Sound: Nathan Khyber and Clark Stiles are no strangers to success or failure for that matter. Back when they were members of the band Absinthe in the late 1990s, they found themselves with a cushy major label deal and plenty of buzz. Although those dreams disintegrated due to the music industry's fickleness (and Stiles actually being jettisoned from the band beforehand), the duo reunited several years later to once again try and reignite the musical chemistry under a new moniker: The Good Listeners. There was no doubt that the connection was still there, but starting over as a fresh act meant embracing the life of unknown musicians, at least in terms of Billboard success. In an effort to push the boundaries of their songwriting at this point in their career, Khyber and Stiles took an unconventional route, which has been chronicled in the documentary Don't Quit Your Daydream.
At first it may seem that Don't Quit Your Daydream is going to be your typical bio piece, focusing on the songwriting process of The Good Listeners. It soon becomes obvious that this documentary reflects on a much bigger group of people, namely all of those who spend the bulk of their adult lives as struggling musicians. Khyber and Stiles took a month visiting several cities across the country in an effort to find random musicians with which to collaborate on their next album. The characters they choose as co-songwriters are fascinating in themselves, whether it's a hippie in dire need of health insurance or a Memphis bluesman who makes his living as an auto mechanic. The collaborations don't always go smoothly, but that mixed bag of musical inspiration is precisely what The Good Listeners are seeking.
While it's certainly interesting to see what music is created at some of these sessions, the candid interviews with the guests collaborators are just as engaging. Don't Quit Your Daydream becomes almost a sociological experiment about why musicians, well, do what they do. The Good Listeners examine what keeps someone going when the chances are not good that a lucrative record deal will be in his or her future. For anyone who plays an instrument, Don't Quit Your Daydream will undoubtedly connect with you in some manner. The Good Listeners' music, although certainly featured in a good number of scenes, almost becomes secondary in this documentary. It's likely that Stiles and Khyber wouldn't have it any other way. // 8
Overall Impression: Many of you probably haven't heard of The Good Listeners, and honestly, not everyone will embrace their mellow, indie rock sound. Even so, you should find time to check out Don't Quit Your Daydream, as this is much more than just a behind-the-scenes glance at the making of a new album. The intriguing, eclectic group of collaborators is so unusual that it conveys almost a cinematic feel. The lack of extras is to be expected because of its limited release, but the current price on iTunes to purchase the movie is only $5.99. In the midst of the film craziness, The Good Listeners do create a lush, laid-back soundtrack that will appeal to fans of The Shins or Grizzly Bear. // 8