Dream Pop Duo Sungaze Honor Human Connection on Sophomore LP This Dream

Photo Credit: Dana Lentz

Sungaze makes a powerful return with their sophomore album, This Dream. The Cincinnati duo – comprised of husband and wife Ian Hilvert and Ivory Snow – combine cinematic swirls of shoegaze, psychedelic rock and dream pop on their new 8-song offering, released on Friday. Although it was created during 2020 – a year marked by feelings of isolation for many – This Dream is powered by hopefulness, unity in the human experience and the ways that togetherness prevails. 

“I had watched a few videos showing the people of Italy singing to each other from their balconies and found it really moving and beautiful,” Snow tells Audiofemme. “It got me thinking – even more than usual – about what it means to be a human being alive on this planet and what makes it worthwhile to be here. I think the answer is connection—to ourselves, the planet and each other.”

“I don’t know what the world will look like moving forward, but my hope is that it’s less divided, kinder and more loving,” she adds. “That’s always going to be my dream.”

Sungaze began as a four-piece band started by Hilvert, whose years of experience in a metal band shine through ever so slightly on This Dream. Snow joined Hilvert, drummer Tyler Mechlem and bassist Jimmy Rice as a temporary keyboardist, but soon grew into a fixture of the band in her own right. In 2019, the quartet released their debut album, Light in All of It

Now, as a solely husband-and-wife duo, Hilvert and Snow share vocal duties and benefit from their genre-blending influences. Here, Snow talked with Audiofemme about This Dream, the benefits and challenges of being a married couple as well as bandmates, what’s next for Sungaze and more. Read the full interview and stream This Dream below.

AF: Congratulations on releasing This Dream! What was your writing and recording process during quarantine like?

IS: Thank you! As far as recording goes, it actually wasn’t much different from our usual way of doing things—if anything, it was easier. We have a studio space about 10 minutes from our apartment where we do most of our tracking. A lot of other people use rooms in the building for various things and for most of 2020, it was a bit of a ghost town. Ian and I were really the only people there. It was nice to be able to record whenever the inspiration struck and to not have any distractions or other schedules to work around.

Writing was decently different—on the first album, it was mostly collaborative from start to finish, and this time, the collaboration really began in the recording stage. Ian was still working for the first half of 2020, so I had a lot of time to myself at home, and that’s where the bulk of the album was written—from our sunroom couch [laughing].

AF: Now that the album has been released in a post-quarantine world, have the meanings behind any of the songs inspired by or written at the peak of the pandemic changed to you in any way?

IS: I don’t think so! Most of the lyrical content is stuff we think and talk about all the time anyway. There’s really only one specific part that was directly influenced by the pandemic and it’s the section of “This Dream” that goes: “So uncertain/I stay open/To the changes of us/To the will to discover new/Ways of being and relating we/Are not bound by the tides of this time.”

AF: This is also your first album as a duo, as Sungaze was previously a four-person band. How has that changed your process?

IS: It’s definitely opened doors for us to explore new sonic territory. Some of the first album was written in a similar fashion to this one, but a good chunk of those songs came about through jamming out ideas with our previous drummer, Tyler Mechlem. We feel a little less genre-bound this way and were able to work a little quicker, since we can pretty much head into the studio at any time and start recording without needing to make sure other members are on board with whatever we’re working on. I do miss having a full band, but it’s also been enjoyable to work in this stripped-down, more intimate way. It feels kind of sad and kind of freeing at the same time.

AF: What made you choose the title This Dream, and what role did dreams play in the making of this album?

IS: We chose the title shortly after the song “This Dream” was written, sort of on a whim. Some people have assumed we’re talking about sleep dreams, but the dream we’re talking about really has nothing to do with being asleep and everything to do with being awake. It’s the dream of people coming together, having what they need, being cared for and finding a stronger path forward that is more in sync with the planet we live on. It’s also a nod to our personal dreams and goals for this project: “Every dime I have in me/I’ll gamble on this dream.” Maybe someday we’ll share just how true that line ended up being. 

AF: What are some of the challenges and some of the benefits of being a husband-and-wife duo?

IS: The biggest challenge is it’s sometimes hard to compartmentalize the different sides of our relationship. When we’re working together, we do our best to be professional and objective, but sometimes feelings can get hurt and that can leak over a bit into our romantic life together. We’ve done a lot of work, over the last year especially, to separate the two. Also, lots of practice at being straight up and honest with each other, which is something I’ve tended to really struggle with in general because my least favorite thing in the world is disappointing people. 

Benefits – we’re very comfortable around one another and trust each other’s judgment. We know how to motivate and inspire each other, and we usually have a lot of fun while working on things together! 

Another big one is since we spend so much time together, we understand each other’s communication style very well and often just sort of know what the other is wanting. If I tell Ian that I’m hearing a specific guitar line, but I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it exactly, I can just give him a few words or a general feeling for direction and nine times out of 10, what he plays is exactly the thing I was hearing in my head. 

AF: Which instruments did you both play for this album, and were there any unique sounds/instruments featured on this album that you hadn’t used before? 

IS: Ian sang and played guitar, percussion, keys and bass, and I sang and played guitar and keys. Prior to this album I hadn’t written anything using guitar, so that was new for me. Besides that, there’s a squeaky sound towards the end of “Look Away” that almost sounds like a synth, but is actually the sound of my microphone rubbing against the pair of leggings I was wearing when I recorded my vocals for that track; it was initially an accident but we liked the way it sounded so we ended up adding in a few more.

AF: Are you planning to release any more videos in support of the album?

IS: We are working on a lyric video for “This Dream,” which will probably be out in a couple of weeks. 

AF: Do you have any shows coming up?

IS: We’ll be at the Hi-Fi in Indianapolis on October 29 to support our friends Fern Murphy for their album release, very excited for that! We may have a few local shows between now and then and are looking forward to eventually returning to touring.

AF: You recently signed with BMI to license your music for commercial and film use – are there any specific shows you’d love to see your music featured in? 

IS: It’s not a show, but I saw that there is a Legally Blonde 3 in the works and I would love to have “Body in the Mirror” on the soundtrack for that. Our favorite sorts of shows are usually in the coming-of-age, drama, fantasy or mystery categories, so pretty much anything that falls under any of those would be really neat—if it were fitting, having a song in Stranger Things would probably be at the top of the list. And if we could time travel, being a part of the Twin Peaks soundtrack would be a dream come true. 

Follow Sungaze on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

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