Bay Area indie-pop singer/songwriter Mae Powell is announcing Both Ways Brighter, her debut album, out Aug. 20 via Park the Van Records. You can watch the video for lead single “Weird Dreams” down below, exclusively at Paste.
“Weird Dreams” is a soothing and surreal pop track, in which Powell does her best to make sense of her brain’s nocturnal ramblings. Over garbled acoustic guitar, gentle bossa nova percussion, lush strings and bleary lap steel accents, Powell recalls a literal flight of fancy (“On a plane from New York City / The plane crashes four or five or six times / The pilot says it’s ‘cus a stoner got a hold of the controller,” she croons) and connects her subconscious mind’s messaging to The Discourse, each as much an impediment to understanding as a means of achieving it: “Why are there two sides to everything / but no one’s in the middle? / Why am I stuck between overbearing / And way, way, way, way, way too subtle?”
Powell tells Paste of the inspiration for “Weird Dreams”:
I’ve always had super vivid dreams and usually remember 2-3 dreams every morning. I want to make a habit of writing them down because I do believe that the subconscious has things to tell us (there are, however, some dreams I just really don’t think are meant to be deciphered.) I woke up one afternoon from a realllyyy anxiety-fueled stress nap. I had such a weird dream and it brought up all of these emotions regarding my partner at the time and my current state of mental health. I sat down on a chair in a patch of sunlight in my living room and this song just flowed out of me in one session. Felt good to get it out, and now I know I’m not the only one with weird dreams :) This song was my favorite one to record with Jason Kick because it was just a collaboration on weirdness. There are a lot of tiny samples in there from his huge archive and Garrett Barley on lap steel kind of adding to the confusion of the whole thing. It ended up kind of feeling like a strange, stoned, sideways tropical paradise to me.
The “Weird Dreams” video, meanwhile, opens with Powell doing what else but waking up, her imagination’s overnight activities still echoing in her head. Soon enough, we cut to Joshua Tree, California’s famed mystic desert, where Powell performs the song and dances on hilltops with her band. All of the above is interspersed with uncanny dream scenes, in which Powell’s bandmates play things that aren’t instruments, and attempt to serve her things that aren’t food.
Powell added of the video:
The stars aligned last year when we filmed the video for Weird Dreams in Joshua Tree. We rented a groovy house in the middle of the desert and stayed there for a few days playing music, painting, and going on psychedelic adventures. My friend Tori (drummer of The Breathing Room) had just got her hands on a super 8 camera and was the one who filmed, directed and edited the whole thing.
When we got to Joshua Tree, our initial plan was to film the video for a different, shorter song on the album because we only had so much film. But the morning of the shoot, Tori came up to me after dreaming all night in the desert and was like—”I have a vision! We have to do Weird Dreams. Here’s what’s gonna happen.” So we embarked with a crew just consisting of our friends who pitched in by following me around with a bluetooth speaker playing the song, blowing bubbles, tossing ideas around, and running and grabbing beers from the house. We had the best day dressing up and executing Tori’s ideas, just dancing around the desert.
This is my first music video and it was so special to be able to make it happen with friends. The energy was so loving and magical and I think you can tell that I have a lot of love for the person behind the camera and everyone who was involved on that day. It translates into something that feels like a really special capsule of friendship. I’m stoked to share this with the world and hopefully inspire people to get weird in the desert with their friends.
Powell is accompanied on Both Ways Brighter by bassist Mayya Feygina, drummer Sam Jones, guitarist Spencer Owings and lap steel player Garrett Barley. The band started work on the album in the Before Time, i.e., 2018, before COVID sent them into isolation and elongated the recording process. They finished it out with help from producer Jason Kick, embracing lockdown’s elasticity of time and leaning into experimentation.
Though “Weird Dreams” is the lead single from Both Ways Brighter, we’ve heard one other track from the record so far: Powell shared “Fuck I.C.E.” in March, a forceful jangle-pop track in which she declares, “No one is free until we’re all free.” Some of that same political consciousness bleeds into “Weird Dreams,” but Powell’s new track finds her in a higher gear, showing off her sense of humor and backing that playful surreality up with instrumentation meticulously calibrated to evoke what she called its “strange, stoned, sideways tropical paradise.”
Watch Powell’s “Weird Dreams” video below and find the details of Both Ways Brighter further down.
Both Ways Brighter Tracklist:
01. Light Beam
02. Let’s Talk
03. Rainbow Sweater
04. Weird Dreams
05. Magick Love
06. We Are The Ones
08. Scratch n Sniff
09. Yellow Flower
10. Fuck I.C.E.
11. Let The Flowers Die
13. Between a Pillow and a Soft Space
Both Ways Brighter Album Art: