No need to pinch yourself: Hembree’s It’s a Dream! is real. The Kansas City-based indie rockers’ second album finds the quintet pushing their established sound—first glimpsed on 2019’s excellent debut House on Fire—to new, colorful zeniths. Possessing a funky looseness and hip-shaking approach that perfectly pairs with Isaac Flynn’s emotionally kaleidoscopic lyrics, It’s a Dream! is a record about getting freaky even while you’re freaking out. It’s a beyond relatable sentiment couched in music that burrows its way into your mind and stays there.
Since Hembree released their first album House on Fire back in 2019, they hit the road and came off a stretch of touring ready to channel that energy into their next artistic statement. Before the pandemic, work on what would become It’s a Dream! Was halfway done—and when the world shut down, it gave the band an opportunity to look inwards and refine their own sonic approaches while embracing a newfound maturity.
“It really let us push the art forward,” Flynn explains while discussing the creative reflection that he, bassist/vocalist Garrett Childers, synth/keyboardist Eric Davis, guitarist Alex Ward, and drummer Austin Ward undertook while shaping It’s a Dream!. “The first album was more informed by our live show, but with this one we were able to shut out the noise because there was no noise. We’ve grown up, and we’ve figured out what we want Hembree to be.”
Once the band was able to get together safely again, the quintet holed up in Burbank with co-producer e.hillman and engineers Chris Kasych and Jasmine Chen to complete work on It’s a Dream!. “Everyone felt so good being back together in the studio, it was magical,” Flynn recalls while explaining the band’s drawn influences from production techniques employed by late-’60s rock and alternative rock and pop from the late ‘90s — as well as the ecstatic energy that radiates off of Talking Heads’ classic concert film Stop Making Sense.
“I loved how much joy they were having on stage, and it felt like something solo artists have a hard time recreating,” Flynn explains. “It made me think about what being a band means in 2021, and how I want to be able to bring that energy to the stage when we return to touring.” And energy courses through the veins of It’s a Dream!, which sounds loose-limbed and exciting in its vibrance right from the kickoff of first single “Reach Out.”
“It’s the thesis song of the whole album,” Flynn continues, pointing to both the thematic material and the track’s sound—pulsing like a heartbeat, underscoring the humanity of Hembree’s genre-averse pop-rock style. “It’s about how society treats the oppressed, and how people are too embarrassed and neglected to ask for help. You lose touch with reality, which could happen to anyone.”
Featuring guest vocals from Devynn Carter, the title track uses sprightly guitar and a driving rhythm to dive into that all-too-recognizable feeling that things might not be quite right in the world around you: “It was written pre-pandemic, but I think people were feeling these things for a while, too,” Flynn laughs. Elsewhere, Hembree fall into a lush and sinister groove on “I Don’t Believe You,” while closing track “Time to Leave” slows things down as Hembree launch into new territory for them with a beautiful, glowing ballad that addresses, in Flynn’s words, “Seeing someone in a situation they need to get out of, but they’re just so immersed in their world.”
Ironically, It’s a Dream! represents new levels of sonic immersion for Hembree as an artistic entity—practically a window into their creative minds, really, as they explore and incorporate new textures into their rapidly-expanding worldview. “This album is a fully-realized vision for the band,” Flynn explains before offering his own vision of the band’s future: “I want this record to lift people up, and for the music to be a positive experience in their own lives.”