Space-rockers Daydream Creatures stage a bandiversary show

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: For Daydream Creatures’ anniversary show at Ambrose West, “We wrote a theatrical-musical-play sort of thing,” says songwriter and band cofounder Jessica Korn. “The story takes place across multiple planets and possibly also dimensions.” There will also be costumes, puppets and guest appearances. Photo courtesy of Daydream Creatures

Not to oversimplify, but bands play shows and make albums. Some make concept albums, some even play concept shows. But local, self-described “space-mo” collective Daydream Creatures not only makes conceptual records and plays fanciful concerts: The group is producing a show that serves as a narrative bridge between its past and forthcoming recording projects. That concert — billed as “An Interplanetary Evening” — set for Saturday, Nov. 9, at Ambrose West, also serves as the group’s “bandiversary” in celebration of six years as an entity.

While each band birthday is special, says lead guitarist (and Xpress staffer) Brooke Randle, right now “we’re in this cool place. … We’ve just released an album that we’re really proud of, plus we’re writing all this stuff, and it seems like there’s a lot of momentum right now. It’s very exciting, and we’re pushing ourselves into completely new territory.”

Last year, the collective put out its full-length debut, Qalupalik, which showcases the range of styles in which co-founders, vocalists and songwriters Jessica Korn and Loren Carty write, as well as the band’s collaborative approach to layering sounds and textures. It also introduces the character of Qalupalik, and some of her cohorts (“the web would look crazy if you drew it all out,” Korn admits of the elaborate storytelling involved) will be featured on a yet-to-be-recorded project. The name Daydream Creatures comes from the brief but memorable lead track on the album — a fantastical blend of beach rock and space rock with hits of flute (Carty) and the tart smack of a snare that suggests the impetus to rock is as prevalent as the theatrical spectacle.

The bandiversary show — the bridge between Qalupalik and the group’s forthcoming effort — will feature old songs and new work. “It’s very much about the characters we’ve written and created: where they come from and where they end up,” says Korn. “We wrote a theatrical-musical-play sort of thing. The story takes place across multiple planets and possibly also dimensions.”

This is the premise for the Ambrose West performance: “Our main character [was exiled] from her home planet and she’s crash-landed and she’s trying to figure out how to navigate this new place she’s in,” says Randle. “There’s love, heartbreak, betrayal and a battle scene.”

There will also be puppets from Puppet Club & Street Creature Puppets, plus interpretive dance and burlesque from Tribe Dance & Pole studio. Daydream Creatures will play two sets of music spelled by an intermission during which local medieval rave band Grendel’s Mother will perform.

Another reason for the celebration, says Korn, is a sense of stability within Daydream Creatures. When Korn and Carty started collaborating, the two passed an acoustic guitar back and forth. Their sound was folky, though they wanted to rock. Randle, who plays electric guitar, joined in 2015 and convinced Korn and Carty to take up the bass; the two co-founders still take turns singing lead. The new configuration necessitated a drummer. A.J. Donahue came to the group through a Craigslist ad — “We joke about, ‘Who else would put up with this gaggle of girls and costumes and talking?’” Korn says with a laugh. The most recent addition is multi-instrumentalist Jeff Mettee, who also performs with Donahue in the indie-rock project Glass Bricks.

In fact, Donahue and Mettee go along willingly with the band’s penchant for elaborate onstage outfits. Earlier in the collective’s history, the three frontwomen did coordinate their attire for performances (“Like Destiny’s Child-style,” Korn notes), but it was for a 2016 valentine’s show at Isis Music Hall that Randle insisted on head-to-toe matching costumes.

“Our current thing is that the three women are matching and the guys are matching,” Randle says. “The dressing up makes it a lot less pressure, in some way.”

“It allows us to have a distance — a stage persona,” Korn explains. “But, of course, we never want to compromise the music.”

The elaborate outfits have included skeleton bodysuits, pastel wigs and ’60s girl-group-reminiscent dresses. Often, an element from one show’s costumes will be a jumping-off point for the next performance’s ensemble. Planning involves extensive text messages, intensive collaboration and a few pointed vetoes. Randle describes herself as “very anti-tutu,” while Korn points out that “the final costume is not something any one of us would have come up with [on our own].”

That whole-is-greater (or weirder)-than-the-sum-of-its-parts result describes not only the garb the musicians wear, the lush harmonies they sing and the intricate and cinematic songs they write but the very experience of being in a band.

“We’re pretty dedicated about meeting each week for band rehearsal,” says Randle. “We still love hanging out with each other all the time, even outside of rehearsal.”

“The band is my family here in Asheville and my best friends in the world,” Korn agrees. “This idea of having hard conversations … in order for this to continue, we have to be honest, we have to show each other respect and prioritize our friendship over the band.”

She continues, “The band wouldn’t exist if we didn’t all feel safe and comfortable. … And then you get up onstage and you’re vulnerable together, in front of people, and that’s exhilarating.”

WHAT: Daydream Creatures presents: An Interplanetary Evening
WHERE: Ambrose West, 312 Haywood Road, ambrosewest.com
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. $5 advance/$8 day of show

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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