Interview With Dry Reef’s Patrick Gillen

Philadelphia band Dry Reef’s lead singer, Patrick Gillen chatted with Loud Hailer about the band’s new LP out a couple weeks ago.

Dry Reef released their debut album Daychange last week along with a music video for their single “Start It Up.” With 10 brand new tracks, the band’s sound of reggae, surf and rock combine to produce an album all about building positivity while facing the fears and stresses in the world today. They have one more show left on their current tour on October 26 at Triumph Brewery in Princeton, NJ.

LH: Many congrats on your new album Daychange! It is your first LP and reached number 31 on iTunes’ Alternative charts! How long was it in the making, and how does it feel getting it out for everyone to hear and enjoy?
Patrick: It is super exciting honestly. I think from the start of even writing, we started in the spring writing for it, and we were just excited for the whole thing. So I think the number one theme is just excitement. I think we kinda capture that feeling with the album. It feels like something that can live on too, which is fun. The writing process was like a month, and then went on another month to record it. We were kinda writing and recording at the same time. Recording took about 100 hours and then production took about 400 hours. We do all that. We like to be involved in all of it. The production stuff is a lot of late nights eating Chinese food and what not, but it is great, and it is what we live for.

LH: Where did you record the album?
Patrick: We record at this awesome spot. It is actually pretty new called Rittenhouse Soundworks. It is in Germantown and on Rittenhouse Street. We got connected through a couple people that we know, and they had us in for our last EP which was in 2017/2018. We were like “hey, can we come back?” And they were like “absolutely.” We mix there too and do all production there and lived there all summer really. It was awesome.

LH: Do you try out songs on family and friends to see their reactions as you’re writing songs?
Patrick: That’s a very good question. I think that would be a good idea for some bands, but we really like to turn off all input but our own because that’s all that matters. You can get really confused asking for people’s opinions because it is something you work on and put all your heart into it. A lot of times people don’t like it at first, or they don’t know how to explain how they feel about the song. We are all our biggest critics, and I think we knew that going into it, and we try to trust ourselves with the writing process, and it turns out people do like it.

LH: Your music is all about spreading positivity and facing fears and stress of young adults. What have been your biggest fears and stresses while adulting?
Patrick: It always has been there obliviously. You can go all the way back to we both grew up in the recession. We grew up in a time of extreme stress financially. That kind of carries through to college really. Until you get to college really, and there are jobs out there now, and the economy is good now. Right now I think for us we just care so much about this, and we care more than we ever thought we would honestly. It is such a cool thing to be following this and feeling called to something. That feeling is so real and then the fear comes okay from what if nobody likes it. What if it goes nowhere, and we have to stop. People do you know. People have to stop. The biggest fear there is can this be sustainable especially in today’s day and age with streaming and everything. I think the fear is really just about caring a lot about music and hoping that it doesn’t all just fade away.

LH: Your bandmates Collin, Charles and Joseph are friends from high school. How did you meet and create the band? What was it like performing in high school, and where did you play?
Patrick: That’s actually a hilarious story. Me and Collin met at a friend’s house and Collin actually gave me my first guitar lesson when I was about eleven years old. He was about two years ahead of me in guitar and taught me a bunch of songs, and it was the first time I met him. Since then we would always talk about music together, go to shows together and in the summertime people would have outdoor parties. We were freshmen in high school, and all four of us had learned our favorite songs, and they just so happened to be our friends’ favorite songs too. So we would just be having parties in the summer and play for them. We had so much fun. Eventually, we started making those cover songs our own. We started writing our own stuff and this happened. They all still come out to the shows too which is the best part. They aren’t tired of us yet.

LH: Tell me about the album artwork. What was the process I choosing that image? It looks like it fits in with the “Start It Up” music video.
Patrick: We actually met a super cool graphic artist at a show in Pittsburgh last spring, and he’s done posters for a lot of Pittsburgh shows and did posters for ALT-J. He has a cool resume, and so we hit him up. We threw him the album and said do whatever you want with the artwork. Believe it or not he didn’t even see the “Start It Up” video. He didn’t know the video was about a girl and a dog, and then he gives us the art work like are you kidding me? So it was like this is the right move, and it is all coming together.

LH: Let’s talk about your music video for “Start It Up.” It follows a dog who is roaming around looking for his lost human and goes to extremes like posting “Lost Human” signs and floating on a boat down the river. Where did the video idea come from?
Patrick: We had a lot of music videos of us, and we like adventures so a lot of our music videos were like let’s go on an adventure. So our buddy, the guy who does all of our videos, has done them since day one – just follow us and makes it look really awesome, and his name is Jared Hirsch. Him and Nelson Vicens are our two videographers. We had enough adventure so let’s come up with something a little funny, and we didn’t want to be in the video this time. We thought that would be really cool. Charles, our guitarist, said “picture this – a dog looking for his lost human.” We were like perfect, and we went with it. Jared and Nelson made it happen. It looked flawless in the video, but it is not easy to make it look like a dog is out looking for its’ human. We practice at our drummer’s house, Joey. We all became really close with his dog, Ghost. It is his dog in the video. We all have dogs, and we see how well-trained Ghost is so he was the obvious choice. He is a really, really well-trained dog.

LH: You released three singles from the new album before it came out – “The Wash,” “Start It Up” and “Come Away.” What was the process or thought behind choosing those three? Could more be coming now the album is out?
Patrick: Yeah, it honestly was pretty hard picking the singles. I think “Start It Up” was like the commercial for us. We wrote that song and were like we can base an album off this so that was a given. From then on, we were writing so many songs, and it was hard to pick which songs we wanted to put on the album. Then we started producing them all, and we had to pick which songs we wanted to release. I think what we decided was the songs that were most new to us and our fans were the ones we wanted to release as singles just to show people ok we’re trying really hard to get you something new, and we are exploring a lot. I think “Come Away” and “The Wash” and “Start It Up” started so completely different, and they take every angle of the album, and I think it worked out.

LH: I noticed some of your older songs like “Bus Stop Dreamer” have very strong reggae sounds and influences and then newer songs like “Car Keys” have more of the electric guitar and rock vibes. Did the music naturally evolve, or did you intentionally add other sounds?
Patrick: “Bus Stop Dreamer” we recorded when we were freshmen in college, and I think we just matured a lot in college just on our own. We all went to separate colleges. We all found our own paths and tastes. We started exploring new types of music, and I think to be honest it really did happened super naturally. For a while we weren’t even thinking about recording more music during college ‘cause we were busy. Every once in a while we’d come up with a new song, and it was a lot different than “Bus Stop Dreamer,” but I still like it. We always try to realize it is going to be a positive song no mater what, and no matter what people want to be on the beach listening to it so that is really out of our control at this point. We just kind of just go with it and trust that people will understand it how we understand it.

LH: Do you think you’ll release songs that didn’t make it onto the album?
Patrick: It is hard because some of them made it to the studio. Some of them made it to the production process. Then some we just have in our rehearsal space that we play with. It would be a process to bring all those unreleased ones out. It is hard to say right now. We have a lot we are happy with and playing. At the same time, we always want at least 50 percent of what we put out to be exactly at where we are now. I think it is really important. The world changes every single day at an extremely fast pace, and we want to capture the most recent moment as possible.

LH: You’ve opened up for Big Something and The Expendables on past tours. How did you get connected with them, and how was it?
Patrick: It kinda just happened honestly. It started in Philly. We have some friends that are in the scene in Philly for The Fillmore and The Foundry and Live Nation, and if they find a bill that they have a spot on they’ll submit us. We have a lot of people that help us out and push for us and that’s a really cool thing. So it is really organic stuff. They were like these guys need a support, and you’d fit well. That’s the coolest part seeing someone else be like “I’m going to do this for you guys. I want to see you guys open or Big Something or The Expendables.” That is really where it all comes together for us.

LH: Who is your dream band you’d want to open for or tour with?
Patrick: Absolutely Dr. Dog- the Philly guys. They are one of our biggest visionary influences, and I think their music kind of influences our songs as well. Just the Philly pride, and they are true to themselves too which is the most important part. They’ve been a band for a while and you see a lot of bands change their sound, try and do something new, but Dr. Dog is always just doing what they love and trusting that people will like them and still be there for them. We just really admire that.

LH: While on tour do you have time in each city to explore?
Patrick: People ask that all the time, and the answer is a hard no. It is so sad that we can’t, but there is so much driving and so much stress unfortunately getting there, getting set up and promoting the show. You really can’t explore the city. When we have a day or two off we do. We’ll go camping or hiking and try to see some cool stuff we heard about but for the most part it is a lot of work. The thing is too is like we are part of the city that night and that’s a cool thing. We go to a city we’ve never been to and people show up that haven’t seen us before. They might visit or might live there in the city and for that night we are part of their experience in that city. That is the coolest thing we have realized while on tour.

LH: What is your favorite song to perform live that you try and include in your setlists?
Patrick: I’m going to give you one off the album and that is “Another Day”- the closing track of the album and by far that was my guiding song from the writing process. It is a really big epic sound, and it kind of ties everything together in my opinion and has a lot of hope in that song.

LH: When you wrote the songs, how does it work with the band? Does someone take the lead, or is it a group effort of collaboration?
Patrick: Depends on the song and what the complexity of the song is. For this album it was a very kind of fluid between all four of us type of process. There were times I would write like “Start It Up.” There are a lot of songs that I wrote, and we played it, and it worked. A lot of other songs Joey would say, “I want to put this into this part in this song” and we say, “okay that works.” Then Charles says “how about this bridge?” Then Collin says, “how about this solo here.” It is the craziest thing when that happens, but it does, and it works out. At first the egos get involved and you’re like well I don’t know. By the time it is all finished this is the only way that the song could have sounded because we are honest with each other, and we just let it happen. So it is a very fluid process, and that is the best part of being of being in a band. The result is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a cliché but once you figure it out for yourself it makes a lot of sense.

LH: What is your favorite Philadelphia venue and why?
Patrick: The Fillmore is beautiful and honestly might be my favorite. I have seen some awesome bands there, but also honestly Union Transfer is by far my favorite. It is such a cool and natural sound in there with all the wood, and the two levels are really cool. They bring some stellar bands out to that spot. It feels so Philly too and a little bit like The Trocadero. I saw so many shows in middle school there The Troc and feels like a bigger version with high ceilings, wooden and a little bit dark and musty. But it all kind of works together.

LH: What was your most memorable concert you’ve been to? Who was it and what venue?
Patrick: My memorable concert, that’s going a way back. I’m going to give you one a little more recent. I saw Lotus at The Electric Factory that was just such a cool show for me, and it was the first time I saw a light show for a concert. It was honestly the first concert I have been to that was a hometown Philly band playing a show, and it all came together. I couldn’t get enough. I have seen them like ten times since. I just go and enjoy! They put on a production, and it is always different. It was impactful and is all instrumental. Even though we have lyrics and vocals in our songs, the instrumental thing has always been there, and we make sure it could be an instrumental song and still work, so we embody that instrumental importance.

LH: I’ve heard your songs on iHeartRadio’s Radio 104.5 during the Sunday New Music Discovery Show with Jammin’ Jessie. How was it hearing your song on your hometown station?
Patrick: We love Radio 104.5, and we are so grateful for their support. They’re a great radio station not just locally but nationally!

LH: Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the rest of your tour! Hope to see you guys live in the Philadelphia area soon!
Patrick: Thank you!!

Daychange is out now and can be heard here.

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About Shaun Luberski 4 Articles
Shaun lives and works in the Philadelphia area and has been shooting since she received her Barbie film camera as a child. As a Temple University grad, she fell in love with Philly and it's music and food scene. She loves alternative rock, pop and EDM artists and has traveled internationally for concerts to see her favorite artists!

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