Wide awake for a ride on the rollercoaster of love

Don't Sleep Dream, with Mark Johnson far right
Don't Sleep Dream, with Mark Johnson far right

ROCK and roll owes a lot to life’s lovelorn.

Heartbreak, lust, romance, loss and the girl next door are all manifestations of rock and roll’s greatest muse – love.

And Sheffield’s no exception. This week Don’t Sleep Dream launch their five-track EP, Life’s Just a Ride – a collection of songs about one particular relationship with a woman.

“It’s five chapters of a love story – I just don’t know which part of the book it is,” says Mark Johnson who writes the lyrics. “It’s all about one girl and she knows who she is. A couple of the songs go back about two years as the relationship has gone on for about two and a half to three years. The songs aren’t all about a break-up, either. Just Arrived is about how things started – it’s a positive song. And Magnetic Light is about the first throws of falling in love.”

Writing the songs was cathartic, according to Johnson, though they aren’t all miserable. “The songs address all aspects of the relationship so they’re not all negative.” Songs such as The Letter clearly portrays frustration in the breakdown of communication, and the difficulty in putting one’s thoughts across. Yet, in spite of this, the song’s music is upbeat, fast-paced and positive-sounding. “I don’t want angst-ridden songs to be matched with a downbeat sound. I’d hate to make people miserable.”

“Letter is a post-split up song in which I was going through that process of writing about it. It’s better to write something than to sit in a corner sulking. I hope she’ll appreciate it in some way but I don’t want the songs to just be specifically about me – I hope that other people can relate to them as these are universal themes. Probably about 90 per cent of songs are about love anyway.”

The fact that love is a universal theme also makes it a safe bet for musicians - it is neutral ground as far as subject matter goes, as Johnson explains. “Once people start writing about environmental issues audiences generally switch off.”

Johnson formed the band more than two years ago. He writes the lyrics and music, which he then takes to the band. The sound is distorted, post-punk and poppy, nodding to REM. “I am a huge fan of REM. In fact, we are named after an REM song and when we first started if you Googled us all that came up were REM-related websites but now we’ve got a proper site we’re at the top. It’s funny though because our guitarist hates REM.”

Johnson has been writing songs on a solo basis since 2004, though he’s been on the Sheffield music scene for much longer. “I’ve been in bands in Sheffield a long time but these days there seems to be a lot more of them. In some ways this makes it harder to get noticed but in other ways it’s a good thing – the more bands there are the more the more likely it is that there will be some brilliant ones coming through. There are plenty of venues but it is a shame some like The Grapes and the Hallamshire have stopped putting on bands. The Hallamshire was a great place for bands starting out. But there is plenty of diversity and cross fertilisation in Sheffield, and that keeps it interesting.”

And, adding to Sheffield’s cauldron of rock and pop, Don’t Sleep Dream play as part of an autism and Asberger’s awareness gig at West Street Live on Thursday February 2.