Gatsbys American Dream is a prolific Seattle-based indie rock band. Since their founding in 2002, they have released four full-length albums and one EP. They have also appeared on several compilations with original songs and covers. Gatsbys American Dream drew their name from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
Although it's widely agreed that the band is difficult to classify into one subgenre, it can be said that they draw influence from alternative, pop/rock, emo, indie pop, indie rock, post-hardcore, and punk rock.
When Acceptance guitarist Kaylan Cloyd heard a Gatsbys demo, he handed it to Darrick Bourgeois, owner of local record label Rocketstar Recordings. Shortly afterward, Gatsbys signed a two-record deal with Rocketstar and worked with producer Aaron Sprinkle to record their 2002 debut album Why We Fight. Their first show after being signed drew in a crowd in excess of 500, which was largely due to Rocketstar's extensive promotion.
After Why We Fight was released, the band replaced drummer Dustin McGhie with Rudy Gajadhar, formerly of Waxwing and Bugs in Amber. In 2003, the band released their second record, Ribbons and Sugar, a concept album based loosely on George Orwell’s fable Animal Farm. With this release it became apparent to critics and fans alike that literary references were a hallmark of the band. Musically, the album found them exploring an ambitious and experimental harder-edged pop sound, opting for unusual time signatures and tempo changes. Although literary references are common through most of their material, Ribbons and Sugar also began a motif of record label disdain. The lyrics of "Cut the Strings" read:
"This is awful to think who decides what should or should not stay, what ends up on the cutting room floor. Apparently it's not my choice to make."
Gatsbys' two-record deal with Rocketstar was fulfilled with Ribbons and Sugar, and the band decided not to renew their contract. Later, guitarist Ryan Van Wieringen would leave the band to further his college education.
Following the release of Ribbons and Sugar, the band started to field numerous offers from other, larger record labels. Slightly embittered by the process, the band nevertheless signed a one-record deal with Chicago-based LLR Recordings in 2004. Their contractual record, the more mellow and subdued In the Land of Lost Monsters EP, was in part a response to the post-Ribbons record label attention the band had received. Most of the labels that approached them thought they were excellent musicians, but wanted the band to write choruses for their next record (a standard songwriting technique the band had, up to that point, seemed to avoid). Feeling uncomfortable about forgoing their integrity in order to get a record contract, Gatsbys continued writing music they liked in the way they wanted to write it. Newsham's lyrics for Lost Monsters reflected this struggle, criticizing the music industry and expressing the band's wariness of record labels. The band's independent, individualistic approach simply brought them more acclaim as an uncompromising progressive rock band.
Several months after the EP's release, the band settled on Fearless Records and released their third full-length, Volcano, in April 2005. Thematically, Volcano revolves around Pompeii (as evidenced by the title of the second track on the record), which stands as a metaphor for the uncontrollable intensity of human emotion. The album is rife with literary and cultural references from such diverse works as children's film Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Lionhead Studio's Fable, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the action film Jurassic Park, and Orson Scott Card's science-fiction epics Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.
During the tour that followed the release of Volcano, Gatsbys added Kyle O'Quin (also a member of the band Surrounded By Lions). A few months after O'Quin was added to the band, Ryan Van Wieringen met up with the band in Arizona while they were on tour there and rejoined the line up. Since then, he has been touring and performing live as part of the band.
Van Wieringen did not, however, participate in writing any guitar parts for their self-titled fourth full-length album, released August 8th, 2006. The album bears all the hallmarks of a Gatsbys record: an album of musical experimentation in a pop context, peppered with numerous pop culture and literary references, which appear in both the lyrics and song titles, ranging from works by Philip K. Dick to the television show Lost. The album is, however, noticeably bitter towards the music industry, even compared to previous Gatsbys releases, scalding both current "trend" bands and greedy record labels.
Though no official statement has been made regarding the band's status, the band has been relatively inactive since the release of the self-titled album. The band has played a handful of shows in and around the Seattle area, and on April 27, 2007, they played their first out-of-state show since the self-titled album's release at Colgate University. During the hiatus, most of the members have started side projects.
In a forum post at Gatsbys fansite Snicker At The Swine, Bobby stated the following on the band's decision to release the album in Japan first and the reason they aren't signed to a label in the US:
Since there is a remote possibility that some people don't have a clue about what's going on in the music industry right now, I'll explain "search/rescue in Japan." The industry is all fucked up here. I mean obviously it's been fucked up for a long time, but it's reaalllly fucked right now. The labels are laying off staff, merging, dropping artists, whatever they can do so that the people still on board can get paid. Labels were retarded before, for the most part they're even more retarded right now. We wanted to make a record, but we didn't want to get in bed with labels here in the states and get dragged down the toilet with their careers, so we found a Japanese label that would pay for our recording and have no contractual rights to our music here in the states. It's a short-term one-off no-strings deal, exclusive to the territory of Japan. We came up with a creative way to fund the record we wanted to make with no long-term consequences, and now we own the record and we can do whatever the hell we want with it. We never had that opportunity in Gatsbys and it's what we always wanted. Freedom, creative, contractual, and financial freedom. If we take it to a label at some point, it'll be on our terms. So suck it haters. We came up with a creative solution to our "the music industry is fucked" problem. The record comes out in Japan in a week and a half, and we're releasing it ourselves here in the states through iTunes next month. Peace.
It is unclear whether the band has found a permanent drummer.
The band started taking pre-orders in late October 2007 for a 4-song EP, which includes the songs released for streaming on the band's Myspace page. After a manufacturing error caused delays in the release of the EP, the band started shipping orders in January 2008. The EP's artwork is by John Gourley.
To date, the label's only release is the live Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground DVD/CD Live at the Pretty Parlor. The label's website states that a 5-song EP by Seattle band Man in the Blue Van will be released toward the end of the year as well as a 10" vinyl-only release from Huffman's Wild Orchid Children.