a few times I was just sitting there like, “Jesus, this is really hard.” So I’m just trying to make sure I’m not writing the same chorus or the same part ten times on the same album. But thank you, I appreciate you saying that.
I’m really interested in “Sleep in the Sea Pt. II.” The first part of that story was released in 2013 on What it Means to Be Defeated. What made you want to write the next part of that story on this album?
It’s funny: It wasn’t planned to any crazy degree. There was a keyboard part that we came up with that was reminiscent of the first “Sleep in the Sea.” It was semi-unintentional at first, but then we thought it’d be cool to revisit that concept. The first one was about me being in love with a girl, and she was with a guy that I felt like was going to be poisonous or catastrophic to her future. So I felt like, metaphorically, he was an anchor, and he was going to drown her if she stayed with him.
That kind of fit into the storyline of “Pt. II,” where the guy in this coma wakes up and finds that his wife has left him. So, initially, there’s a track called “Abandon,” where the character is very resentful and hateful toward his wife for leaving him. And then once it transitions into “Sleep in the Sea Pt. II,” I feel like it’s more self-reflective, and he thinks, “What could I have been doing to cause my wife to leave in the first place?” It was interesting to flip it and realize that the main character is actually the anchor, not this other guy.
It was also cool because we’re really close with the guys in Silent Planet, and it was really interesting to me that we had that eerie bridge part that led into the heavier section. I felt like it had a creepy, Silent Planet vibe to it, so I thought it’d be cool to ask Garrett (Russell, Silent Planet vocalist) to be on the track again since he was on the first one. So that’s kind of how that song came about.
You also do your own solo music. Can you tell me about which part of you comes out in that stuff and which part of you do we see in Dayseeker?
(Laughs) Definitely a lot more stuff about girls in my solo stuff. I don’t know, I guess I write about women in Dayseeker, too. I try to bear a lot of my personal life to the public, and I don’t really care who knows it or who sees it. I feel like my solo stuff is more delicate; it’s definitely less angry. A lot of my acoustic stuff is if I want to be more melancholy or somber. Dayseeker is definitely more aggressive in tone, so I might be able to get more of my anger or frustrations out when it’s with more of a full band – more chaotic and sporadic with content.
I’m working on other solo stuff, too. I mean, I’m always knee-deep in Dayseeker, but I’m working on a side project with our drummer, Mike. But that stuff’s very similar to Nothing, Nowhere. It’s really sad instrumentals, but it’s also electronic and R&B-oriented. It’s kind of like sad Justin Bieber or something. So we’ll see how that goes.
How have you grown throughout the last two years writing this record, musically and otherwise?
I’ve definitely grown a lot. As a human being, I’m trying to make sure I’m not being a dick, and I’m trying to be more considerate with my attitude. I try to be as kind as I can be toward people we meet at shows – or just people in day-to-day life, honestly. We’ve all definitely tried to be more sensible with our songs. There is stuff on the first album (and even the second album) that we think, “God, why did we play that part that many times?” Or, “Why did we add this? We didn’t need that,” or, “We could have added more.” We tried to be really smart, making sure there were multiple choruses and that it doesn’t take too long to get the choruses, stuff like that.
I wouldn’t say that the writing is simpler, but we tried not to over-complicate the music for no reason. So we tried to be really conscious of that. I run into bands who write, like, 80 songs and pick the best ten, but we don’t usually do that. I think there was one song that we wrote for the album that we decided to cut because it wasn’t as good as the other ones. And it’s funny: I love how the album came out, but there are very early versions of a lot of these songs that we had to completely tear apart and rework over and over again. The song “Abandon” almost didn’t even make it on the album. We started writing it a year and a half ago, and we have, like, four or five different versions of that song. Then, two weeks before we left (for tour), I found a different way to play it and said, “Hey, let’s try this,” and it ended up fitting and working. But this is definitely the most prepared or the most thought we’ve put into a release we’ve done, definitely.
Would you say that this is the ultimate goal of your sound?
I would, yeah. It’s interesting to see the feedback because the overwhelming majority is that people seem to enjoy it, which is cool. But I have seen a few people who like the older stuff better. It’s impossible to not run into that, because everybody has their own opinion and the music isn’t always going to be their cup of tea. I really do think it might be one of those albums that you have to listen to a few times to really grasp what’s going on in it along with how the story is flowing and how the concept works. A few people are really smart and capable and have figured it out. But when I get home from tour, I’m going to create a track-by-track explanation with my friend in a video to kind of “spoon-feed” the story to the listener. So maybe some of those people who thought it wasn’t their cup of tea can listen differently after hearing the story explained, because there was a ton of thought and preparation that went into the lyrical content, the structuring, and how the album ends as a whole. But the feedback’s been good for the most part.
Do you have a favorite song on the album? Either a song you’re really happy with the result, or a song that you love to perform…
Oh man. I got asked this the other day. I actually really like the song “Counterparts.” That was one that I actually had a big hand in with the instrumentation. I was all worried when I was bringing it to the rest of the band that it was going to be too soft or stick out like a sore thumb on the record. But I was pleasantly surprised.
For a lot of the guys in the band, it’s one of their favorite songs on the album. I just really appreciated the song structuring; it’s really simple. We recorded each chorus differently so that it kind of builds as the song goes on. I’ve been able to play a really stripped down, mellow version of that one at some acoustic shows back home. The few times I’ve played it live at home, I always get really good feedback from the audience. That one’s probably one of my favorites. But it goes back and forth pretty often, honestly. But we’ll go with “Counterparts.”
Do you think there’s something that Dayseeker does sonically that is unique to the band’s identity?
Not really. I don’t want to say there is and sound egotistical or anything. I don’t know, I take a lot of time with the singing on the album, especially with this new one. This is the first time we’ve worked with this engineer. His name is Josh Schroeder, and he’s based out of Michigan. He was great to work with, but he’s definitely the only engineer I’ve ever worked with that, when I would record a part and think it was fine, he would say, “No, no. Listen to what you’re saying and make sure you’re conveying that while you’re singing or screaming.” He would definitely make sure it was like a performance when we were tracking. It wasn’t like, “Oh, well, you sang in key, and I could hear what you were saying. Let’s just keep going.” That’s kind of what a lot of our past engineers did. I feel like he tried to make sure the vocals were standing on their own, in a lot of ways, and also made sure that there is substance to the lyrics. Obviously, there is a concept going on, but I also wanted the topics to be relatable; there aren’t a lot of people who relate to being in a coma, but it still deals with being left by somebody you love or hitting a low point in your life. So I’m hoping there’s still relatability or comfort for people who are going through some tough things.
Dayseeker was posted on October 1, 2017 for HM Magazine and authored by Nao Lewandowski.