Listening Party: They’ll Have Dreams’ Self-Titled Debut
They have big dreams and a big sound, bigger than you expect from a pair of PG County kids. Daniel and Luke Roberts, musicians since the age of five, cut their musical teeth in church and continued to play in church bands throughout college. But church wasn’t their only musical education. Their father performed in the band Soul Tattoo (and later Shadowlands); the Roberts brothers fell asleep as the noises of band practice wafted upstairs and acted as in-house roadies at their dad’s shows.
Daniel, now 27, went on to study Music Education at UMBC as a Linehan Scholar and is now the Director of Contemporary Music at Howard High School in Howard County. Luke, now 25, won an international songwriting competition in 2010 and makes music videos. They both write music and play multiple instruments in their band They’ll Have Dreams.
“No One Comes Home” opens their self-titled debut with a soaring Journey-like epic about a lost young couple who somehow find their way to each other again. “Doubt” rocks and shocks you, with shredding like an ’80s hair band. It’s also where their lyrics begin to strike you: ”I cannot know the answer / It’s only known by God.”
I asked the Roberts brothers about the strong religious element in their lyrics. They don’t identify as a Christian rock band, and cite Leonard Cohen and U2 for similar spiritual techniques. “We aren’t writing Christian songs.” Luke explained via email. “We use religious imagery to speak about other subjects, like living in the midst of doubt, being disturbed [by] the loneliness of the world … and choosing faith in a future together despite not knowing how we will build it.”
The Roberts have instrumental chops and passion, which come to play in the ambitious 18-minute epic “Babylon.” But the album’s shortest track is an “Epilogue” whose easygoing, bluesy tone shows the band in their best light.
It’s hard to be a band with a spiritual message and not have listeners impose assumed goals on you. The brothers acknowledge that challenge, but are perfectly comfortable in their own explanation. “We are about becoming a part of the Great Conversation by learning how to love and listen—regardless of pain, fear, or challenge.” Luke wrote. “We want it to have mattered that we were here.”
The band has a dense sound that would appear to be stifling in a live setting, but in concert, they use Ableton Live to play and record multiple instruments. “Our goal at every show is play everything you hear completely live.” they said, despite the fact that there are only two musicians onstage. Which, despite at first seeming cumbersome, makes perfect sense; who needs a backing band when you can share the stage with your brother?
Review: They’ll Have Dreams
The debut eponymous album from They’ll Have Dreams is appropriately named – the listener is beckoned into surreal musical dreamscapes. The band’s avant-garde expression defies being pigeonholed into a category – but for those who need a “label” for reference, they’re closest to the prog/experimental-rock of, say, early Genesis, Clannad, ELP, Steve Vai, etc. (They’d fit right in at the annual Dragoncon Fest in Atlanta).
Based in Maryland, this multi-talented dynamic duo is comprised of brothers Daniel and Luke Roberts, who not only compose the mesmeric songs, but perform all the instruments themselves as well. This ethereal album tugs at the very heartstrings. This is Definitely a band to watch!!!
I love the guitar and keys in the desolate “No One Comes Home”, which at times is as full of despair as a lonely coyote howling at the moon; yet holds the promise of new beginnings. Fantastic bass and twangy guitars give great framework to the introspective and profound lyrics of “Doubt”.
An ‘80’s Rock Arena feel permeates “Lonely World”, heralding the downfall of the “Me” generation. “Babylon” – probably my favorite – has the ethereal haunting feel of a whale song as it lyrically searches for spiritual truths. (Seriously, there’s nothing as beautiful as hearing a whale in the wild, and this is very close!).
The instrumental “Walk To Freedom” features excellent, almost larger-than-life epic musicianship. The bittersweet “Tower” is another Crowgrrl favorite – it’s dreamy and chivalric. The untitled instrumental bonus track is short but sweet.
The Crowgrrl predicts a great future for this band!