Dream State‘s CJ Gilpin has spoken of how her journey from addiction and self-hate helped to inform their debut album ‘Primrose Path’.
The band found themselves going viral with the single ‘White Lies’ in 2017, and were soon signed to UNFD (the home of Architects, Beartooth and Frank Iero) and found themselves playing big stages Download and Reading & Leeds Festivals. Now, after a lot of soul-searching, self-reflection and belief, Dream State have released their debut album ‘Primrose Path’.
CJ Gilpin spoke to NME about their adventure into the unknown as they bring theatrics, flair and electronics into their world of resilient hope on the record.
“We stand for strength and hope,” Gilpin told NME. “We stand up for the people that feel alone. We want to erase the stigma behind mental health. We’re still discovering what this band means though. It’s only the beginning for us. We’re about to go into the unknown and I have no idea where that’s going to take us.”
It feels like ‘White Lies’ is when the band properly started. What inspired that song?
“Just my own personal experiences. Before that song, I was avoiding my demons in my writing. When you’re caught up in an addiction, the last thing you want to do is quit. The second I started putting my problems on paper and started being real with myself, that was the beginning of my recovery.”
And was there a moment that made you want to confront your addiction and talk about it in song?
“I’d just had enough of myself. When you’re stuck in something like that, you’re in denial a lot of the time. I was just sick of myself. I realised I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore, so why am I still doing this? I just needed to get it out and music is such a magical tool for me. It’s so cathartic as a way of expression and everyone needs that. Everyone needs a release.”
Did you know that song was special when you were writing it?
“Yeah. Even when I wrote the line ‘I think I lost half my mind fighting my addiction’, it felt different. I’d never put myself out there like that before and I knew there was no turning back.“
That song opened a lot of doors for the band. How was everything that followed?
“The past two years have been so non-stop, I haven’t had a chance to pause and breathe but it’s been awesome. It all happened really quickly. It definitely felt like the start of something and we weren’t wrong. We haven’t looked back since. The album’s out now but we’re not going to stop.”
“When you’re caught up in an addiction, the last thing you want to do is quit”
How was the writing for ‘Primrose Path’?
“It was one of the most stressful experiences in the world. Because of ‘White Lies’ and the EP, everyone was suddenly looking at us. We released the EP in May 2018, and the label wanted to release the album in October. ‘Are you fucking serious?’ It didn’t give us a lot of time. We were stressed, on tour and working jobs, trying to live. Writing an album just wasn’t happening. We had to tell the label ‘We don’t know what to tell you, the songs aren’t ready’. Now though, we couldn’t be happier with the album and we’re glad we took our time with it.”
Was there a vision for the record going in?
“I’ve always wanted to help people, and I’m not happy unless the world’s happy. I knew when I was writing this album, a lot of the songs were an outstretched hand to the listener. That’s who I am. I wanted the songs to be about my experiences. I wanted them to be full of truth and reality. There’s nothing made up, it’s all real.”
“I knew when I was writing this album, a lot of the songs were an outstretched hand to the listener.”
And did you know what you wanted to say with it?
“I want to push how important expressing yourself is. I want people to know it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to scream and it’s OK to be a bit of bitch at times. It’s important to recognise your shadow side and give it as much love as possible, because that’s the part that needs the most love. I want to encourage people to keep wearing their feelings on their sleeve and never bottle it up.”
What inspired ‘Are You Ready To Live’?
“I wanted to talk to the person who didn’t have anyone. I know they’re out there because there have been times where I’ve felt completely alone. We’ve all experienced that moment where we’ve closed a bedroom door, and realised that we’re alone in our own heads. We’re all in this together but really, this is your journey. You’ve got to figure this out for yourself because you can’t spend forever in that dark place. There’s only one way that goes. You’ve got to drop the pain, face it, find the thing that you love and let that consume you. Do it to death.“
“With Dream State, it’s about finding meaning in the suffering”
Did music ever help you feel less alone?
“Yes. Linkin Park’s ‘Crawlin’’ was a big one for me. That was the first time I heard someone that knew what it felt like to feel stuck. It felt like they knew what I was going through. I want to do that for the next generation. ‘Hybrid Theory’ was our main reference point for ‘Primrose Path’. With Linkin Park, there was a lot of pain and not a lot of hope – but with Dream State, it’s about finding meaning in the suffering.”
There’s definitely a sense of self-empowerment on the album
“I know when people hit rock bottom, they feel like life’s over. I’ve been there and it can be so overwhelming. I hope that people listening to our music can feel like they can still get out of it. There’s still hope.”
How are you finding talking about your struggles outside of the music?
“When I first started, I didn’t talk much about it because I was too afraid. The addict was fighting back and there was this pressure to be a role model but I’m taking everyday as it comes and it’s getting easier. It’s very liberating to be honest and there’s so much power in that. With addiction, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. People are loving and accepting. The more I talk about it, the easier it gets and the stronger I feel. I’ve been getting stronger every year.”
“With addiction, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. People are loving and accepting.”
Why do you think there are so many people who can relate to what you’ve gone through?
“There are set standards in society, the news is scary, we’ve got an idea about what perfection looks like and there’s a pressure to succeed. People start to feel lost or isolated. We don’t even know why we exist. But we’re all the same deep down. Everyone, in some way, is suffering, hurting or is going through something in their life. I don’t think anyone’s life experience is peaceful. I think peace is an illusion. There’s always some sort of pain and we’re brave to even live.”
Where does the hope on the record come from?
“I deliberately tell people everything about me so they can see no matter how bad it gets, you can still carry on. When I was 14, I was having a really shit time and I was taken out of school. Suddenly I had nothing and I remember being angry and upset that all these people had been giving me shit. I decided I wasn’t going to let this ruin my life and that I needed to make something of myself. I’ve always just had this fight in me. I always had hope. I believe in the power of manifestation and having full belief in yourself because without it, you’re not going to fare so well. You need to find a way to believe in yourself.”
“The people that thrive are the ones that aren’t afraid to love themselves”
And the self love? What inspired that?
“When I was at uni, I’d wake up with a hangover, or after I’d smoked too much or taken fuck knows, and I’d feel so guilty. I told myself I was useless and I was shit so much, I started believing it. But you can’t be too hard on yourself. With the help of friends, I started telling myself that I loved myself. The more I kept practicing these little love rituals, the more the addiction started to fall away and the more my problems started to fall away. Any problems we have can be linked to a lack of self-love. Everyone hates themselves in a way. The people that thrive are the ones that aren’t afraid to love themselves. It’s not easy and it took a lot of suffering to get to this point but that’s the good thing about suffering, you learn from it.”
Why is rock music your vessel for expression?
“Rock music really reflects how life can get. It can get turbulent, it can get heavy, it can get painful and you’re going to scream. People need that so they can face that side of their emotions.”
‘Primrose Path’ by Dream State is out now. The band are currently on a UK and European tour. Visit here for tickets and more information.
For help and advice on mental health:
- ‘Am I depressed?‘ – Help and advice on mental health and what to do next
- Help Musicians UK – Around the clock mental health support and advice for musicians
- Music Support Org – Help and support for musicians struggling with alcoholism, addiction, or mental health issues
- YOUNG MINDS – The voice for young people’s health and wellbeing
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably for young men
- Time To Change – Let’s end mental health discrimination
- The Samaritans – Confidential support 24 hours a day