While most young bands never end up leaving the local circuit, Los Angeles’ DREAMING DEAD broke out of the L.A. bubble with their sharp, DISSECTION-like metallics, dedication, and hard work. Led by talented frontwoman, Elizabeth Elliot, who’s both a vicious screamer and masterful shredder, DREAMING DEAD has already toured the U.S. in support of their debut album, Within One. Their perseverance continues to pay off as the band are currently on tour with NILE, IMMOLATION, and KRISIUN. Before the band hit the road, APESHIT spoke to Elizabeth to find out more about DREAMING DEAD and how they came to be.
APESHIT: Tell us how DREAMING DEAD became a band?
Elizabeth: About four years ago I had a few original songs I wanted to record and began looking for a session drummer that could help me out. Chris McCarthy, guitarist of EXHAUSTED PRAYER (also my roommate at the time) suggested I contact his drummer Michael Caffell, whom I already knew of through shows with WINTERTHRALL. So after Mike cruised on over to my place, I showed him a few rough home recordings (I had guitars only) and next thing you know, we’re jamming at his studio in San Pedro, CA. Two years later, I came across Juan Ramirez through the popular local metal site www.moshking.com. I went to meet him and see him play live with SCULPTURED WOUNDS and towards the end of 2008 he joined DREAMING DEAD as a full time member.
APESHIT: In the previous band you were in, WINTERTHRALL, you focused primarily on guitar. What made you decide to make the leap and take on vocals as well? Was that always the initial idea or did you ever have anyone else in mind for lead vocals?
Elizabeth: With exception to one small melody, I never wrote a single riff for that project. Not because I wasn’t encouraged, I just didn’t have it in me to write anything at the time. I joined the band as second guitarist and that was it. The idea of fronting my own band came up during my time in THE IRON MAIDENS, although I was scared shitless to become a frontwoman. Seriously, I went through it all. Stage fright, drying up of the throat, even vomited on stage a couple times. Public speaking is one of the biggest phobias in the world, and I definitely had, and may still, have it. At the same time I understood that only I had the capability of fulfilling my musical dreams, and wasn’t going to let my fears get in the way. I figured if I started at the bottom there was only one place to go, and that was up.
APESHIT: How did you prepare for the task of handling both duties? And was the transition to take on the vocals smooth or difficult?
Elizabeth: I already had some experience in WINTERTHRALL as guitarist/backup vocalist. Then I put together my own home studio (in my closet actually) and started rehearsing there on a daily basis. After tearing up my throat for the first few months, I decided to do further research on vocal technique and picked up Melissa Cross‘ The Zen of Screaming DVD. I took notes and followed through with the advice provided. It definitely helped. But as far combining the singing and playing I knew I had to rehearse a lot, and I mean hours a day, therefore creating muscle memory to achieve both harmoniously. Now when I go on stage I don’t think about the next riff, the next set of lyrics, anything. I just get in the zone and let everything flow.
APESHIT: The band was originally called “MANSLAUGHTER.” Why the name change and what’s the origin behind the name, DREAMING DEAD.
Elizabeth: MANSLAUGHTER was initially intended for an all-female death metal band that I tried putting together years ago. I might pursue it at some point in the future. Ladies? Haha…Anyways, after digging in and writing music with Mike, the name MANSLAUGHTER just didn’t make sense for this new and much more dedicated effort. Plus, the folks Mike and I were jamming with at the time bailed so this was the time to make the name change. So I began reading a lot. DREAMING DEAD was finally inspired through H.P. Lovecraft‘s Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. I remember my first thought being the name had to be taken. I then looked through MetalArchives.com, MySpace and [found] nothing. I even found the .com available and realized this was it. The perfect combination–the words that suit the sounds we have to offer.
APESHIT: As a member of the all–girl IRON MAIDEN tribute band, THE IRON MAIDENS, you had the chance to do some touring and channel the role of Adrian Smith on stage. What was that experience like?
Elizabeth: It was an important experience. My time in THE IRON MAIDENS really showed me who I was, what I was capable of, and where I wanted to take my career as a musician. I feel I’ll always be in debt with the ladies for that opportunity.
APESHIT: What was it like playing in a cover band compared to a band that writes and records original material?
Elizabeth: There is no comparison really. Playing in a cover band is a lot of fun. Learning to play IRON MAIDEN songs also offered up a challenge, which I enjoyed, and opened my eyes to different levels of guitar technique. Yet [it was] numbing in the writing aspect and if you’re a songwriter like myself, that can become extremely frustrating.
Being in an original project at times can be lots of fun but it can also be extremely frustrating. Writing your own music (sometimes dealing with writer’s block), bringing a simple idea to life, connecting with your most inner emotions and expressing these through sound has to and should be the most rewarding feeling as a musician. The passion, the excitement and even euphoria, in my eyes are what make all the tears shed worth wild.
Like Mike says, “Nothing but a fool’s dream.” Haha.
APESHIT: Tell us a little about DREAMING DEAD’s songwriting process. Do you write all the material or is it a collaborative effort?
Elizabeth: For the Within One material I simply brought in prepared guitar riffs from home and presented these to Mike where he then wrote and arranged his own drum parts. Once all this was put together, I added the final touches with vocals.
With our new material, I continue bringing into the studio prepared guitar riffs from home. Yet there is a much stronger collaboration in all writing and arranging aspects from both Mike and Juan. There is no way I could possibly deny their input and talents as songwriters.
APESHIT: Since the recording of Within One, does the band now have a full lineup or do you and Mike bring in musicians to help out with shows/touring?
Elizabeth: I’d like to think we have a full lineup. We’ve always been self-serving musicians being that Within One was recorded as a two-man/woman band (just Mike and I). We’re currently a three-piece with Juan on bass, and yes, we bring in musicians to help with shows and touring.
APESHIT: What was it like working with Travis Smith? Did the band give him any guidelines to follow as far as visual concepts or was he given free reign with the artwork?
Elizabeth: For Within One I already had an artwork concept in mind and knew the feel that had to be achieved on the cover of the album. Once I relayed this to him he then put together a quick sketch and we then sorted out all the details. Working with Travis was a very pleasant and positive experience for me as it helped solidify, in my mind, the importance of combining art with professionalism. I definitely look forward in working with him again on our next album.
APESHIT: How did the band’s first national tour with MASTER and GOREAPHOBIA go? What were your most memorable and least memorable parts of the tour?
Elizabeth: Prior to us signing to Ibex Moon Records and the MASTER/GOREAPHOBIA tour, we already had two previous national tours under our belt that were self-booked and promoted. By this time, we’d already gained experience on running a smooth tour. We had a great time, played for small and large crowds and were always well received. You can actually check out a recap all memorable and not so memorable parts of that tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65KfWsvTw3Q
APESHIT: In recent years, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding metal bands with female vocalists even though it’s not a phenomenon that has only recently occurred. Has the band received some extra interest from fans for this aspect of the band?
Elizabeth: I can understand we’re immediately “accessible” to a greater audience because of the female aspect of this band but if we sucked (no pun intended) musically, I doubt even the most superficial metal head would give us the time of the day. Plus, when I’m up on stage I’m not making the prettiest faces either. Just check this out (omg I can’t believe I’m actually sharing this):
APESHIT: As a female frontwoman, is the role of gender something that you are regularly conscious about?
Elizabeth: Never. I don’t give a rat’s ass.
APESHIT: DREAMING DEAD had the unique opportunity to perform at the Harmony Festival, a festival promoting music, art, ecology, healthy living and spirituality, that featured a very diverse line-up of bands. How did you land that gig and what was it like representing “extreme” metal outside the usual realm?
Elizabeth: Oh, hell yeah. We had such a great time! Most of our family members even came out to the fest and we ALL partied…hard. We even had our own backstage area! Then again that’s just the way we roll, baby!! Haha…Anyways, one of the promoters of Harmony Festival by chance saw us perform at Annie’s Social Club in San Francisco when we played out there with SADISTIC INTENT. He approached us right after our set and offered us a 1-hour time slot. Of course we jumped on the opportunity no questions asked.
APESHIT: There are a lot of L.A. bands that have broken out of the “local” bubble (INTRONAUT, CREMATORIUM, ABYSMAL DAWN, SOTHIS, etc). Considering DREAMING DEAD’s success, do you feel you are still “local” band or do you feel that you have graduated from that level?
Elizabeth: I believe it’s safe to say we’ve graduated from the “local band” level and not due to any level of success but because we’ve already done a healthy amount of touring and have gained fans across the U.S. because of those efforts.
APESHIT: You guys are set to join a monster tour with NILE, IMMOLATION, and KRISIUN early next year but what other plans does the band have for the immediate future? Are there any new songs being written?
Elizabeth: Oh yeah we’re so pumped for that tour, you have no idea. No pressure, right? Haha!
Right now we’re feverously writing a new album, currently finishing song #3 and have started up a forth one already. We plan on starting pre-production early December ’09, and fresh off the road in February 2010, we’ll begin recording our second album, which if I may add, will be a concept album. Can’t give out too many details now. Should be real good. Definitely looking forward to it.