Bleed the Dream survives to carve their
name in stardom
By Naughty Mickie
Southern California- based nu punk rockers Bleed the Dream have managed to overcome more than their share of difficulties and come out shining on the recent Warped Tour, while garnering a plethora of new fans. The group, vocalist Brandon Thomas, guitarist Dave Aguilera and vocalist/bassist Keith Thompson saw the release of their effort, "Built by Blood" (Warcon Records), and their tour schedule with sadness, as in April, their drummer Scott Gottlieb passed away from health issues related to his fight against leukemia. Aaron Edmunds stepped in on percussion for Warped Tour and did so with grace, not trying to fill the vacant position, but instead honoring his predecessor.
But for my story, we need to step back to just a few weeks prior to Bleed the Dream's stop in Southern California. I caught up with Thompson, who was on the road and enjoying every moment of it.
"I moved to Los Angeles about three years ago from Baltimore," Thompson begins. "Baltimore, Maryland, the wonderful one and only. And I joined this band and Dave Aguilera happened to be in that band. It was going really good. It was one of those bands that was promised the world, like 'Go get a record deal;' 'Come out to Los Angeles.' So I came out and it was cool, things were moving along and Scott joined the band.
"We found ourselves coming to practice early and staying late and writing our own music." Thompson continues, "The thing started as a three-piece side project and luckily, the singer that was in the band that we were all in together, totally flaked and went back to Jacksonville, which was actually a blessing in disguise. At the time it was, 'Oh, it was kind of mean and all that,' but come to find that it would actually work out.
"So Scott, Dave and I just continued to write music and I was going to sing for the whole project. I had my friend Brandon come out just to hang out and check out some projects and he heard what I was working on and he really liked it. He just stayed," Thompson goes on. "I went back to Baltimore and snatched him up and now we're here and everything's been moving pretty fast. We've only been a band just over two years. We just gave it our all from the very beginning."
I ask Thompson about his childhood.
"My whole family, every generation of my family there's one or two who have been into music and played a lot of different instruments. My grandmother actually sings on our first EP, she sings on the last track," Thompson bubbles. "When I was a kid, I used to tape her singing acapella and I have all these tapes of her singing to me when I was a child. I brought a tape in when we were doing our first EP and we dubbed it in to mesh with the whole record and it came out so cool. When we were in Baltimore, we went to the house and filmed her singing and that's on our DVD as well. It's something cool I wanted to do. She had an opportunity to come to California and be an artist, but she decided to stay home and raise a family. In a way, I think I owed it to her.
"I was building drum kits at the age of six out of pots and pans and spoons. I got my first guitar when I was nine, I got my first bass when I was 11. My parents have been sneaking me into bars and clubs since I was 10, in the back," Thompson recalls. "I've been in a band since the day I started playing. They would take me to clubs and bars and sneak me in the back and I would play the set and I would leave. My whole family's been so unbelievably supportive, it's been so awesome.
"Really early on, they used to take me to concerts." Thompson laughs, "I saw Bon Jovi when I was eight years old. It was my first show ever. I saw Bon Jovi in New Jersey on the 'Slippery When Wet' tour and I was flipping out. I knew right then that this was it, man."
Thompson attended junior college briefly studying music and art and like, many musicians, he's had his share of day jobs too.
"I managed a CD store in Baltimore for a couple years for a little chain in Maryland. That was probably the coolest job I ever had in my life." Thompson boasts, "I got free concert tickets, I got to push the music that I like. I was in charge of the whole store and it was the coolest thing. I could put all my favorite bands up on the wall. Make sure everything was stocked. It was fun.
"I grew up middle class, I've always been working since I was 14." Thompson goes on, "I've worked in crab shacks in Baltimore and had tons of weird jobs. I've worked with my father. When I moved to California I put 100 percent of all my efforts into music. It's been rough, but things pay off."
His hobbies are also like many artists.
"I like to be surrounded by people a lot so I like to hang out with my friends. Of course I like movies." Thompson says, "I'm still always surrounded by music, I have a couple of side projects that I'm writing with friends and I have my friends at the studio in Hollywood and I'll go there. So I'm always around music, I live and breathe in constantly."
I ask him to tell me how Bleed the Dream creates their material.
"We write a lot of different ways. Sometimes I bring a full song to the band and sometimes Dave will have a song. Usually we all get together, one of us will have an idea and we just go with it." Thompson pauses and then offers, "The music always comes first, for sure. Brandon writes 80 percent of the lyrics and I write the other 20. The first EP was half and half, it was split down the middle, but we both spend a lot of time singing so I think on the new record he had way more to do with the lyrical content."
Thompson often sings Thomas' lyrics, but for some vocalists this can be uncomfortable.
"It's cool," Thompson asserts. "The thing is with me, I have other projects. If you really write songs, you have to have other outlets. In our band everyone's a chef. In a lot of bands too many chefs in the kitchen will spoil the soup, but in our case, we take a step back and we go with everyone's idea."
On the road, Thompson gets a unique view of the music scene.
"I think the music scene is different everywhere. Every city, every town has their own music scene. In Canada it's been insane, the kids are so hungry and so stoked about it. It's been cool," Thompson says. "A lot of places in the Midwest, there's a lot of towns and places where a lot of the bands don't go and they don't get many shows. That's where the scene really thrives. There's always an amazing scene in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle. There's always something good going on pretty much everywhere it's just tough to find it."
We discuss how Southern California can be particularly tough, as the crowd is jaded by the influx of bands.
"We really only play Los Angeles if the tour we are on goes through it," Thompson admits. "Honestly, nothing against it, but everyone's seen it before, no one's impressed, the shows really aren't that fun. If you go down south and play Chain Reaction (in Anaheim), the concerts are pretty cool, but when you're playing in Hollywood at the Roxy and the Viper Room and the Troubadour and all those places, a lot of the people who come are either in the industry or they're musicians. They're not really in to participating or rocking out, they're just there hanging out."
The Internet has played a big part in helping Bleed the Dream's career.
"It's been everything," Thompson says of the Web. "We have a My Space page with over 20 thousand friends on it. I started the My Space thing and up until six-eight months ago I passed it on to a friend. I give her all the information and she does it because I can't even keep up with it. It's insane, there's so many kids from all over the place. A lot of the promoting we do, like Pure Volume and sites that really make bands. A lot of kids in these towns only know about your band because they went to Pure Volume searching around and that's how they find it."
Sometimes the hardest questions are the most revealing. The loss of Gottlieb is still fresh, yet I want to know if Bleed the Dream is doing anything special to honor or remember him when they take to the stage.
"We do that every night," Thompson replies. "We play a song called 'Broken Wings' which we wrote for him. We have to tell the story quickly. To be honest, it's still so fresh, it's not even real yet. There's a lot of things he wanted to do. He wanted to start a foundation for children with leukemia and we're getting that together. We're going to make a new video and it's going to be a lot to do with what we've been through the last 11 months. We have a video now, the first track on the album is called 'Legends Die' and that's going pretty cool. We're going to release another before Warped Tour and we have another video with Scott in it that we're going to release down the line. It turned out great, we just got it back the other day, it's for a song called 'Who's Killing Who.' He's in all these videos and he played on the record and that immortalizes him."
Bleed the Dream headlined a tour in Canada and then went down the West Coast with Emery.
"The Warped Tour's going to be real exciting. We're on the entire thing this year and that's going to be so cool. I think we'll have some pretty good momentum up, plus we get to travel in comfort this year, we're actually going to have a tour bus and that's going to be fun," Thompson almost brags.
"What's your favorite tour bus amenity?" I ponder.
"I don't really know because I've never toured in one. I'll have my little bunk and I can shut the world off." Thompson thinks back, "The van's funny. We hooked our van up so it's really comfortable and we don't travel with that many people. We only travel with one helper and pretty much do everything ourselves. Most of these bands travel with seven, eight, nine people and I wonder how they do it. We travel with five, six tops. We like to have our space."
I offer Thompson an opportunity to speak his mind.
"I've just been shocked with all the attention we've been getting lately and really about what happened with Scott. We're getting all these people who either have leukemia or know someone or lost someone or whatever the situation, we're connecting with this audience that's pretty amazing. It's the real thing, it's genuine. I'm just happy to let all those people know that they're not alone and we're just going to continue on because that's what Scott would want us to do, that was one of the last things he told us." Thompson ends, "We're going to continue to do this for him and ourselves and put some kind of scar on the face of rock."
Find out where Bleed the Dream is now and learn more about their stronghold on success at www.bleedthedream.com
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