Photo by Ruta Smith

Dream of the Future

It’s early, but we have a 2021 prediction: Dream Rock, the new album by Charleston quartet Schema, is one of the most aptly titled releases of the year.

On the album’s seven songs, the all-instrumental group (guitarist/keyboard player Adam Coyne, guitarist Ryan Bresnihan, bassist Thomas Kenney and drummer JP Treadaway) stretch out the grooves, but it’s not a jam-band.

Even in its softest moments, like the blurry intro to “Bugs” or the reggae-style interlude in the title track, the band is tightly focused and sharp. The rhythms are complex, but it’s not progressive rock; funk plays a bigger role for the band. And while squiggling synths are all over the place, it’s not electronic music by any means.

That pretty much leaves “dream rock,” a term Treadaway decided on one night, to describe the band’s blend of beats, shimmering synths and precise guitars. The album also sounds quite polished, a sharp contrast to the raw self-titled EP Schema released last year.

“That EP was done in a single day at Fairweather Studio (in Charleston),” Bresnihan said. “The whole thing was tracked live.”
And that’s a sharp contrast to how Dream Rock was made. The album was largely written and partially recorded before the pandemic, but most of it was done post-shutdown in a home studio, with Coyne handling production.

“We switched gears right as quarantine hit and shows were getting cancelled,” Coyne said. “We set up our gear at the house in West Ashley and started tracking everything at the home studio. I did most of the tracking; I taught myself and had a couple of lessons from our bass player, Thomas.”

The home environment allowed Schema to make a better-sounding record than a top-notch studio, because the band had more time and less budgetary woes to worry about.

“Doing it on our own time, all the gear and technology makes it easier than it’s ever been.”

Schema guitarist/keyboard player Adam Coyne

“We’re stoked about how it turned out, it being our first time,” Coyne said. “Doing it on our own time — all the gear and technology makes it easier than it’s ever been.”

“I think that’s something about this album that speaks for itself,” Bresnihan added. “We were able to do it as many times as we thought necessary to get it done the way we wanted it to.”

It turns out the bandmates actually needed that extra time. “It took about eight months from start to finish,” Treadaway said. “We had a lot of it tracked already, but we had a lot of extra time to mess with it.”
The band was able to add improvisational sections to the tracks — Treadaway said the album is about “40% improvised music.”

Isolation during the pandemic also meant that the band was able to hone its own musical skills, resulting in a tighter sound. “I think we all practiced more and started taking it a little more seriously,” Coyne said.

And, it’s a good thing the band likes to practice. With so much uncertainty about the safety of live performances, Schema might not be able to play shows for a while, which is frustrating for a band that was finally getting some traction after nearly a decade on the regional circuit, including gigs in Atlanta and Charlotte.

“I hope we can pick up where we left off in those markets and keep building that, but I personally get to practice a lot more now, and it seems like everybody else is the same,” Treadaway said. “It really seems to be a time to grow as musicians and take it day by day and see where this thing takes us.”