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Six Albums That Helped Us Make Dreamers On The Run: Guest Blog by Duglas T Stewart

BMX Bandits release their 12th studio album Dreamers On The Run on April 26th, their most ambitious musically so far. Chief Bandit Duglas T Stewart guides us through some of the records that inspired their latest offering.


Dreamers On The Run is an album I had been thinking about making for a long time. In 2014 I came up with the title and the idea of an album about dreamers on the run from the often harsh realities of modern life, looking for somewhere that they might belong and flourish. Until they found it, they would exist as much as possible in a world of dreams, music and art. BMX Bandits have always been musical outsiders and even after almost four decades of releasing music it still very much feels that way to me. To make it clear to you, I have to say I was always seen as “different” and often labelled “not quite right” but in my youth I was an outsider by choice. The arrogance of youth made me defiant and if my differences made me stand out to bullies and naysayers, I didn’t try to hide them in an attempt to fit in. I was a provocateur. That youthful defiance is now replaced with an acceptance that it’s just the way that I am. Dreamers On The Run was planned to be an album for outsiders by outsiders. In 2014 I started writing songs for it and even planning live shows. But then I got ill, in mind and body, and my plans for the album felt hopeless.

a group of people posing for the camera

BMX Bandits photo by Harrison Reid

Now it’s 2024 and Dreamers On The Run is no longer an unobtainable dream for me, it’s now a real album. I found the perfect collaborator for the project in Andrew Pattie, a gifted multi-instrumentalist, able to score arrangements for strings and vocals. Andrew had been playing guitar live with BMX Bandits for a number of years. We had collaborated harmoniously on the soundtrack for an independent feature film, the chiller, Dreaded Light. I saw Dreamers On The Run as being a bit like a soundtrack for an imagined movie and Andrew seemed like the perfect person to invite into the world of the album, to help me complete the project, bringing it to life, as a writer, musician, co-producer and arranger. Since lockdown and the escalating political turmoil of recent years it feels lots more people feel like outsiders, finding it difficult to navigate the real world. So maybe Dreamers On The Run delayed completion was a good thing. The record feels more timely now.

As well as discussing ideas, writing and recording, Andrew and I listened to a lot of music together, reference points for the worlds that we wanted to create on this album. There are so many that I could list but for now here are six albums that stand out as helping us along the way in creating our new BMX Bandits album Dreamers On The Run.

Harpers Bizarre: The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre (1968). Harpers Bizarre were an American vocal group of the late 1960s. Their producer Lenny Waronker worked with some of the best arrangers of the time like Nick DeCaro, Van Dyke Parks, and Perry Botkin Jr. to create an album where the tracks were like scenes in movies that would fade into each other and feature flashbacks of what had happened before. He would combine audio montage with lavish arrangements, melodic phrases, and sound effects. Waronker also used montage on Harpers Bizarre’s nostalgic Anything Goes album, Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle and The Everly Brothers’, also nostalgic, album Roots but The Secret Life was the most extreme example. The way this album flows. Its beautiful arrangements and the use of sound effects inspired us.

The Electric Prunes: Release Of An Oath (1968) For those who only know The Electric Prunes from their two psychedelic American hits, ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’ and ‘Get Me To The World On Time’, this album may sound like a completely different group, and it is. Their manager owned the name The Electric Prunes and despite their hit making pedigree when he discovered the band didn’t have the chops to perform their new direction created by composer and arranger David Axelrod, he formed a new band. Wrecking Crew legends Carol Kaye and Earl Palmer were brought in as the rhythm section for this album. Axelrod had already brought his distinctive angular arranging style to albums for  ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ star David McCallum and on this album, he took his signature sound further. Andrew identified Axelrod early on in our discussions as how we wanted the strings on much of our album to sound.

Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star (1973) Todd Rundgren’s fourth album followed three albums mostly full of wonderful pop classics very much in the mould of writers like Carole King and early Laura Nyro but for this album Todd wanted to do something different, less conventional and mind expanding. He was experimenting with drugs at the time. I have never been into recreational drugs or alcohol, I always felt I was “there” already without their assistance but despite this disconnect the album has always been a major favourite of mine. It was an album Andrew and I bonded over on long road trips to live shows. Like the Harpers Bizarre album, the tracks here roll into each other and there are musical flashbacks, but it doesn’t sound nostalgic. A Wizard, A True Star feels so unbelievably modern for 1973. It still feels bold, fearless, endlessly inventive, and untamed. Both Andrew and I wanted to bring that fearlessness to our album.

Frank Sinatra Conducts The Music Of Alec Wilder(originally released 1946, later expanded): On my song ‘The Things We Threw Away’ I worked with New York-based musician and arranger Jay Jay Lozano. Although Andrew and the other current Bandits appear on the track it started off as a collaborative project between Jay Jay and me. We arrived early on with the idea that the track would have an illustrative woodwind arrangement. We listened to so much music together analysing what we liked and discussing the emotional content of the arrangement that we wanted to create. We listened to arrangements for Al Bowlly by Ray Noble, arrangements by Frank Churchill of the songs that he wrote for early Disney films like Bambi and Dumbo. We listened to ‘The Heather On The Hill’ from Brigadoon, breaking down details of its heavenly arrangement in Vincente Minnelli’s movie. I introduced Jay Jay to Moondog, and he introduced me to this album from Frank Sinatra, as a conductor and not as a singer. The true star of the album is the compositions and arrangements of Alec Wilder, and this collection had a major impact on what we did.

Sofie Royer: Harlequin (2022) We aren’t just inspired by music of the past but thankfully there is new music that fires our musical passion and creativity. This album by singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Sofie Royer is an extreme example of a new album that excited me. I reckon it’s my favourite album of the 21st Century so far. Her songs made an instant connection with me and ever since its release I have listening over and over again. For me the songs on this album are as great as anything I have ever heard. I love a lot of music but there are some special records that feel like they become part of you. Discovering Sofie’s music helped fire up my own musical ambition and creativity for our album.

BMX Bandits: Dreaded Light o.s.t. (2022) Through the making of the soundtrack for the film of Dreaded Light Andrew and I developed a way of working together where we found a trust in each other’s instincts and creative ideas. On these recordings we often became like one creative mind. It was such a positive focus for us through difficult times. It became like another world we could go to where we could escape the real world for a while. We didn’t have much budget, so we had to come up with creative solutions together. I always remember the great songwriter and producer (and singer) Dan Penn saying to me that one problem with modern recording is when you have all of the solutions literally at your fingertips, with new technology, creativity goes out the window. It’s a bit like the musical equivalent of practical effects versus C.G.I. In movies, I know which I prefer. We carried on our sense of adventure and fearless creativity from Dreaded Light into Dreamers On The Run.






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