“Music is Art, not Product.”Shawn Michael (Daydream Cathedral)
Music created simply for the enjoyment of being able to listen to it and enjoy how the work of art makes you feel; that is the guiding idea behind the dream-pop/shoegaze duo Daydream Cathedral. Different from the popular mainstream music industry of today, Daydream Cathedral prides themselves on offering music to the public for no other reason that having the satisfaction of being able to share their experiences and creations with their audience.
I recently caught up with Shawn Michael of Daydream Cathedral. He was more than happy to share his stories, insights, wisdom, and personal views with me, and I loved learning the background story of one of the songs on his debut EP Ancestors. Check it out!
What (who) does your act consist of?
Daydream Cathedral is duo consisting of myself in the role of creator, songwriter, and vocalist with my friend Dino Bose, founder of Infinite Creativity Group, doing the production, mixing and mastering. We both contribute guitars, synths, programming and sequencing to the tracks.
How did you and your band meet?
We originally met when I was playing bass for a New Wave / Goth Rock cover band in High School (doing tunes from The Cure, The Smiths, Duran Duran, New Order, Spandau Ballet, Bauhaus, etc.). Dino would come to our rehearsals and gigs and jam some guitar riffs now and then. After the cover band dissolved, I began my obsessive consumption of all things My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, Lush, Stone Roses, Spiritualized, Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, Chapterhouse, Charlatans UK, Blur, The House of Love, Curve, Primal Scream, Oasis, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.. Later, Dino and I reconnected and discovered that we both shared a bond with these bands.
Where are you and your band from?
We were raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA.
Thinking back to early childhood, what was your first experience with music?
Everything began around age 5 when I was playing nothing but Beach Boys albums on my first record player. This led to me learning how to press record on a cassette player and the rest was history. There are still recordings of these ‘concerts’ I would perform in my room singing and pretending to play guitar and drums.
What type of music did you hear the most growing up? Is it different from what you listen to now?
As a youth, I was raised on classic rock and whatever was being played on 95.5FM KLOS at the time around the house. This may have led to my current aversion to classic rock, guitar solos, and rock god idol-worship genres. My current tastes range from the expected indie – shoegaze – dream pop genres, to Spanish flamenco guitar, romantic era classical, gothic, folk, noise and trance. A majority of my listening habits are satisfied via Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Spotify, YouTube, Bandcamp, and NPR (National Public Radio).
What was the first song that you ever sang?
Probably ‘Surfing U.S.A.’ by the Beach Boys.
What made you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
During my teen years being naturally quiet and socially awkward I soon realized that writing and performing music could help overcome such obstacles. The career part came after I realized that I was making money doing something fun – writing music and playing guitar.
How did you become involved in the type of music you play/sing now?
The songs for Daydream Cathedral come from demos I have been creating for some years now. I was living in Hawaii for over a decade and had no real outlet for them there due to ‘the scene’ – meaning a lack of one. One day while chatting with Dino, the subject of all those tunes I had written ‘back in the days’ came up; they were literally on a shelf collecting dust. I sent him a few I had converted into midi files, and he immediately ‘got it’ and knew exactly what kind of production was required. There’s a certain trust between Dino and I with taste and approach since we both come from a similar place sonically and experimentally. For us as a team working together, there’s no such thing as ‘too much’ or ‘can’t do that’. We’ve spent days chatting about how to craft wormhole sound effects to blend the sections of songs together.
For those who have never seen or heard your music before, how would you describe your music for the public audience?
Made to be heard, not seen. Sit back enjoy it, don’t expect a cheerleader on stage demanding you get up and dance. Modern Psychedelia seems to help pigeonhole what to expect for those unfamiliar with dream pop and shoegaze.
Would you rather play live performances or be in the studio?
Writing, recording, and producing music every day is preferred.
Have you ever entered any contests to enhance your musical career?
I have an aversion to competitive music and art.
Have you been involved in any benefit performances?
Yes, dozens. For five years, I was the musical director for an annual tribute show that raised thousands of dollars each year for select organizations in Hawaii.
What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been so far in your musical career?
Some things that might impress others are that I’ve played some rather large concerts as the opening act for major touring bands, performed with some celebrities, had worldwide radio play, was signed to a major label, had many songs used in movies, played over 1,000 gigs, was in a major motion picture, had a few radio shows, worked in TV.
Yet, despite all those ‘accomplishments,’ I still find creating Daydream Cathedral to be the art and music I am most proud of. Unlike previous achievements which were as result of me ‘being in bands’ and being at the right place at the right time, Daydream Cathedral is my creation, it is real, it has my heart put into it, and is the first time I put my own voice to my own songs with complete creative control and released them to the world.
If you had to categorize your music, what genre would it best fit?
Dream Pop, Shoegaze, Psychedelic
What are your songs about and what general themes do they talk about?
In general, I try to keep them as vague and open to multiple interpretations as possible. Common themes that come and go are inspired by things mystical, magical, meditative, medieval, and mysterious.
Why do you choose to focus on these themes?
My headspace hobbies are metaphysical and occult. Peeking at my bookshelf and browser cookies you’d find everything from mythology, paganism, tarot, astrology, mystery schools, rituals, magick, runes, classical literature, ancient mysteries and other subjects of similar focus.
Are there any stories surrounding your songs that you’d care to share?
The song ‘In and Out’ involved synchronicity and a coincidental trip into a forest on Maui. After a great day exploring, taking pictures, smelling eucalyptus and feeling free from the stresses of life I ended it at home sitting in front of a computer – the usual routine for me, actually.
While posting pictures from that trip, I was watching a YouTube channel I recently stumbled upon. The YouTube channel was from a Norwegian woman talking about day-to-day life in Norway as an atheist. This is where the chills hit – while reflecting on the events of the day I hear her speaking with her innocent and broken-English accent.….
”If you look at those pictures, the world is so beautiful. Just walk far up in the mountains and the feeling you get from that. You could just stay at that spot and you wouldn’t really care because you just felt so good. It’s so beautiful to think how the world is built up and how rainbows are and all. It’s just so beautiful.”
I knew this was a wink from the magical realms that could not be ignored. You can hear her words during the intro and throughout ‘In and Out’. Still, every time I hear this track begin my senses rise and I remember the signals and chills I received that night from the aethers.
What has been your strongest influence to continue performing?
Connecting with fans that connect with us and our music on a similar mental level.
Does anyone in particular influence you?
A few of the musicians I look up to and feel inspired by are Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Roland Orzabal (Tears for Fears), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) and Guy Chadwick (The House of Love). By no means is this a complete list.
What are your immediate music career goals?
My current goal by year’s end is to finish recording and release about a dozen more songs from my past catalog of demos nobody has heard yet (Dino has only heard these as instrumentals so far). This will be the purge needed for me to move forward with focusing on the new material bubbling in the back of my head. I’m all about the songwriting and recording, it is the part I love most about being a musician. In a perfect world I would write, record, and release a new song every month.
What has been the biggest challenge for you or the group?
This biggest challenge hands down has been me finding the guts to sing due to vocal confidence issues. We struggled with it early on experimenting with different approaches and even considered finding a vocalist. After finishing the debut EP I can say I’m finally over the initial fear and fright of singing.
What type of fan base do you have?
Our fans are primarily in it for the listening experience which is predominantly online and virtual these days. We are continuously active on multiple social networks – chatting and messaging with everyone.
Music tends to appeal to everyone, young and old. Do you have any advice for the youth of today?
Yes, learn where things come from and seek truth and authenticity.
Learn where your beliefs come from, learn where you desires come from, learn where your hobbies come from, learn where your material possessions come from.
Do you have other interests or talents you would like to share with us?
I love reading, learning, and going on walking adventures outdoors. I work in a library part-time. Is that a talent? 😉
What do you do with your time away from music?
I’m a your typical introvert, an INTJ precisely, which means I spend a lot of time in deep thought away from this chaotic, scary, and unpredictable world.
As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
Most of my goals are internal with this Daydream Cathedral project. These are songs that are a part of me that I love to share with others. There really are no other ambitions with it. Success, it being measured by finance, fame, or status, is the furthest thing from my mind.
Please feel free to add any other information you want to share with fans and readers.
I create this music out of passion, there is no desire to make money from this. Consider our music to be art and not a product. If we ever start producing music with the intention to make money, please put us on blast for being sell outs. Times have changed, there is no longer a reason to expect people to pay to listen to your music – this is something I feel very passionate about. Please do not let corporate record companies or the music industry tell you that you are ‘stealing from the artist’ when you download an mp3 for free or use Spotify. The record labels and the industry surrounding them are the ones stealing from the artists thanks to an unjustified large percentage kept for themselves when a song is sold – there is literally zero overhead or cost in releasing a song these days. Every cent you pay for a song is inflated and exaggerated by an outdated industry model.
In my world view the best way to improve the overall quality of the music being produced these days is to stop paying for it to get rid of those only in it for the money. Music is Art, not Product.
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