San Fermin and Thao Nguyen stay awake around “Dream Yourself Awake”
It all started with a phone call with singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen and Ellis Ludwig-Leone from San Fermin. Both had a desire to create something “lush and pretty” with textured vocal and string arrangements. Then, “Dream Yourself Awake” regenerated.
Part of the In This House series, curated by Ludwig-Leone and San Fermin co-founder Allen Tate under their Brooklyn, NY-based label Better Company, and his dedication to artist collaborations, “Dream Yourself Awake” has started off as a song and ended up as something completely different.
“I sent it [Nguyen] some options of different textures of strings and vocals, which she then took and processed on her own, and rearranged into this low-fi rhythm based on a loop of Allen’s voice, ”explains Ludwig-Leone, who has continued to dissect the trail, slowly unraveling something stranger in the trail.
“I took its stems and did the same thing again, cutting and changing the pitch of its bassline, playing with the harmony to make it more aggressive and unsettling, adding a bit of structure” , he said. “Then when Thao followed his voice, we really knew it was going in a different direction than the pretty and lush original idea. “
Then Nguyen finished the track by adding a big guitar riff, coupled with more “Frankenstein” hash from Ludwig-Leone. “What we got was exciting, dirtier and more experimental than we expected, but super fun and full of life,” says Ludwig-Leone, “a really collaborative process.”
Written and recorded in January, February and March 2021, “Dream Yourself Awake” provided the opportunity to create and dive into a fictional narrative for Nguyen, and was heavily inspired by the BBC thriller. Kill Eve.
“I appreciated the chance not to be so emotionally invested in writing the lyrics, and instead writing from a summoned character’s perspective,” Nguyen shares. “I drew a lot of inspiration from Kill Eve—I was watching the first season at the time – and I fell into writing the hitman’s point of view – a big pandemic escape hatch.
“Dream Yourself Awake” is a perfect moving piece in the In This House series of collaborations, which was conceptualized during one of the darkest and most isolated times of the pandemic.
“The In This House collaborations were a way to break out of this isolation and work with other artists that I know and admire, and to create a sense of community at a distance,” says Ludwig-Leone. “They also had the benefit of making me write in very different ways than I normally would.”
Ludwig-Leone adds: “’Dream Yourself Awake’ was a great example. Thao has such a strong sense of his voice as a songwriter, and it was fun being a part of shaping the world of songwriting, but also believing that we would end up in a surprising and useful place.