New York post-hardcore band I Can Dream have released a new single entitled “People Are Estranged.” The quartet’s last release, For What It’s Worth, was released in 2015. The raw production value kept the release gritty, unscrewing a capped lid on emotional catharsis. A few lineup changes later and a year of re-identifying the self, I Can Dream have provided a new track that is as thundering as their first release, polished with visceral emotion and eye-opening lyrics. The song begins with dissonant guitars twisting behind piercing vocals, meshed with a bellowing rhythm section and a general sense of chaos. The refrains provide a breath of melody, with the rest of the song snapping with urgency. There’s a reflective yet destructive pause with the lyrics, “no one to trust, everything’s been touched. Nothing changes but the fucking faces.” Needless to say, the track is charged with passion and bleeds with integrity.
New Noise Magazine is pleased to have the opportunity to premiere “People Are Estranged” and open the multi-layered faucet that encompass the ideas of the track with lyricist/vocalist/guitarist Peter Bruno. The singer opens up on the track’s creative identity, stating “I think my mindset was informed by not trying to merely critique the world around me and point the finger at others, but also to implicate myself within that same critique as a person who actively benefits at the expense of others, whether I am aware of it and doing my best to undo these privileges, or whether I am completely oblivious and self-centered in the process.”
The singer continued on the meaning of the song, “For this song in particular, the lyrics were inspired by the experience of scrolling through my social media timelines. In essence, through seeing the back and forth between reports of bombings and first world problems in real time. I was thinking about how we must hold two contradictory truths together. That is, at once it is both true that we are more connected than ever before in human history through the advent of the internet, but simultaneously, through supreme capitalist mass production, we are also as disconnected and alienated from that world as ever. There is a lot that we take for granted. While seeing may be believing, this fact does not always account for the limits of our perception, nor does it account for what we are seeing, and what we aren’t looking at. This song is an expression of feeling like you are stuck churning endlessly within a system that is inescapable, day after day, like gears turning on and on inside of a machine. It’s about recognizing that the world never seems to stop spinning and twisting those gears, even when it seems unthinkable to continue moving forward. If we are privileged enough to do so, we all find some forms of escapism to indulge in as a way to help forget about the hardships of our daily lives, but not everyone is afforded those same privileges. And while I understand the need for self-care, I also worry about when these forms of escapism override reality and become the main focus of our lives. There comes a point when one’s selfishness becomes complicit in the hardships and suffering of others. For example, how many Americans could tell you 10,000 obscure facts about sports, but couldn’t tell you how many countries we are actively bombing? I’m a firm believer that change doesn’t only happen at the macro level, but that it also starts with the everyday.”
I Can Dream also provided a graphic and emotionally intense music video for the song, with documented horrors escaping into the background of our every day lives.
We don’t have to be professional as shit, we can just chat, right?
I’d like to think we are both beyond the charade of professionalism in this context.
There have a lot of monsters in our society, wouldn’t you agree?
We do have a lot of monsters in our society, although they don’t always appear as such. They look just like everybody else. We may even be the monsters ourselves unwittingly.
How difficult is it to look in a mirror these days?
To look at oneself in the mirror honestly requires a great deal of discomfort. By absolute happenstance, I was born into a decent life in the United States, and not born into a war zone, for instance. This fact on its own does not require me to look into the mirror with absolute hatred nor disgust, as I did not choose to be born here any more than a person who was born into famine. However, it does require me to look at myself in the mirror and wonder, what am I not doing to help the person who was born into famine or a war zone, and what am I actively participating in that may be doing direct damage against said persons? In essence, it can be relatively easy to turn the other cheek and to look away. But beyond that, it’s much harder to ground yourself inbetween perhaps being both the oppressed and the oppressor, in different circumstances.
As someone that works with the youth, what is one thing you see taught often that should be changed?
As someone who works with young people in a variety of different contexts, perhaps one of my biggest worries has to do with what is taught implicitly rather than explicitly. It seems that, in large part at least, many adults do not actually listen to young people as if they have something to learn from them. On top of that, I rarely witness adults who treat young people as equals. Often, the only way adults communicate with younger students is through force or coercion. They yell and dish out punishments, rather than fostering an environment where students could thrive. Essentially, it becomes, “learn this…or else!” I would venture to guess that this is part of the reason why critical thinking tends to develop much later in a student’s life (if ever at all), rather than towards the beginning. In this sense, I think it’s always important to examine the “hidden curriculum” within any young person’s life.
What did you aim for with the music video for “People Are Estranged” ?
This video was difficult to create. First and foremost, I really did not want this video to appear as beautiful in any sense of the word. I did not edit any of the video clips, nor add any kinds of filters to flatten the images into one coherent vision, but rather, I wanted to keep it fragmented. In this same way, I tried to be mindful of not creating “tragedy porn,” nor framing the video in such a way as to elicit paternalistic sympathy and/or selfish empathy for capital “O” Others. In fact, I was attempting to do quite the opposite. I wanted to implicate the likely First World American viewer who is watching the video, which is why all of the video clips are flipped horizontally, as if to create a sort of mirror and reverse the gaze back onto the viewer. Moreover, the video clips are all purposefully not of my own making, and in fact, they are stolen and re-appropriated from the work of others to implicate myself and to bring the work full circle. In other words, I am not attempting to say, “look at all of you people watching this video who don’t care or aren’t doing enough to combat oppression,” but rather, to also implicate myself in the same privilege I am critiquing. The video is intended to be a reflection on distance, separation, and alienation in time and space, in order to disrupt the comfort of our daily lives, and bring to the forefront what people most often try to push into the backs of their minds.
Especially when it comes to how often we see mobile videos gather thousands of views on injustice, it’s interesting to see a video utilize all of this but still be considered ‘disturbing’ or ‘graphic’ in a different sense.
It’s fascinating that the video is read as particularly “disturbing,” in part because so much of the video pertains to what is normal for so many, that is, the daily experiences of injustice. However, it absolutely should feel disturbing to everyone. These things should not be okay or acceptable to see, and we should all feel an obligation to undo these structures and actors that keep them sustained and perpetuated. While I think that some people actively look away from these images, I also tend to think, perhaps naively, that a great many people have had little to no exposure to these images and have no idea of the magnitude and true scope of these problems, nor where they fit into them, both actively and passively.
And it’s so easy to just wipe away the injustice for many. How did working the video in with the lyrics feel, is there some sort of catharsis for a project like this?
I mean, I would much rather live in a world where I didn’t have to write a song like this. So in that sense, it is only cathartic insofar as it reaches one person and changes how they see the world, themselves, or inspires them to take action. Originally, I had planned on having the video clips appear within the lyrics for the song, or vice versa, but I quickly realized that it felt like I was telling their story, or further erasing their own narratives in the process, so I abandoned all imprints of my own words beyond the song’s appearance as a soundtrack. Finding and choosing what videos to include and what videos to exclude was a difficult process, because on some level, I can’t represent every single issue or injustice, nor give them the adequate time they deserve. Additionally, crafting the narrative felt like an impossible task, because I didn’t want to compare traumas, nor imply a linear relationship where one did not exist. Any piece of “art” will always have multiple meanings, and those meanings will change based on a variety of different factors. So to a certain extent, I don’t want to give the viewer one monolithic reading of the video, but I’d rather let the viewer find their own meanings for themselves.
View the music video below, which depicts a very real world snapshot of modern society. Bruno put it best, “realism requires a certain level of honesty, which requires a certain level of vulnerability, thus the conundrum.”