Neon Dreams’ new record is the sonic sunshine you need to hear | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Neon Dreams’ new record is the sonic sunshine you need to hear

After going viral in South Africa, Halifax’s Juno-winning duo are back with positive power pop.

If sunshine had a sound, it’d be the opening warbling reverb and trilling guitar of Halifax-formed, internationally-beloved Neon Dreams’ latest album, Love Child Baby Dolphin. From the moment the needle drops on the opening track “Little Dance”, your skin starts absorbing the Vitamin D. Anthemic strings that sound loaned from Carly Rae Jepsen meld with persistent drums that embody boundless positivity. By the time the Juno-winning duo’s vocalist Frank Kadillac sings “Nobody knows how this life will unfold/Yeah, it’s just a little dance under the sun” , the meld of South African-style EDM and alt-pop will hit your taste buds like ripe citrus.

It hasn’t been a hard reinvention for Neon Dreams, a band whose humble beginnings were hatched during music class at Sackville High School. If anything, Love Child Baby Dolphin has the feeling of a widening stride or a deepening groove: The nascent hip hop cadence vocalist Frank Kadillac has long toyed with blooms into full-on flow, while the electronic beats that once made them a staple of Halifax’s EDM scene have stewed and slowed into something more laid-back yet still dance floor ready.

Lyrically, the duo has also been levelling-up and doubling-down: “I want to help people get through the day, with our music. That's always been a goal for us. Because I lived most of my life in negativity. And I realized, once I started getting over, like, all these problems in life that I had, I can take those lessons and turn them into songs,” Kadillac says, speaking with The Coast via Zoom the day before Love Child Baby Dolphin’s release.

Next to him, drummer Adrian Morris nods and adds: “I think when we were growing up, there were artists that were there for us in that way. And I think we felt we have responsibilities as musicians, and what we're putting out there to kind of do that for other people as well.” Kadillac nods, saying “Carry the torch!” Morris continues: “Yeah, carry the torch. And I feel like…we were looking at the music that was out right now and we were like: ‘Where is this? Where is this the stuff that we were growing up on that made us feel this way?’ So we wanted to be able to come in and make music or be the people that we wanted to look up to when we were younger.”

The pair are taking a break during a recording session at a South African studio when they join the Zoom meeting. Earlier this week, they were touring India to sold-out crowds. The globe-trotting isn’t just an Air Miles-laded return to live performances after COVID cancelled touring: During the pandemic, a year-old Neon Dreams single began to gain new traction on Spotify, with the bulk of new streams coming, inexplicably, from South Africa. As the track—2019’s “Life Without Fantasies”–cracked gold and successively platinum status, the duo decided to see the place where the song’s long digital tail was unfolding.

“The heartbeat of the music here matches that track,” Kadillac says when asked for theories on why South African fans are so devoted to the duo. “Culturally it just fit in,” Morris adds as Kadillac nods, saying: “It fits. It’s like a piece of the puzzle to their puzzle,” especially thanks to the similar drum styles.

It won’t only be in South Africa where Neon Dream’s latest will hook ears, though: Calling the likes of Chiiild and Bedouin Soundclash to mind, the infectious offering never sacrifices authenticity in the name of the positivity it proffers. Take, for example, the album standout “Mama You’re Always Perfect”: Over a Lumineers-y guitar, Kadillac kicks it off with a confessional: “Had me at 17/got kicked out of your house/three jobs to make ends meet while we slept on your friend’s couch,” he raps as the song thumps into a modern iteration of Kanye West’s “Hey Mama”.

This mix of real life and and uplifting energy, of Halifax and Cape Town, of an old friendship and new growth, is the exact dichotomy that makes Neon Dreams keep shining ever brighter: “I never heard cool positive music—but like, I wanted to make like positive vibes cool,” says Kadillac, who was once quoted as saying he “I'm not writing for a bunch of cool kids. I'm writing for kids sitting in the hallway, eating lunch: The kid that has a perfect family, but doesn't fit into it—and the people that feel out of place.” Adds Morris: “I think one common theme to our music is that, like, even in a dark place, or if you're not in a good place, there's always a light to look for: There's always some sort of positive thing to look forward to.”

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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