The story of the album Vicious Dreams by Orlando punk trio Vicious Dreams has, like many albums with the unfortunate distinction of being released in 2020, been one of bittersweet highs and lows.
The band — Amanda Little (guitar/vocals), James Moudy (bass/vocals), Andrew Cabbage (drums) — finally had a full-length album under their studded belts after a series of 7" and cassette releases, and it's an impressive debut. Visually and sonically, it's the best summation of the band so far. The spooky artwork, an EC Comics-esque tableau of the Grim Reaper holding open an unfortunate's eyes towards a television set, rendered by Moudy, was in perfect alignment with the Halloween release date. The sound, on the other hand, is raw and furious, primal yet played with Ramones-y (an admitted influence) precision. The three recorded the songs with Josh Dobbs at his Danger Room Studios in 2019 and it was time well-spent.
"The music was a little simpler. A little faster," says Cabbage. "We just had fun with it."
Vicious Dreams was unleashed on the world on the trifecta of physical formats — vinyl, CD and cassette — by a cadre of labels from around the world like Brassneck Records, GC Records, No Time Records, Snubbed Records and Swamp Cabbage Records (the local imprint run by drummer Cabbage since 2009).
Vicious Dreams is the kind of record that's meant to be heard live, in a sweaty dive bar or DIY space. But there would be no shows, no nothing for the band last year. "We only started practicing a couple months ago, tops. We didn't see each other for a very long time," says Cabbage.
The best the band could do promo-wise for an album released in the middle of a pandemic shutdown was release the music video for "Bumper Cars," which, personally speaking, reminded us of what the alien concept of "fun" was last year.
The clip, filmed guerrilla-style by Giovanni Ruiz, showed the band taking in the sights of the fair circa February 2020, being tossed around by thrill rides, all smiles and close proximity.
"We were just like, 'How can we make this fun so that it's not going to feel daunting for us to shoot a music video?' So we invited our friend Giovanni to the fair with us and we're like, 'Hey can you take videos of us while we're on rides at the fair and having a good time?'" remembers Little.
This weekend their long period of inactivity ends, as Vicious Dreams (the band) holds a belated album release show for Vicious Dreams (the album) in the familiar stomping grounds of Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall with local troublemakers both familiar — Wet Nurse — and newer — Dougie Flesh & the Slashers — along for the ride. It's a chance to say hello to friends after a long absence and have a proper celebration.
"Once we were all vaccinated, we started practicing again, and then when we felt like we were getting comfortable, we were like, 'OK, now's the time to book a release show,'" says Cabbage.
"I have been playing shows with Wet Nurse since I was in my first band, so they hold a super-sentimental place in my heart. And also my first band played at Uncle Lou's so many times. It's a punk staple," says Little.
The band has even stashed aside some copies of the mostly sold-out colored vinyl as a bonus for locals. All editions have been selling much more briskly than the band ever imagined.
"Originally, because we couldn't have any tours lined up, I only pressed 300 copies of the LP. And we're basically sold out," says Cabbage. "So, it will be going to a second pressing pretty soon."
Vicious Dreams have been familiar faces on the punk circuit, both locally and nationally, since forming in 2015. Little and Moudy came from Tough Looks and drummer Cabbage was eager to fill in some free time as his other project, Caffiends, were at a temporary loose ends.
Originally a quartet, the remaining members decided to continue as a trio when the original guitarist left the band — with Little picking up the guitar.
"Andrew and James were really motivated to continue on with the band and we're all extremely close friends and we didn't want to lose that. So I was like, 'I can pick up the guitar and we can try this as a three-piece and see what happens,'" says Little. "Our songs changed a little bit. They got ... a little bit more raw, so we were able to write songs that had more of a tough edge for the LP. And once we started writing we just didn't really stop," says Little.
The band undertook several tours — the East Coast, Midwest, incursions into Puerto Rico and even Canada — not to mention booking shows locally before setting to work in earnest on their full-length. And after that, over a year of stasis.
Now things are coming back. (Well, maybe. Or maybe not. The members of Vicious Dreams are realistic about what's going on with the Delta variant in the state and the country.) So any band planning is all baby steps. "I miss touring," says Little. "But it's kind of a waiting game right now."
What you can safely bet on is that the band will soon be heading into the studio to record another full-length.
"We're going to be back in the studio in a couple months and recording our second album," says Cabbage. "It took awhile to get this record out, so we have another one almost ready to go."
They've had plenty of down time to write, with 16 songs written over the last year. So maybe being a recording project isn't all bad?
"We have really gotten to delve deeper into the songwriting, so I'm excited to see how people react to the new songs," says Little.
For now, Vicious Dreams return as a live band. For how long, who can say?