Sometimes you meet someone who has encyclopaedic knowledge of an interesting subject, and sometimes that person turns their knowledge into songs, and sometimes – very rarely – those songs are brilliant. That’s the deal with incredible South Australian rockers Bad//Dreems.
“Adelaide’s got a fascinating crime history,” says guitarist Alex Cameron. “There’s a reason why so many people buy crime books and watch documentaries about serial killers, because it’s part of us all, in a way.” Vocalist and guitarist Ben Marwe agrees: “I guess Alex’s fascination with South Australian murder stories has rubbed off onto me tenfold. Like all great rock and pop, it’s escapism. We all go to jobs during the day, and then there’s fantasy.”
The quartet’s debut album isn’t all Snowtown horror, but there’s a definite haunting thread about outsider-dom laced through the tracks on Dogs at Bay – the title of which, Cameron says, refers to music keeping the mental wolves from the door. New Boys is specifically about the titular Adelaide bikie gang (“They were founded by Vince Focarelli, who had been rejected from the Hell’s Angels, and the other gangs – the Comancheros, Bandidos, Hell’s Angels – have literally tried to kill him at least six times, including one incident in a crowded inner city café with 100 people”), while Naden depicts the story of murderer Malcolm Naden, who was on the run from police for seven years during the 2000s.
“Those lyrics [about his story] are mixed with some lyrics of Ben’s; basically just snapshots of his childhood in North Adelaide. It juxtaposes suburban Adelaide with this fantasy of a guy who’s like a modern day Ned Kelly.” Marwe adds: “The other interesting thing about the album, which I only realised in retrospect, is that the most common phrase in the lyrics is ‘alone.’ That’s part of being in Adelaide and part of my experience as an only child, and a person who’s a bit of a loner.” That mixing of small-town reality and horrific surreality is part of what sets these guys apart; Dogs At Bay is an astonishing mash of head and heart.
Dogs At Bay is available now Ivy League.