Alternative pop band, Neon Dreams is marking Halifax, Canada on the map with their JUNO Award-winning sound. Before receiving the 2020 JUNO award for “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” in late June, the duo reflects back on their growth and journey so far in an intimate interview with us. Characterized by their ability to blend pop, rock, folk, EDM, hip-hop and reggae elements, the group has quickly made a name for themselves with their innovative self-production.
Matching their well-deserved success, Neon Dreams is also honest about the challenges they’ve faced thus far. Band members Frank Kadillac and Adrian Morris explain how they’ve both experienced injustices throughout their lives, even though they grew up with two different upbringings. Vocalist Frank Kadillac explains that his mother had him at 17 in a low-income neighborhood and shares, “it was easy for people to bully me as a kid and be racist.” Adrian grew up as the only indigenous student at his school, and although he was raised into what he refers to as a “privileged” environment, he knew he was different from his peers.
Frank explains that even though dealing with racial discrimination was emotionally exhausting, it ultimately led him to finding a greater purpose. “I tried to commit suicide and I came out of it stronger because it didn’t work. I had to choose to keep going or just give up, and in the moment I decided to keep going. I prayed – I did everything I could. I’m just like, ‘give me a purposed, give me a reason to live.’ A voice came in my head saying, “You need to help people find their true selves,’ and I just dedicated my life to helping (the) people who feel like they have no place in this world,” he relays.
With the Black Lives Matter movement being highlighted in today’s current affairs, Frank shares his love for the disruption that the movement caused, “The world is evolving. It’s the first time. I lost hope for a while.”
The duo agrees that education is the most important step for creating a better tomorrow and dismantling racism. “We’re taught these things. I really think teaching – even yoga, meditation, even mindfulness in school, even how to act in a situation that seems scary, how to deescalate things. I think if people are taught that – the world would look a little different. People would have a lot more sympathy. We are what we consume,” Adrian concludes, “I don’t think humans could be born racist, they have to be taught.”
Growing up in a middle-class neighbourhood didn’t stop Adrian from feeling outcasted in his majority white school. Even though the drummer was put in this unique situation, he chose to become educated on indigenous history, affairs, and communities. “I feel like most people don’t know that the last residential school closed in 1996. Indigenous youths were taken from their parents, and their home, and they were taken to these schools that basically stripped them completely of their culture. So they didn’t talk in their language, and tried to get rid of their spiritual-traditions. My grandmother was a victim of these schools and my family lost our culture as a result,” he explains. While reflecting on the attempt to colonize and whitewash his culture away, Adrian adds, “It gets really confusing when you’re supposed to identify as an indigenous person, but everything about being indigenous is straight up taken from you through generations.”
Neon Dreams compares receiving their JUNO nomination for “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” to Harry Potter escaping from his humble confinement to his closet, and finally being recognized as a wizard. “It’s almost like you’re accepted among people that you feel like you don’t belong around and they’re saying, ‘You worked hard enough, and we see you, and we appreciate your work.’ Just coming from nothing and getting something like that, it means a lot, and I know it means a lot to our fans,” Adrian relays, “It’s also honouring to be nominated in that category. Some of our heroes got nominated in that same category.”
After getting a chance to reflect on life due to the pandemic lockdown and getting a rest from being on the road and touring, the band is readying the release of their forthcoming album. Frank shares, “I save certain stories for certain times, there’s a lot of bad things that happen in life and sometimes it takes time just to let it out. These songs are healing to me as a writer. There’s some stories I wish I could get out right now, but it just feels too harsh on my mind to push to people.”
The duo says that we can expect an album by the end of the summer, and concludes, “The whole theme of it is early 2000s coming of age soundtracks – we really want this one to resonate.”
Watch Neon Dreams in their latest video release “Sick of Feeling Useless” below. Follow Neon Dreams on Instagram to keep up with their future releases.