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Exclusive: Sainthill Walks Us Through His New Album, ‘Dream Animal’

Melbourne’s enigmatic singer-songwriter, Sainthill, invites listeners on a mesmerising sonic journey with the release of his long-awaited fourth album, Dream Animal. Today, we’re super excited to share with you the very first exclusive listen and a track-by-track walkthrough from the Sainthill himself.

Recorded partially at home, where inspiration struck in the quiet of evenings when the birds ceased their chirping, this album is a five-year labour of love. With an innovative blend of dreamy, shoegaze-laced rock, Sainthill showcases his musical prowess, delivering a chameleonic experience that traverses diverse landscapes. From heavy synth fever dreams in tracks like “Lyrebird” to melodic rock-meets-chamber music opuses such as “Cat Called Gram,” each composition offers a unique glimpse into Sainthill’s imaginative world. The album gallops through galloping melancholia in “The Clydesdale,” embraces eastern-hued enchantment in “Leporine Lover,” and crafts digital dreamlands interwoven with organic instrumentation in “Nothin’ Except Dream. Dream Animal is an extraordinary musical odyssey, an exploration of sound that promises to captivate and transport its audience into the ethereal realms of Sainthill’s creative vision.


Track by track 


‘Often I have dreams in which I’ll be in my old house over the sea’… Like most of the lyrics on this album, this is true – at the time of writing I kept having dreams I was back in the US where I’d lived for a couple of years, and the feeling was that of unfinished business. Time to move on, so a conversation with a lyrebird (a mimic… a misleader?) seemed like a good way to explore whether getting advice from others is a good way to forge your own path. Production-wise, I was really into Tame Impala’s ‘Currents’ which is reflected via rolling drum patterns, heavy synths, and chromatic bass lines.

Cat Called Gram

Cats appear frequently in my dreams, so the idea of a missing one was a potent way to explore the anxiety that can arise from fear of losing something dear. A random image of a panther placing its maw around my arm was a way to add a sense of helplessness in the face of uncontrollable power or situations. Production-wise, I was inspired by Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’ where melodic rock lines bounce along with piano and chamber music elements. The song is the most traditional I’ve written in terms of structure, a true intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus affair.

Before the Dawn

Beginning with my love of Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ and The Everly Brother’s version of ‘All I Have to Do is Dream’, I stole a couple of lines and continued to build a story of a romantic dream encounter that ends when the sleeper wakes. Before the dawn (and waking) can be that place where ecstasy, euphoria and utopia dwell, only to be blinked out of existence by the simple act of waking. Production-wise, I used a diverse mix of sounds: acoustic guitar, synths, even a Ween-esque electric guitar solo. The outro features some blustery noise swelling to a crescendo before cutting out and ending the dream.

The Black Bull 

A potentially obvious metaphor (the black animal as depression) kindled this track, but I thought it would be interesting to create a story about the narrator taking matters into their own hands, and the best way to overcome a bull is to train as a matador (as grotesque as that ‘sport’ is). Production-wise, I took inspiration from bands like Slowdive and The Cure, particularly their up tempo songs with pulsing bass and shoegaze elements like the mega-reverbed tremolo picking in the chorus. Dave O’Brien’s piano lines add a melancholic yet hopeful feeling throughout the song, which suits the back-and-forth feelings of consternation. Also, a year later I was learning to play ‘So. Central Rain’ by R.E.M. and realised I’d lifted half the chord progression by accident (whoops!).


Dream Animal

Along with being the title-track, this song goes for a full educational rundown on dream animal meanings, which seemed like a suitable thing to do on an album dripping with dream symbolism. So if any listeners meet an armadillo, dolphin, or octopus, you know where to come for a hint on its meaning. The chorus asks the listener whether they pay this stuff any mind, clearly the lyrics indicate I do as writer. The song’s production is quite spare to allow space for the wordier lyrics, with some piano and electric guitars layers rounding out a darker tone.

The Clydesdale

It takes a few verses for the narrator to realise a painting is as good a way to admire a glorious beast as keeping a bunch of them cooped up. Images of George Stubbs’ horses were on my mind, along with that shattering scene in ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ involving a picture on the wall. John Lee (who also mixed the album) did the album’s drumming, and on this one it suitably sounds like horses galloping. With this propulsion I layered multiple guitar lines in the outro (a la The Cure) to get to possibly the most joyous sounding passage of music I’ve made – this is only notable as my songs to date generally sit squarely in the melancholic arena.

For the Bees

This is as close as I’ll get to a ‘political song’ – a story of rescuing a bee with some sugar water speaking to larger issues of climate change and humankind’s impact on the planet. Production-wise, it’s the simplest song on here, and the recording came together quickly. The arpeggiated synth line evolved from a simple folk chord progression I had, which I then layered with some synth pads. The fact these ended up sounded like buzzing bees was a totally unplanned but serendipitous moment.

Leporine Lover

Yes, I dreamt I was shacked up with a rabbit and it was getting harangued by a wolf and a white tiger, which seemed the perfect starting point for a set of lyrics. From there I pushed my narrator to battle the negative forces in a last-ditch effort to save his relationship. Despite the tragic outcome (the relationship ends) he is able to look back fondly on the good times. It’s my ‘better to have loved and lost than never loved at all’ song. For some reason Tom Waits was in my head during production, and while the track scarcely resembles one of his songs I kept thinking of him. That slightly eastern Euro feel with heavy use of secondary and seventh chords, along with a snaky bassline and 3/4 (waltz) drums in the chorus.

Nothin’ Except Dream

Carl Jung saw houses in dreams as a metaphor for the psyche, and his description of descending staircases and vaulted Roman rooms only to find two skulls on the floor (his and Freud’s) became a reference point. As such, the narrator experiences the same dream but ultimately reflects on the inconsequentiality of them, as he has done nothing of note ‘in real life’ that day. To reflect the ending of the album and the concept of shifting either into or out of a dreaming state, I focussed the song’s production in a more digital direction. While elements like drum programming and arpeggiated synths had featured in earlier songs, this track really leans into these sounds for a different audial space. Strands of organic instruments like ukulele and guitar still appear but ultimately give way to the digitised and sampled crescendo that closes the song and album.

Written by Chris Lamaro