One constant in our shared experience of art is the cyclical nature of styles and aesthetics. Relevance that fades finds a way to significance once again. In recent years, bands like Majority Rule, PG. 99, City of Caterpillar and more have found themselves active and relevant again, possibly even more than ever. Resultantly, others of the same ilk have come to realizations that the music they made and the statements they stood for are still just as pertinent and urgent. This brings us to the acerbic and crushing band from Connecticut, Jerome’s Dream.
Formed in 1997 amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the upcoming millennium, a perceived dormancy within punk rock and a desire to make sense out of nonsense, Jerome’s Dream crafted what felt like aural violence in their dynamic and unpredictable songs. At that time, groups of like-minded individuals were creating similar intellectual purposefully inconclusive polemic music. It’s difficult to determine who came first, or who influenced whom, but the burgeoning chaotic hardcore scene was clearly gaining momentum. Attempting to separate from the stigma of hardcore and the niche irony of power violence while altogether avoiding grind core, bands like Jerome’s Dream embodied what many would term emo-violence.
Those that were into it at the time voraciously supported the new style and participated in a community wide push towards musical evolution. When I was younger, I would buy every split 7’ Jerome’s Dream released (along with bands like Hassan I Sabbah, Usurp Synapse, Joshua Fit For Battle and basically anything Level Plane records released) not out of novelty or an urge to build some kind of collection, but more causally related to my need to understand my own strange impulses. Each release was completely different in its own right while mapping out blacked out areas of aesthetic as content. The music reflected the irrationality of finding meaning in existence, while encouraging the listener to think angularly rather than linearly.
Even amidst this incredibly open, varied and expansive setting, Jerome’s Dream set themselves apart with an enigmatic, obtuse, incredibly hard-hitting and simultaneously intellectual, visceral and boundary pushing approach no one had ever seen. The last record they released, Presents, had a polarizing effect on their rabid fan base as it fully embraced and ultimately embodied all of the aforementioned elements while transcending the era and what had become a frustratingly limiting niche culture. Once it was clear that the constituents of the community did not embrace its exploratory purpose, the stage was set for other movements to come along and take precedence. Now, unlike some groups who continue to drudge on through years of obscurity after an initial relevance, most of these emo-violence bands vanished or outright ended. To me, these decisions stand as testaments to their commitment to an authenticity of expression.
Now, 17 years after they disappeared from the landscape, Jerome’s Dream have broken their silence to announce a new record sourced entirely from their fans. It seems that the cyclical nature of pervasive emotional distress caused by a generalized confusion within the people regarding the inanities of political pageantry and their continued – doubled-down even – inhumane treatment of all marginalized sectors of humans and animals alike has proven to be true. Thank Donald, Putin, Merkel, Xi Jinping, and all of us too, as we’re all complicit in this.
To further cement the relevance of Jerome’s Dream’s timely return, within 4 days of making their original post, they had already met their humble goal and, in fact, surpassed it significantly. Read on to see what they plan to do with the excess of funds. Without further ado, follow along with the conversation I had with Erik Ratensperger from JD and support the resurgence of an artistic style and approach that never should have gone into remission. It’s back and metastasizing in the best way.
Give the readers a quick background of the band, its history and intent.
JD (Jerome’s Dream, from here on out JD) was a band between 1997 and 2001. We were three kids in pursuit of starting a band and being artistically expressive. When people get together to play music, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Chemistry is a big component of any kind of creative collaboration. In the case of JD, everything seamlessly fit, as if there was a built-in collective consciousness. We never really discussed the how we wanted the band to go — we just started working on things together and found ourselves aligned.
Discuss the band’s approach to releases (one of my favorite things about that time period was buying split 7 inches with the Jerome’s Dream/The One AM Radio being my favorite of all) and if that same approach will be what we see from the new record.
We loved that split 7″ too, in particular, because Hrishikesh Hirway (of the One AM Radio) was one of the first people we met through being in a band. Before One AM, he and some other students at Yale had a band called No Evil Star. They were more on the “indie” side of sound, but we ended up playing a house show in New Haven together and became fast friends. Later on, we ended up taking the One AM Radio on tour with us and thought a split only made sense. Hrishi had a label called Garbage Czar, so he pressed it himself. To your question about the LP — this is our first ever LP. We’ve done a 5″, countless 7″s a 10″ and a couple CD releases, but never an LP. So that alone makes this different. I think working with this format will influence how we consider our approach to writing it.
***Side note – Hirway now does a killer podcast titled Song Exploder where he speaks with artist as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Tobacco, Ghostface Killah and Converge about the specific process used by the artist in writing a song. The podcast is recommended highly.***
Jerome’s Dream embodied the punk ethos of, not just DIY, but constant change and boundary pushing. On Presents, the vocal approach shocked many as it was so completely different than any others at the time (aside from San Diego limit-testers the VSS/Angelhair and Moss Icon/The Convocation Of..). My question regarding this is, was the constant transformation intentional and/or integral to the band’s vitality? Can we expect similar vocal styling on the new record?
Your references are quite on point — we loved those bands, especially VSS and Angelhair. But yeah, we always wanted to push our own boundaries, be open-minded to experimentation and to take risks… We think Presents was just as much a hardcore record as Seeing Means More Than Safety was despite its drastic change in sound. To us, it was a natural progression. Our relationship with the music changed, as did our general mindset on what hardcore meant to us. I can say though, that Presents was just as cathartic of a record to play as any of our releases prior. And I think that was simply because we answered to how we were feeling at the time, collectively and individually — just as we always did. We will do the same with the LP we’re working on, 17 years later.
Why is now the most advantageous time for a new record?
I’m not sure what’s advantageous about it. Something just feels right about the timing — and I think it has a lot to do with our conversation together last year around our 20th anniversary in September. It was the first time the 3 of us spoke together in 17 years, yet it was as if we had never stopped. I think this LP is an answer to a friendship established through an incredibly unique, and special circumstance — the bond we made through not only music, but also the irreplaceable experiences we shared while doing it.
I’d like your thoughts on the resurgence of the punk-drenched emo-violence genre (cuz fuck the term screamo) spawned by bands like Orchid, Shotmaker, Clikitat Ikatowi, etc. as Pg. 99, Majority Rule and City of Caterpillar have all recently reunited to much deserved acclaim while using the proceeds from shows as contributions to marginalized organizations. Any plans to do the same?
We saw that Majority Rule and Pg. 99 did a tour recently and used proceeds for various groups and charities supporting civil and LGBTQ rights, which was amazing to see. It’s not only punk rock to do something like that, it’s human. It’s an interesting time when bands like these who come from a super underground punk scene now suddenly have quite a reach and greater influence. That just wasn’t the case in the late 90s/ early 2000s — and I’m only talking about scale/reach. But over time, these bands grew an entirely new audience through the internet. So, props to those guys. We, unfortunately, didn’t catch any of the shows, but apparently, they were a total success.
As far as our participation in the bigger conversation — yes: because our crowd funding campaign has been such a success, after expenses we will be donating a portion of our funds to EVERYTOWN as an effort to support groups doing everything in their power to end gun violence and to keep our kids safe. The idea of a kid going to school to learn and never makes it home is unacceptable. We need to do what we can.
Why crowd sourced?
This is an opportunity to have a direct line to those who’ve decided to support our music. There’s a dialog and an awareness of each other. I love that. And in a way, it’s a testament to what you can do with the support of the DIY punk rock community in 2018. It blows our minds that so many people put their hard earned money towards this initiative… we are beyond thrilled and we’re fucking determined to make a great record.
The announcement made by the band through e-mail on Friday:
JD WILL RECORD AN LP IN 2018
We’ve decided that if there were ever a time to make another JD record, it’s now. And if we are going to do this record, we’re gonna need your help to bring it to fruition.
The three of us agreed that creating a crowdfunding campaign and getting the community involved seemed to make the most sense. By “community”, we mean those who are here — those who understand that music isn’t always what’s on the radio, or what you discover on Spotify. There’s a whole other aspect and culture of music out there that only some seem to understand, or know exists.
In our days as an active band, the DIY hardcore scene was so incredibly important to us. The bands and kids who were a part of it created such a vibrant, rich and exciting world of creativity and artistic expression. The beauty of it all at the time was that no one knew what a historic impact this sliver of punk would have on people years later.
Everyone did what they did simply because they loved it. It was all they knew… or at least, they knew that it was where they wanted to be and where they could thrive, or hide, or simply be a part of something where they felt like they belonged. Well, at least that’s how we pretty much felt.
The tenets of this underground culture still resonate today — they’ll never expire. There will always be an underground. That is why DIY will always be special and weirdly sacred.
Click the photo below to see our campaign. We will not only be making new music, we’ll also be designing merch and offering some pretty rad perks in the hopes that it will inspire your involvement in all this.
We will be in touch, and we cannot thank you enough.
Jeff, Nick, and Erik