My House the Car
Pipa Pinon and Daniel V. Lewis of Dreambeach get off the road
By Paul Davis
The loss of the open road, of the vagabond life extolled by the Beat poets and folk singers in the first half of the 20th century is an oft-tapped source for artistic material--especially in an age when the world can be viewed without leaving your couch and your past is a credit check away. But when the musical collaborators who have performed as Dreambeach since 1989, Pipa Pinon and her husband Daniel V. Lewis, became owners of an RV, they opted to shuck off their high rents and take a chance at life on the road.
"We didn't know what we were going to do with [the RV], so we decided to live in it--we became what are called 'full-timers,'" explains Lewis. "We found out about camp hosting; it's working for the state parks and the only real requirement is that you have some kind of RV. You don't get paid but in return you live there." Still, despite their bohemian trappings and the theoretical ability to set up home wherever they chose, Pinon and Lewis found their nomadic journey involved constantly moving between a lot of local state parks. "We basically stayed in the area, though we had to move from state park to state park, so we managed to stay local," Lewis explains.
Though they maintained their residency in Santa Cruz--albeit by unusual means--the experience provided the couple with plenty of creative material. "We found out a lot of social issues--suddenly we had friends who sort of looked down on us because we were living in an RV instead of a house," says Lewis. "We started to notice a certain sort of social behavior we'd never noticed before, sort of a class thing. We realized the difference between a house and a home: A house is a thing, while a home is an idea, and we always felt at home."
"It was kind of an unusual thing. All of our friends were tripping out about it at first--they were always calling it a trailer and I would tell them, 'It's a motor home,' but after a while they sort of thought it was cool." But despite their mobile digs, other commitments kept them close to Santa Cruz, which Lewis slightly regrets. "We didn't really get to travel as much as we wanted to," he says. "I have a lot of other bands that sort of tie me down. I have to stay around, so we couldn't go for big long tours."
Now living in a house he and Pinon recently purchased in Watsonville, a change that Lewis notes "is a 180 degree turn" from their living situation of the past three years, they see their upcoming Kuumbwa show as a point of closure for their RV adventure. "This show basically reflects what went on in those years--it's not all about RVs, it's about looking through life in a different lens. To be on the road really kind of is the symbol of the show. We're always traveling; even if we have a house, we're moving forward into the future."
The experience has certainly altered the band. Many of their past projects have featured either stripped-down two-piece arrangements of bass and vocals delivered by Lewis and Pinon, or high-energy multimedia spectacles that Lewis likens to Cirque du Soleil. For their upcoming show, as they perform songs from their forthcoming album, they've bolstered Dreambeach into a seven-piece band, while introducing elements of comedy and theater from a play that Pinon is currently working on. Lewis explains that the theater elements "are excerpts from a bigger play that Pipa is writing about being a gypsy and traveling and being on the fringes of society and always feeling separate."
Despite lineup changes and a new focus, Dreambeach's sound continues to fall somewhere between Jane Siberry and Laurie Anderson. With their subdued music, elaborate set pieces and flare for spectacle, Lewis acknowledges that Dreambeach is not the easiest sell in the contemporary music world, but is proud of the uniqueness of the band. "It's not hard rock; it kind of demands a lot from the listener in some ways, but hopefully it takes you away and puts you in a different space," he notes. "It's kind of hard to define it--jazzy trip-electro folk--I'm always try to look for some new label. But I think it's honest work."
Dreambeach performs Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7pm at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12 advance/$15 door. For more information, call 831.427.2227 or go to www.kuumbwajazz.org.
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