There are two sides to Chris Keene. When on stage, the Mean Creek singer/guitarist is an impassioned madman, belting out lyrics, chords, and messages of hope and positivity. Off the stage, he’s quiet, unassuming, and chill as fuck. The latter side seems to be coming through on Keene’s new solo project, Dream Generation, which just released a video for “The Spirit Of America.”
Keene says the stripped-down, acoustic song is drawn from the world around him and the stories of regular people.
“Inspiration comes from the strangest places,” he tells Vanyaland. “I was sitting in traffic one day and noticed the slogan on the Massachusetts license plate in front of me. It read, ‘The Spirit Of America.’ I had probably seen that slogan a thousand times before and never thought much of it, but suddenly it was exactly what I was looking for. I was working multiple jobs at the time, but the money was never enough. I eventually had to move out of the state because I couldn’t afford to live here anymore. All I could think about at the time was the vast difference between the ‘American Dream’ we are all brought up hearing about, and the American reality. How most of the time they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum.”
He adds: “Most of us are so focused on just trying to get by that we don’t have the time or energy to see what’s wrong with the bigger picture. I wanted to write about that because it was what I was experiencing, and it was affecting my life in a large way. ‘The Spirit Of America’ struck me as the perfect title for it, and I took it from there.”
The one song grew into an album’s worth of material, and musically it’s a far cry from the collection of rock and roll bangers Mean Creek released earlier this year in the shape of the Local Losers LP.
“They were storytelling songs,” he says. “Simple and bare boned.”
In 2011, Mean Creek would record a Sleepover Show with Ribera, and three years later the two would find a common vision in the video for “The Spirit Of America.” “One filmmaker he referenced to me before shooting was Terrence Malick, who happened to be one of my favorites too, and I could totally see that style working well,” Keene says. “Rob very much succeeded in getting what he wanted, eloquently capturing simplistic beauty. It’s just the right accompanying visual for the music and the subject matter.”
While the Dream Generation album doesn’t have a specific release date — a planned release party November 15 at New England Comics was cancelled due to permitting issues — “The Spirit Of America” is alive and well, and you can watch the video below.
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