Santa Cruz has a thriving underground rock scene, but it usually only emerges onstage at the Blue Lagoon. Ryan Avellone hopes his heavy rock band Dreaming Ghosts can give it some more exposure with its Moe’s Alley gig this week, at which they’ll share the bill with fellow local groups BIGRIG and Return to Nagoya.
“I love the Blue Lagoon. It’s awesome. I think a lot of people might like rock music, but wouldn’t necessarily go there,” Avellone says. “Moe’s Alley is a bit more professional—a better sounding room. We’re just trying to give this grungy rock’n’ roll music a better canvas, so to speak.”
The show will celebrate the release of Dreaming Ghosts’ debut album Seven Citadels. The group started five years ago, but up until last year, it was a side project for Avellone, who played mandolin in Brothers Comatose for seven-and-a-half years. He left the band last spring, after a European tour.
Rather than making the show just about him, though, he’s highlighting the local rock scene. He and the other two bands shot some promo videos together, and have planned an encore performance at the end of the night where all three bands will share the stage.
The idea came to him as he was thinking about how his former bluegrass band came to have such a successful indie career.
“A lot of that has to do with [singer] Ben [Morrison]. His strong suit is self-promotion, creating community, and creating a group of people that want to keep seeing you. It’s definitely a weak link for me,” Allevone says.
Allevone joined Brothers Comatose in 2011, about a year and a half after the group formed. They played a Crepe Place show in 2010, opening for Allevone’s bluegrass band the Family Hogwash. He loved his time in the group, but he came to realize that his true passion was rock ’n’ roll.
“Deep in my heart of hearts, heavier rock music is more engrained in me. I grew up in Los Angeles listening to KROQ radio in the ’90s. Nirvana and Soundgarden, also classic Zeppelin and Sabbath. I found bluegrass later,” Allevone says.
One of the things that Allevone wanted to do before taking Dreaming Ghosts to the next level was record a proper album. This record, Seven Citadels, took him and his group a year to record. They tracked the drums and bass at the Compound in Ben Lomond in 2018, with Henry Chadwick engineering. They did the rest at Allevone’s home studio over most of 2019. It was finished and released digitally during the summer. He wanted to wait to give it a proper physical release.
It’s a heavy and loud album with meaty riffs, influenced by Sabbath and Queens of the Stones Age, and with sometime nerdy dramatic lyrics. The record follows the theme questioning what freewill is through abstract lyrics and stories. One song takes the extreme case of the Golden State Killer and asks if a serial killer ever has a choice in who they are.
“Free will is something I’m enamored with,” Allevone says. “From somebody being born as a little baby to eventually becoming a killer—what causes that? Is that ever in our control or not? Some part of their biology and their upbringing?”
Now that the album is out, and Allevone is no longer in Brothers, he wants to make 2020 all about Dreaming Ghosts.
“We all want to give this year a real 100% try. We’re not young kids just getting out. You almost have to be delusional to think that you can make it as a musician. In some sense, I’m delusional,” Allevone says. “The chances of succeeding with a large audience is slim. So this is a kickoff for us devoting a lot of time and energy, and seeing what happens in 2020.”