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NAS 10 Questions with Dream Optimist

Updated: Apr 23

This time, we get to know Dream Optimist, AKA David from Oakland California. Dream Optimist is an indie synth pop/rock project with influences such as REM, Talking Heads, Erasure, and New Order to name a few.

The track "Percent Perspiration" is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.

Link To New Artist Spotlight Playlists:

1. Tell us a little about where you are from and what you are currently doing.

My name is David and I live in Oakland, California with my wife, daughter and pit-mix dog. I mostly play guitar, though I grew up playing piano so dabble there a bit, though mostly to write and work on MIDI instruments. A couple years ago, after taking many years off from publishing music, I started this indie synth/pop/rock/whatever project "Dream Optimist" as a way to get some new songs out since I'd been constantly writing new stuff over the years anyway! My thought for the project is to not worry about traction and bound it my any specific target sound, but instead have it be an outlet for my creative expression. Over the last many years, I've gotten very interested in writing & arranging strings & semi/neo-classical music - and so that's informed my first few releases under this new moniker as well. Part rocker at heart, but also part instrumental / semi-classical noodler.

2. What inspired you to start playing and making music?

I've been playing music ever since I was a kid, starting on piano and moving into guitar, playing in various punky / art bands here & there. Really for me it was all about wanting to express myself in the ways that I'd been moved by hearing music I loved - and wanting to be a part of a collective expressing something bigger than themselves. I spent time learning theory and playing a diverse array of genres, and started loving doing music for short films & other video projects too - seeing music as problem solving, it helps tell a story. I've started applying that more to my "pop" work too I suppose, focusing more on storytelling even if just in instrumental form since I find that so moving and compelling.

𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?

REM, Talking Heads / David Byrne, Tom Waits, Moondog, Elvis Costello, Erik Satie, Erasure, New Order, the Magnetic Fields, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the Sugarcubes, Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, a lot of Motown, the Pixies, and a few particular jam bands I suppose. I'm also a big fan of musical theater - love not only the theatricality, but the way different musical motifs get woven together.

4. What are your goals in the music industry?

To make some interesting music that integrates the various musical interests I have. Second goal would be to find film-makers who are doing interesting work who want to have interesting music created to help them tell a story.

5. Tell us about your creative process when you make new music.

I often start just fiddling around either at the piano or on a guitar. Sometimes I just play and see what happens - more often I have an energy I'm chasing & try to just turn that energy into a chord progress. Often a melody occurs at the same time, & then we're off the races. Lyrics are usually much farther down the road, if ever - but sometimes a lyrical motif pushes through near the start too. Other times, I start with a song title idea and try to make music that could sound like that song.

6. What is your all-time favorite song?

This is such a hard question. Maybe "Birthday" by the Sugar Cubes - or maybe "Please Call Me, Baby" by Tom Waits. Both create a unique environment that I find fascinating and compelling, and wish I could step right into.

7. What is the best advice you have either given or received in terms of music? 

Take daily creative steps. Make it a habit. Sure, be yourself - and play what you want; don't be limited by your notions of what kinds of music is more/less likely to be enjoyed... but also work on it daily. Even if just 5 minutes. Doing something every day is better than doing nothing for 2 weeks and the playing for 4 hours.

Second, though: Have a day job. "Real musicians have a day job" is a saying among musicians of a previous generation. I think it's a critical thing to keep in mind.

8. Proudest accomplishment?

Musically, I'm very proud of my "Seven Day Love Challenge" EP - the songs on it are really meaningful to me and are a big departure from what I've done before in many ways. They're positive but complex & interesting I think - they have a lot going on.

I'm also proud of having done music for ads & short films & done music direction for live theater years ago - that's all wonderful. And so this fits into that story: Continuing to grow and try new things and doing the things that I'm scared of doing or otherwise think I might fail at, just to make sure I'm still challenging myself by getting out of my depth and ensuring I'm really in the room & on the planet for the time while I still am.

9. Just for fun! What's been your most embarrassing moment so far?

Recently anyway, was on a call for work that I was mostly listening to and had to drive to pick up my kiddo - and I was muted, but my camera got turned on somehow. It was just me driving - but 40 of my co-workers got to watch me zipping into and out of traffic for about 20 minutes which was embarrassing.

Musically - in retrospect, I have some musical decisions I made while much younger that are pretty embarrassing thinking back over them. But that's all just in the spirit of growing & growing up.

𝟭0. Tell us about your lowest and highest points in music so far.

Lowest was probably when all my band members quit back in the mid-2000's. And I had to start a new band or figure out what to do. Second lowest was probably when all my new band members quit / moved away around 2012 - well, I had been going through a divorce, which itself was the lowest point of my life, and music was put on hold. I just couldn't manage the band anymore. It was my band, and I couldn't do that. So the band fell apart. That's when I did some work in ads, which was amazing - but then that dried up, and so I had many years after of basically no musical production, feeling like I wasn't sure if I even could do it anymore... and questioning whether I wanted to, or why I did if I did.

Highest points - my band in 2007 played a headlining show at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco for our album release. That was a packed, amazing show. Felt incredible, felt like a rock star. However - equally high point: Writing songs with my then-toddler daughter about silly things back in the early 2010's. Having the ability & inclination to put together fun little silly songs with her & record them (we made 2, and I still have the recordings!) was really meaningful. She now loves music still too - she plays piano & sings. So that all is a straight line that makes me feel really good about my love for music also, since she shares it in such a big way.

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Great interview! So nice to learn more about you and how you got into music. 🖤🤘🏻


Have a day job! Love it. Thanks for sharing your experience!


Apr 07

That's amazing loved the interview keep up the good work will check out more 💯👏


Great interview and to learn more about you David and your life in and out of music. I could really relate to much in your story, we share bits and bobs 😎. Making music with the kids is something I’ve done too. It’s lovely to listen to many years later. Sweet memories. Fab read. 👍


So glad you did this and gave us all a chance to learn more about you! Glad to find someone who agrees that “whatever” is a legitimate genre. 🤘



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