Pearl Charles lives in the moment, seeking excitement whether it leads her down a dark, dusty road or into the arms of a trouble-making lover. Her full-length debut album, Sleepless Dreamer, describes late night revelry, love affairs, running away and running towards, serenading the sunrise through whirlwind stories of her native Los Angeles, the city, the canyon, the desert, and the road. On a quest to discover the truest version of herself, Charles embraces the feeling of not being settled, a person who always restlessly wants more from life and is willing chase it, wherever it may lead her.
Sleepless Dreamer finds her soulful, often sultry voice gliding through songs tinged with cosmic Americana, a little disco, some classic rock & roll, and a whole lot of that smooth AM gold. Passion, psychedelics and heartbreak inform the highs and lows she rides through the album. Finally able to see clearly through the smoke and mirrors of her surroundings, Charles departs on a consequent journey of questioning and soul-searching, eventually hitting the road in the inevitable search for answers.
As heard in the title track, themes of disillusionment and subsequent realization run through to the album. Examined through the lens of relationships, whether it be the one between her and a lover, a friend, a city, the road, the world, or perhaps most importantly, herself, each experiences helps to shape her developing perspective and worldview.
On “All The Boys,” she contemplates the cyclical nature of toxic attraction. Funky stand-out “Night Tides” looks at the illusion a person presents in the beginning of a romance, only to reveal their true colors once they’ve lured you in. She recognizes the pattern of being drawn to a tempting yet toxic muse over and over, but admits it fuels her creatively.
While many of the songs revolve around romance, they are juxtaposed with more existential/philosophical tracks like “Ghost” and “Only In America”, examining the meaning of life and what plagues her generation of disaffected youth.
Arriving January 2018 on Kanine Records, Sleepless Dreamer was produced and engineered by Kenny Woods (formerly of Beck) at the Haas Brothers studio in West Adams, CA. After working together on some covers for Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions series last summer, Charles knew Woods was the right person to collaborate with on her full-length album.
Enlisting an all-star band of friends, the album features the work of Father John Misty’s Chris Dixie Darley (guitar), Dan Bailey (drums), Eli Thompson (bass), and David Vandervelde (guitar), Darian Zahedi (guitar) of CRX, Connor “Catfish” Gallaher (pedal steel) of Calexico, Drew Erickson (keys) of Roger Waters, and Maxim Ludwig (guitar). Additional writing collaborators include Stephen McBean (Black Mountain), Jonathan Rice, Jonathan Tyler (Nikki Lane), Carrick Moore-Gerety, and Brian Harding.
Charles has been playing music since she was five years old. At 18, she formed country duo The Driftwood Singers with Christian Lee Hutson, singing and playing guitar and autoharp. At 22, she joined garage rock band The Blank Tapes as drummer. After two fun-filled years immersed in the rock and roll lifestyle, she decided it was time to pursue her own songwriting, and began developing the songs that formed 2015’s eponymous debut EP on Burger Records. Her music career has been a chronological progression from old time music to 60’s garage and psychedelia, and now more 70’s country rock and 80’s smooth rock. Drawn to catchy, poppy hooks and choruses, Charles draws on what she loves about each era while developing her unique style as a musician, singer, and songwriter.
Korey Dane grew up in Long Beach, California, as a skateboarder kid with a gearhead father and an English teacher mother and with a guitar he learned to love as he learned to play, letting a few inherited books and a handful of records lead him away from home and into the great American unknown. That’s where he found his last album Youngblood, born from months exploring and hitchhiking and putting songs together piece by piece, then presented as promise and potential to veteran producer and A&R man Tony Berg (X, Public Image Ltd.). He set up in Berg’s Zeitgeist Studios and with a crew of top-notch sessioneers—just like they used to do with the Wrecking Crew during L.A.’s golden age—he hammered Youngblood into something real, releasing it with Innovative Leisure in the fall of 2015.
Then smash-cut to September of 2016, with Dane coming off tour, a relationship about to crack in a half, and his 27th birthday about to hit, just like he’d predicted—unwittingly—in his song “Hard Times.” (The day before he started recording, he’d had a fortune teller tell him hard times were coming, but that was a waste of money—he already knew that.) He was left standing at the leading edge of his new album with … well, nothing ...but his songs and a beautiful room where he could record them. Oh, and 96 hours to get it all done.
So he got it done: he tapped a few close friends to back him and cut Chamber Girls almost completely live, searing instinct and experience direct to tape at L.A.’s analog time capsule Valentine Recording Studios. He produced everything himself, too, except for a quick assist from Berg on one a song, inspired by the deceptively simple ethos he’d internalized while making Youngblood: pursue greatness. “Writing a song that you know someone might skip over later is sacrilege,” he says. Instead, he wanted every song on Chamber Girls to feel not only live but alive, too, with that go-for-broke spirit that animates everything he says, does, or sings: “I’m writing all the time,” he says. “I’ve lived by a line a day sometimes. I try and stop when it’s good. If you try and simplify it down to its bare elements … it’s truly a redemptive act.”
That’s why he calls Chamber Girls—despite those hard times, or because of them—a celebration. “It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record”, he says. It’s got a lot in it, and “it talks about important shit,” he adds. And it does—it’s poetry at velocity, a trick that goes all the way back to Dylan and the Hawks. Opener “Half Asleep” is a Westerberg-style wake-up call (“Five, four, three, two, one, gone / I'm a cloud of smoke”) and from there it’s an album made from ash and fire, with a burner like “Hard Times” (and its swaggering Big Star guitar) only steps away from the smoky but stark “Always.” “Down In The Hole” is like Tom Waits back alley cabaret by Leonard Cohen’s deathless ladies’ man. Closer “Steady Forever” is a streak of light like the hungry young Springsteen, with lyrics hiding literature and a line that catches the spirit of the whole album: “Such a strange bell we’ve been ringing / Like rock n roll on a church organ.”
You can feel it everywhere on the album and you can see it on the album cover too, with the sunlight, the shadow, the eyes closed and the hand reaching out—it’s somewhere between an awakening, a resurrection and a last goodbye all at once, shot at that special half-there time of day that could be sunrise as easily as sunset. It’s a moment when possibility is endless, and when the past and the future and the hard times and good times find a perfect instant of sublime balance. Chamber Girls started as an ode to those who stay at home, Dane says, but you know how it goes: you can’t love your home if you don’t ever leave your home, and part of Chamber Girls is that mythic trip between the unknown and the known. In that very first second before he started this album, Dane was standing in the wreckage of everything he’d had planned for so long—but then he stepped through that studio door and made the record anyway. And in a way, Chamber Girls is the story of that step.