Solitaires enters the 'Dreamfeed' on second album
Former Old Hundred musician Nate Gelinas reflects on fatherhood and the latent anxieties embedded in the everyday on bigger, louder sophomore release
In the earliest stage of life, an infant’s appetite can seem insatiable, especially when the baby cries out for food every two hours in the middle of the night. Over time, groggy, fatigued parents look for ways to prolong the time between nighttime feedings. One strategy is to feed infants from a bottle while trying not to wake them, which nourishes the baby while also training them to sleep longer without interruption. It’s known as the “dreamfeed.”
When Nate Gelinas began working on his second solo album as Solitaires, he and his wife were in the early throes of parenting twin boys, and that idea of a dreamfeed seemed to characterize much of his existence, so much so that the term became the title track of his sophomore record, which Gelinas released last month.
“When you're living with kids, a lot of times I feel like I'm living in some dream or a trance state,” said Gelinas, who also drew parallels to the social media feeds and news feeds in which he and everyone else seemed to be swimming. In the title track, Gelinas describes a hazy, idyllic summer day at the river near the Park of Roses, but he still can’t escape the digital world. “We put our days into the feed/They fade into the screen/Will they mean a little more if we share them with our friends?” he sings.
Unlike the folk-indebted songs on 2016 album Southcoast, which Gelinas described as vehicles for the lyrics, Dreamfeed’s tracks began sonically with a desire to avoid predictable chord progressions. “I wanted the music this time to have more sharp turns ... [so] you didn't know where it was going to go,” said Gelinas, who supplanted acoustic guitars with the big, electric guitar sounds employed by ’90s bands of his youth like Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer. He also recruited friend and former Old Hundred bandmate Jon Helm, who contributed guitar and helped Gelinas record in fits and starts over the past five years.
Gelinas took a different lyrical approach, as well. “The first album was really a backlog of ruminations and thoughts about my life, my childhood, and just trying to make sense of 30 years,” he said. For Dreamfeed, Gelinas zoomed in tighter, focusing on the mundanities of everyday life. On “Pale Horse,” a section of the first verse reads like a weekend checklist: “Clean the bathroom, clean the basement/Check the chimney, then forget it/Is the water coming in again? Is the water coming in again?”
“It’s the anxiety of that, worrying about, ‘What if there's a storm? And what if the water comes in? And what if the tree falls on the bedroom?’ ... I've never heard somebody write a hard-rocking song about anxiety over water getting into the roof, but I feel like that's valid,” he said. “There's a lot of meaning that comes with all those mundane things, and a lot of fear. My wife and I often talk about that. We were both pretty anxious people, but not to the degree of when you have kids. The anxieties just go into overdrive: What kind of world are they living in? What is it going to be like? Are they OK? But then you have the day to day, and it’s just taking care of the basics.”
Along with an awareness of the fragility of life amid the busy-ness of life, Gelinas also wrestles with his new identity as a dad on Dreamfeed. “Sometimes I forget that I’m more than a father,” he sings on the title track. Then, on “Staycation,” Gelinas describes the split personalities that often come along with parenting: “The kids will soon be home/And we’ll turn back to the people that they know.”
“I don't know if anyone's ever ready to have kids. We weren't ready, and we didn't think we'd have twins, either. I felt like I lost connection with my normal identity … and it ran the risk of just erasing other parts of me, especially the first year or two. If I’m honest, it wasn’t until year four that I started to truly be more at peace with how much fatherhood has dominated and redefined me,” Gelinas said. “There was a tension with the identity of being a private, quieter person who likes a lot of time to read and write and make music. It was hard to still be that and be a dad. … But it's been good. I've grown into a different kind of self.”
That sense of peace amid the struggle comes through on the title track. Even as Gelinas strains to remember the other parts of himself, he acknowledges the blissful moments and accepts the changes parenthood brings. “I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he sings.