Bryan Porter sees life as an ongoing work in progress on “I Was a Victim of a Series of Accidents.”
The In a Daydream lead vocalist-guitarist candidly addresses the everyday challenges of recovering from addiction on the Detroit emo/indie-rock quintet’s latest single.
Alongside vulnerable synth and courageous electric guitar, bass and drums, Porter sings, “Yeah, I wanna say I’m all right today / But ‘clean’ feels like the wrong word to use / When it’s not just ‘what’ but ‘who’ you abuse.”
“I wanted this song to be the first one I put out after the last record, so I wanted to directly reference the last song on the last record. Toward the end of ‘Everything Hurt Beautifully (So It Goes),’ I sing, ‘I wanna say I’m alright today,’ and so I use those lyrics again in this song,” he said.
“The part where I say, ‘But ‘clean’ feels like the wrong word to use,’ means I’m not using drugs, like I’m technically clean, but that it doesn’t feel right still, and my work isn’t done.”
To learn more about In a Daydream’s strong work ethic, I chatted with Porter about his background, the band’s last full-length album, his road to recovery, the band’s latest single and their plans for the future.
Q: How did your musical journey start while growing up in Linden, Michigan?
A: Music came to me in sixth grade when we got to choose if we wanted to be in band as an extracurricular [activity]. I was like, “Oh, I can get out of a class and go to band class instead?” I played clarinet, and I got really good at it by eighth grade.
In seventh grade, I picked up guitar, and I was obsessed with it. I didn’t wanna practice clarinet, but I wish I would’ve stayed with it because I’d be a beast at clarinet right now.
Q: What artists inspired you while you were learning guitar?
A: My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Blink-182, early Fall Out Boy and Say Anything, which was a huge one. When I got into high school, I started writing songs freshman year in 2004. …Is a Real Boy came out around that time, and the song structure was so atypical and not verse-chorus-verse-chorus.
The biggest thing about our music is the dynamics and the song structure being nonlinear. That’s totally because I was into Say Anything, and it played right into my ADHD. The typical structure of a song doesn’t do anything for me.
Q: How did your musical journey progress with your friend Brad?
A: In its first iteration, In a Daydream started when I was 15. It was me and Brad, who’s still my best friend. He played drums, and we would just jam together.
We have an entire album that we wrote together, and I still think it’s really good. We still want to record it one day. We wrote it from our junior year of high school to our sophomore or junior year of college. We would just play together; we never really formed a band. We wanted to find people who could either learn [our songs] or wanted to learn them.
For whatever reason, it just never worked out. We kinda just stopped, and I didn’t play music for a while, but I still played guitar a decent amount.
Four years after college, I looked on craigslist for a band because Brad had started his career. I found a band, but they kicked me out after a while because [they thought] I was too controlling. I was taking over the band that I joined. I hosted a couple of shows at a friend’s house and started meeting people. I also started a podcast, and I met so many people that way.
Q: How did those first musical experiences lead to forming In a Daydream?
A: I was inspired after that band kicked me out. I was like, “I wrote a couple of these songs, and I’m taking them with me.” That band ended up breaking up anyway.
Then I thought, “I’m just gonna make an album.” I made the first In a Daydream record This Side of Purgatory, and I pretty much had it done. This was a year before its release; it was probably late 2019 or early 2020. I was in the late-stage mixing and early-stage mastering of it. I was sending those mixes to people who are all in bands that I met by interviewing them for the podcast.
I just pulled a band together; I have like three or four lead singers in my band. That’s what In a Daydream is now.
Q: Why did you name the band In a Daydream?
A: In a Daydream is just me thinking about being a musician. I would always be in a daydream about how cool like would be if I got to play music.
I came across [the name] in some Circa Survive lyrics, but they’re in a completely different context. I just thought it sounded cool. It kinda works with some of the atmospheric stuff that we do, and the sound wanders a lot.
There’s a lot of ADD-ness to it, and I think that’s similar to a daydream because it tends to wander. It’s an illogical pattern that ends up working. I thought of a lot of different band names, but nothing felt better than In a Daydream.
This Side of Purgatory
Q: Your album This Side of Purgatory provides a vulnerable and confessional journey through solitude, redemption, grief and recovery. How was writing and recording this album cathartic for you?
A: This was the “me” album, and things were set in motion from about 2012 on. My [other] best friend [Patrick Badgley] died when I was 22, and he had a Catholic funeral, but he was an atheist. It was the disagreement between those two things, and that’s what I tried to capture with the religious interludes where I changed the lyrics to be anti-religious.
I’m not anti-religious, but I wanted to capture that feeling of a disconnect between the religious ideologies and the world that was supposedly created by these religious deities. I just wanted to have that dissonance be apparent throughout the record. It’s not really a disavowal of religion, but it’s more like, “It doesn’t make sense to me, but I wish it did.”
That’s not what the record’s about, but that’s a theme, and it’s a mood I tried to set with it. It’s the grieving process of losing someone, and it was tough. In college, I got hooked on Adderall because it was prescribed for [my] ADHD. For a decade, I was in and out of battles with it. I’m good now; I don’t use it anymore.
When I was going through it … I looked at my own behavior and was really self-critical about it. I did some not-so-great things, and I hurt friends with some of that stuff. It was about trying to find a path to self-forgiveness while still struggling to reconcile with yourself and with life.
I try to write things that capture a host of emotions that relate to experiences that I’ve had. I write lyrics trying to capture a feeling rather than specific concepts, and then I try to interpret it the same as anyone else would. It was several years’ worth of experiences that culminated in those songs. It felt really good and final to get them down.
Q: The opening track “Darkness Deepens” and the closing track “Fast Falls the Eventide” capture the essence of the traditional Christian hymn “Abide With Me” by Henry Francis Lyte. Why did you decide to bookend the album with those tracks? What’s special to you about that hymn?
A: This was an idea that I had, and I was on YouTube listening to a bunch of different hymns. I thought it would be really cool to bookend it with a Christian hymn and change the lyrics. I picked that hymn because I liked the sound of it the most … it just felt right.
I felt like I could do the most with the hymn that I picked. It was important for me to set the backdrop of sounding just like a Christian hymn, but it’s someone who’s not convinced by the righteousness of it. It was more about just trying to capture that feeling.
Q: “Dear God (A Farce Rewritten as a Tragedy)” provides a haunting exploration of guilt and regret for a past mistake. How did this track become a plea for redemption for you?
A: A lot of times I write things after I don’t even feel it anymore. I wrote it making fun of myself in a way. It’s about when you just feel beyond redemption and when you feel like you’ve done something so bad that you just don’t know how to be better and you just can’t. You just feel so lonely, and you’re feeling so bad for yourself. The lyrics were written as a letter to God … I’m so terrible, just take me out of this world.
I titled it as “A Farce Rewritten as a Tragedy” as a joke on myself and as a way to say, “All of these things that you think are so awful, it’s really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.” Looking back in hindsight, it’s kind of like a comedy, and it’s a farce to think that was a tragedy.
And I was reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and one of the characters is a playwright. He’d been working on this play forever, and it was a tragedy, and it just wasn’t working for him. He just has this idea of “Oh my God, this isn’t a tragedy, it’s a farce.” It has the line “a tragedy rewritten as a farce,” and I was like, “Oh, that’s great,” so I just switched it around.
Q: “Narcissus Off Duty” reveals deep internal struggles about substance abuse and addiction. What was it like to address those challenges alongside references to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway?
A: That’s the title of a chapter in This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and that was his first novel. Since this is my first record, that’s why I called it This Side of Purgatory as the opposite of Paradise. Both of the singles “Narcissus Off Duty” and “The Romantic Egoist” were the titles of chapters from that book.
“Narcissus Off Duty” is like a narcissistic, egotistical person, but they’re feeling bad for themselves, and they’re not on their ego game. There’s a certain narcissism in that it would prompt someone to feel bad for themselves. I’ve been in those moods where you’re just overdramatizing everything, and you almost identify with your negativity. It’s like an identity trait to insist that you have it so bad.
The lyrics reflect someone in your life who’s trying to pull you out of it. The lyric, “Don’t pull a Hemingway,” is the other speaker on the song being like, “Don’t drink and drug yourself,” because you’re such a tortured artist. And the lyric, “The world breaks us all, anyway,” is a line from [Hemingway’s] A Farewell to Arms.
Q: How did F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise also inspire “The Romantic Egoist?”
A: This Side of Paradise is a good coming-of-age tale … the protagonist goes to Princeton and he’s super egotistical … and the [novel highlights the] way that manifests and changes over the years.
For me, “The Romantic Egoist” is about learning how to navigate relationships when you only love yourself. That was me looking back on a time when I wasn’t capable of loving anyone as nearly as I love myself, and I really wasn’t loving myself that much either.
I was still lonely enough to where I wanted to be with people and explore girls. I was so bad at it because I was so selfish in pretty harmless ways in hindsight. I think the lyrics in that song are probably the best ones I’ve done.
Q: “Everything Hurt Beautifully (So It Goes)” chronicles the grief that comes from a tragic loss and the painful journey of letting someone go. How did experiencing such a tragic loss inspire this track for you?
A: It’s the oldest song that I had written well before any of the others. I was playing it with my old band in a pretty similar structure. The way we play it now is the same structurally, but we added different instruments and melodic lines here and there.
It also ties back into the religious themes because I haven’t seen enough to really believe this force is a force for good, but you’re supposed to say that it is. You’re supposed to accept that God works in mysterious ways, and that there’s a reason for all of this, so [you should] just follow it and put your faith in it.
Q: What was it like to record the album with engineers Nick Diener and Tyler Floyd?
A: I hit Nick up, and he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I did most of the tracking there, but I did all the drums with Tyler. Nick mixed the whole thing, and then Tyler mastered it.
They were really good to work with … and I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew down to each track that I wanted bells here … and I wanted to double track guitars in certain spots. I also wanted acoustic layers and harmonies.
I did all the producer stuff, too, but I don’t know how to do pro-level sound engineering and pro-level mixing. Since I have a producer mindset … working with legit producers is really easy and fun. It’s like we’re on the same page most of the time.
I Was a Victim of a Series of Accidents
Q: How did writing and recording “I Was a Victim of a Series of Accidents” help you in your recovery process?
A: It’s like a lighthearted step forward as I address myself and say, “I’m so sorry for so much self-loathing.” I was so critical of myself and so unhappy with who I was, but I realized I’m not half-bad. I’m not man of the year or anything like that, and I have work to do.
I still feel pretty guilty for how I acted towards people. But you start to find real happiness when you put up your white flag, and it’s like, “OK demons, you win … it’s all good.”
I’m not a big AA person, but it’s like admitting you’re powerless. The freedom of being defeated is basically like … once you admit you have an actual problem, you’re free to explore. It’s a pretty straightforward song, but the goal was to show progress.
Q: How did engineer Tyler Floyd and In a Daydream’s Poppy Morawa (drums), Jake Rees (synth) and Adrian Clark (bass) help elevate the sound of “I Was a Victim of a Series of Accidents?”
A: The biggest collaborative point for Tyler and me were all the vocal harmonies. He had a big hand in the sound of the synth and added that lo-fi filter to it. We weren’t thinking lo-fi synth; we were just thinking plug in the microKORG and get that ‘80s synthwave sound. Tyler didn’t tell us he was going to throw in the lo-fi synth sound. He just did it in the studio.
We knew it before it was released, but we didn’t tell him in the studio. He was like, “I’m gonna try this.” Jake wrote that synth intro. I showed him the guitar chords, and we’d been playing the song for a while live. He wrote that intro because it got stuck in his head. Once he knew the song really well, and he knew the chords, he wrote that.
Adrian and I wrote the bassline together; he wrote the skeleton of it. When we were recording in the studio, we would just trade the bass back and forth. Adrian would record what he had been doing live, and then I would take the bass and be like, “What if you did this part here or switched this?” Then we’d come up with better versions of stuff. It was really collaborative back and forth with him.
He played and wrote a majority of it. It was more me just rearranging stuff. Poppy writes all the drums … he’s good at intuitively feeling where we’re at in the song and what I’m trying to do with it emotionally.
Q: How does the current lineup of Poppy Morawa, Jake Rees, Adrian Clark and Danny Van Zandt shape the band’s sound?
A: The biggest difference is there’s much more synth on the new stuff. I’m literally not writing everything anymore.
It’s been nice working with really good musicians and telling them, “All right, here’s the part.” My guitar is usually the backbone of the song because that’s just how I write it. Then, I’ll be like, “Here’s this part, Jake,” and he’ll either play synth or guitar. He’ll just ask me, “What are you feeling here?” and I’ll give him an idea, and then he does his own thing with it.
It’s either entirely his part, or I tweak it. I’m kinda like the creative director, and so that’s been different. It still sounds like me, but it’s cool to see things turning into something I couldn’t have entirely imagined. When I’d write a song, I’d know exactly where it’s going. Now it’s a little more up in the air when I write a song because the guys are gonna do something to it.
If they do something I don’t like, then we gotta work on it. But they’ll do things that I do like that I wouldn’t have expected to like or I wouldn’t think of in the first place. It’s been really cool saying everyone played on the song that we just put out.
Q: You and the band are working on your next album. How does it compare thematically to This Side of Purgatory?
A: I don’t think there’s going to be anything quite as dark on this one. There’s stuff that’s just me writing about concepts. I’m still drawn to religious stuff … I have a song that’s written from the perspective of Jesus addressing God as a bratty teenager. It’s really fun to use my imagination and not write about myself, but just write about characters.
I have seven songs right now, but there are a couple that still aren’t there. I’m still not as excited about them as I want to be, but I know that they’re gonna be songs. I have the shape of the record now; I just need to build on what’s there.