Rachel Kiel Employs Dream Logic to Create “Late Night Drive” Video

Musician Rachel Kiel crouches in a powerful stance, surrounded by trees and wearing an orange pantsuit
Musician Rachel Kiel crouches in a powerful stance, surrounded by trees and wearing an orange pantsuit
Photo Credit: Shannon Kelly

The ghosts of your past selves live in your hometown. They linger in the same old spots as memories, not frozen but reverberating in time. The public pool you learned to swim in. The spot on the corner where you parked with your first boyfriend, necking into the wee hours of the morning. The backside of the local grocer, where strangers met to exchange money for weed. Childhood you, teenage you, college you. Wandering the streets with different aims altogether. Singer-songwriter Rachel Kiel’s latest single “Late Night Drive” delivers the haze of familiarity one feels driving home, no GPS needed, without a thought in your head.

It appears on her forthcoming album, Dream Logic, which started as a small seed years ago. “Dream Logic is just something that has been so much a part of my life, even since I was a little kid, all the way through my life,” Kiel explains. “It was an idea that it felt like it was the right time. I felt like I deserved it.”

The hypnagogic state is what your brain experiences between wakefulness and sleep. It’s a state of threshold consciousness in which one can find oneself hallucinating, lucid dreaming, stuck in a state of sleep paralysis, or in Kiel’s case: the place in which a song can be written. Throughout her life, she has found inspiration in this dream state. “That’s when the songs come, right when I’m waking up,” Kiel said. “I know this sounds like I’m crazy. But the songs come in this stage where you’re coming out of REM sleep. You’ve been in a dream, but now you’re waking up and you can, at that moment, access stuff from your dream. You can pull it from the dream world into the real world.”

“Late Night Drive,” in its essence, is very true to Kiel’s dream state inspiration. Its soft, translucent tone feels like peeling back the layers on something unclear. “Normally when a song starts for me, it’s like one little kernel of a melody, often with like a line or a rhythm that will sort of pop up and recur and I have to build the song around that little nugget,” Kiel says of her songwriting process. “Late Night Drive” feels like a person being pulled from a dream into reality, images moving from soft focus into clear. Light slowly filtering in, the senses trying to explain the extraordinary.

In the video reality and dream state meet as Kiel confronts a dark figure lurking in the back seat of her car. The video goes from a winding drive to a familiar place to an unnerving look down the rabbit’s hole. The back and forth, the interplay between the usual and the unusual, this is where Kiel truly shines. While the song fits into the album’s overall theme, Kiel’s approach on this track is delightfully straightforward, her voice modulating carefully while her guitar bends and curves with the road, the sounds reverberating against the windshield.

As a young girl, Kiel wanted to be a dream scientist. Growing up in North Carolina’s Chapel Hill, a college town perched somewhere between the mountains and the ocean, she was fascinated with the study of dreams. Her parents were academics – her father, an organizational psychologist, her mother, a former Slavic Languages graduate turned author – with a deep love for music. “It was my parent’s record collection that got me into music,” Kiel says. “They had this incredible wall of hundreds of records and when I was a kid I just gravitated towards them.”

Kiel spent days on end exploring their vinyl collection, tap dancing to the vibrations of The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, Bonnie Raitt. Those early rock music inclinations helped balance her classical education (at school she learned the flute). At age 13, she began to play piano, banging out her teenage angst on one she’d inherited from her step-grandmother.

“Sometimes I’ve been jealous of people who like got in their first bands when they were twelve. They got their first electric guitar,” Kiel says. “And sometimes I frame this in my mind as a gender thing – if I were a boy I would have gotten my first guitar when I was ten. I would have been in this band in my garage. Instead I was playing flute and tap dancing.”

In her junior year of college, Kiel studied abroad in England and was eager to make up for lost time and start a band. She jokes that she papered her campus with fliers that read, “If you like Radiohead and you want to be in my band, I’m a singer and songwriter. You will be a guitarist or a drummer or a bass player. We will play songs by Radiohead.” But it wasn’t until Kiel returned to North Carolina that she discovered a community of like-minded musicians to work with. “I’m a townie,” she says with a laugh. “That’s what I’ve come to realize: I’m a townie for life.”

Semi-Formal was a “crunchy, Neil Young influenced” country rock band. In Attic Orchestra, a chamber orchestra group, Kiel played the banjo, flute, and tap danced. Small Lions bent more toward the pop indie sound Kiel gravitates towards nowadays. All three groups involved bandmate Patrick Dyer Wolf (Goodnight, Texas), but ultimately Kiel felt a strong pull toward solo work: “My songs feel so much like my vision. So even though it was fun to play gigs with a band and share songwriting credits and do all that stuff, when it comes to making records I really just wanted to make my own records at the end of the day. I really just wanted to be like: This is my statement for right now.”

After releasing her debut Table Manners in 2008 and sophomore LP Television Waltz in 2011, Kiel took some time following 2017’s Shot from a Cannon to recover from a vocal injury, and make room for a new project. “I worked on [Shot From A Cannon] when I was in this place of forward movement, really propulsion; wanting to do something or get out of a rut or be propelled,” Kiel says; once she’d gotten Shot From A Cannon “out of her system,” she felt herself returning to old themes, thoughts and journal entries that were written straight out of childhood. Her newest album is a mix of songs from throughout her career, pieced together under an umbrella: Dream Logic.

“I’ve been learning not to regret my trajectory of how I got to where I am, because it’s not wasted time,” she says about her music journey. “We’re in this society where you have to be wracking up things; there’s this feeling of, how many years did I waste not playing guitar or being in bands or whatever. But it’s like: No, I was living my life and becoming the person that I am.”

Kiel is currently focused on the release of Dream Logic – slated for October 23 – but is already dreaming up new ways to combine her love of tap, flute, and rock ‘n’ roll. She’s not sure what will inspire her this time around – she may draw from the dream state again – but, she says, “It’s just nice to feel that that’s available to me. That there’s some other something. That there’s something else I can get at, that’s different from my waking life brain.”

Follow Rachel Kiel on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates. 

PREMIERE: Loamlands Explores Southern Queer Roots on Lez Dance

Kym Register’s voice is familiar, the kind of husky twang you traditionally hear on old country records. While the medium of folk music is timeworn, the stories Register spins have a modern slant, as they speak from the perspective of a genderqueer musician living in North Carolina.

“We gotta love that’s so hard to define / Still gotta work and we have to be kind / What is it worth if I’m always on your mind?” Register croons in “Stage Coach,” the second song off Loamlands new LP. Lez Dance is full of music that needs a few turns to truly make its way into your soul; the songs are sweet and complex, dripping with tender, forlorn love. “Maureen” is the kind of sleepy tune that sticks to your bones after a few listens, with haunting lyrics that paint pictures of romance under an Appalachian moon. It’s the raw need, the helpless surrender to passion, that make song after song stand out.

We spoke to Kym about their writing process and how they define their sound. Listen to Lez Dance and read our full interview below.

AF: You grew up listening to your parents’ records, Fleetwood Mac becoming a touchstone later on in your career. What caused you to reject that music initially and what led you back to it?

KR: I think rejection of authority and the need to find my own identity – basically preteen puberty – made me reject that kind of music in the first place. And to be clear – my parents listened to a lot of pop country and a little classic rock. Growing up in the south, classic rock was just the music that defined southern and elder, two concepts that as I grow older I start to embrace rather than reject. This isn’t to say that the rejection wasn’t important, but it feels natural to work through the stigma that I had surrounding country and classic rock and for this particular record, Lez Dance, gay culture. I suppose not everyone goes through as much anti identity as this. I don’t want to assume that it is normal for someone to constantly need to be individual or different. But that is a facet of counter culture or subculture and I’m very into the weirdness and wildness that comes from those movements.

AF: Music seems to be in your family line. You play your grandad’s electric guitar and even use his amp! Are there any lessons you’ve learned from your family in terms of writing and performing?

KR: I’ve moved on a bit from my grandad’s amp and guitar – but still have them and write with them! Music has always been in my family – but not as creators necessarily. My mom can’t carry a tune – but sings loudly anyway. I don’t remember a lot about my dad but I do remember that he loved old soul / beach music. I never knew most of my family well – and never saw my grandad perform except in his house with some smokey old men. So I think what I learned about performing I learned from my queer community, open mics, friends, parking decks, elders that took me on tour from a young age. I got to play the Fillmore in San Francisco at age 27 with The Mountain Goats because John [Darnielle] met my band at the time and just wanted to hang out, liked our energy. He’s not much older that I, but that kind of elder really showed me the ropes of booking and performing. All of the conversations I’ve had with “elder” performers albeit in age or experience like Mirah, Mal Blum, Sadie Dupuis, Kimya Dawson, Sharron Van Etten, Katty Otto, Amelia Meath – I mean so many female and queer folks that are open about their experience in this field – that’s who has taught me. I’m ever grateful and indebted to the kindness that these people, who I’ve made friends with and many who have been open on the fly during a tour or short hang, have shown me over the years!

AF: How do you go about writing a song? Do you start with lyrics or is the melody the jumping off point?

KR: I just hole up in the studio and start writing. First comes the tune – then comes whatever words are on my mind. Then I analyze – what am I thinking about? That’s generally the process. For some of the more historical / storyline songs I submerse myself in news and knowledge about a story that is captivating first, then just open the gates later. I’ll edit and make sure that I’m not slinging my privilege or skewed perspective all over the place (hopefully), but it’s really free form!

AF: Loamlands is described in many ways online: folk, country, rock, punk. How do you define the band’s sound?

KR: Just like that! Influenced by Bonnie Raitt / Stevie Nicks / Prince / Kim Deal (who I have tattooed on my body) and rounded out by friendships and queer community.

AF: Your music encompasses personal experiences, a genderqueer perspective, life in the South. It’s a punk soundtrack if there ever was one. Do you ever feel pressure to represent, to accurately encompass, to be a strong voice for these often marginalized groups?

KR: Thank you for asking! No! I don’t… I recognize the privilege in making music. I can only represent my experience and tell stories that I hear from others. I hope to be able to help create space for those that want / need to tell their own stories though. That’s what I think my whiteness and economic privilege can do. And to tell stories that speak to people both in an out of the south about queerness that either they can relate to or that can help them relate to others.

AF: What albums do you currently have spinning at home? Any new artists we should check out?

KR: So many!  LIZZO all the time. Your Heart Breaks and Nana Grizol and anything off of Cruisin Records. That new Daughter of Swords and Molle Sarle (Alex’s and then Molly’s new project from Mountain Man). Always Flock of Dimes (Jenn from Wye Oak) and old school Des Ark! Team Dresch is reuniting so a lot of that right now. So much! Courtney Barnett! Solar Halos who just released a new record!

AF: Where can folks see ya’ll live? And what could someone expect from a Loamlands show?

KR: Well, it’s stripped down through the fall to promote this new record. But it’s always an adventure. I’m very ADD and can tell a story or ten in one, depending. So there is definitely rambling and always something awkward – which I live for!

We have a smattering of full band and solo shows and are looking to hop on some tours this fall and record another record so – stay tuned!

Loamlands’ new LP Lez Dance will be out 6/7 on Cruisin Records.

6/8 – Durham, NC @ North Star Church of the Arts *Record Release*
7/27 – Saxapahaw, NC @ Saxapahaw Summer Concert Series