Dream Koala: Making Movies out of Music




Image via Jayne Lies

By Nelson Liu

Dream Koala is the project of French/Brazilian artist Yndi Ferreira. As both a songwriter and producer, the young artist has turned heads with a unique fusion of electronic and atmospheric elements, making music that regularly explores themes of space, discovery, and the unknowable universe.

Since expanding sonic boundaries with his Earth. Home. Destroyed EP in 2014, Dream Koala is gearing up for the release of his upcoming project Exodus. The forthcoming release continues the heady discussions, tackling humanity’s relationship to god, machines, and the future.

When we met at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn ahead of his live set at the club Output, Dream Koala was fresh off the plane and had only just checked in to his hotel. Despite being travel-weary, Ferreira shared insight into his songwriting, his cinematic videos, and his highly conceptual new EP.



In your opinion, what is the difference between thinking like a guitarist or singer versus as a producer?

Well, both of them really complete each other. It’s like when you are a screenwriter and a director. It’s two different things, but they complete each other. I started making music when I was 14, when I started playing guitar. Then I got into producing a few years later. When I started to produce music, I really wanted to get my personal sound, to kind of build my own sound and my own style, by introducing my guitar into an electronic sound.

It wasn’t until later that I started to sing, write lyrics, and all that. To me, thinking and listening to a song as a producer is really different than listening to a song as a songwriter or a guitarist. It’s a different point of view. If you listen to the same song from two different perspectives, it gives you more of a rich view of a particular sound. I think it’s a really good thing. It helps me to improve my own sound and style.

So does the songwriting comes before production?

For me, yes. Definitely. That’s where I feel more comfortable. I guess some people start to produce, then maybe try to give direction to the song. When I start to write something, it’s just guitar and the voice, or just a melody. I start to produce after. But for me, what is important is the core of the song—just guitar and voice. If I’m satisfied with guitar and voice, then that means the song may have potential after the producing.



Image via Jayne Lies

What sparked your interest in electronic music?

I always listened to various types of music. My parents are musicians, and since I was born, my parents always listened to jazz music, traditional Brazilian music, and soul. My parents were really open-minded about music and art in general, and I grew up with that same mindset. When I started, I played more rock music—I had my band, which was really more hardcore, with punk and metal influences. Then I started Dream Koala which is really different. In the future I’d love to work with a classical orchestra, or maybe with a jazz band. To me, art is just one big thing, whether it’s music, photography, or movies. They are just different types of art, but to me it’s all the same thing.

In the future I’d love to work with a classical orchestra, or maybe with a jazz band.

I read that you grew up in France, but you also lived in Berlin a couple years back. Where are you living right now?

Right now I’m back in France because I really missed it. I love Berlin, but I kind of missed speaking French and doing stuff I used to do in France, eating French food! Things that you don’t find in Berlin. Just basic stuff, but on the daily it kind of changes everything. Now I’m moving to the south of France, which is really different from Paris and the northern parts. It’s more chill.

How do you feel about Berlin’s club culture? Did you go out a lot?

Well, not really actually. Maybe because I moved there with my girlfriend I didn’t go out that much. I’m not really that much of a party person. I enjoy going to a club sometimes, of course, but I’m definitely not the type to leave on a Friday and come back home on Monday. The club scene in Berlin is crazy—life in general is crazy. You can find a club on Sunday morning—it could be noon and it will feel like it’s night, because everyone is raving and dancing to techno.

I really like that kind of freedom. I feel like everyone there doesn’t care about how they look on the outside, or really care about how they dress and what people think about them. They’re really enjoying life and being themselves. Also there’s a lot of DIY—they always start to build new stuff, or if there is an abandoned place, they try to turn it into a club, venue, restaurant, or whatever. They always try to innovate.

I know Berlin is a really techno-centric city. Did you take away any electronic influences from what’s going on in the city?

Before I got to Berlin, I really wasn’t into techno. I think it’s kind of the best place to discover that music because it’s like a religion for them. If you go there, everyone listens to techno and there’s so many clubs with really good music. I got introduced to techno and now I really like it.

Do you have any favorite techno artists?

I really love these guys Âme, they’re from Berlin. I really like their music. It’s techno, but a little bit atmospheric. It’s the type of stuff you can go with until morning.


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How do you approach writing original tracks versus covers?

It’s really different. When I make an original track, in the beginning it’s nothing. It’s just a moment where anything is possible for the song, because there is really nothing about it. It’s just like creating a universe or something. There’s nothing, and then there’s this big bang. When I write a song, I just take a piece of paper and it’s blank and then ideas start to come and you just write, and you’re really free and you can allow yourself to be.

When I make music, I just allow myself to be egotistical. I want to please myself making music. I don’t care about what genre it is, or how it will fit with the songs I made before. I think in the beginning you really just have to think about yourself, and this is how the ideas come. I think about how I can put it in a live show afterwards.

When I make music, I just allow myself to be egotistical.

When I do a remix, it’s more like giving my interpretation or my feel to a song that already exists. Like when a director takes a book and makes a movie out of it. It’s the same story, but if you give it to Christopher Nolan, or if you give it to Martin Scorsese, if you give them the same story, you will end up with really different movies. It’s kind of the same thing with remixes.

I read online that at first you wanted to do film instead of music. Your recent music video for “Earth” was very cinematic. What’s the collaboration process between you and the director?

When I was a kid my parents made music, and I didn’t want to be like my parents. My mom is a singer and my dad writes Brazilian music and plays guitar. I used to draw a lot, write stories, and create a bunch of characters. I kind of always wanted to do music, but when I was a kid I always really wanted to make movies. The guys that made the “Earth” music video are named Fabulous.

We met because they made the music video for “Odyssey,” a song from my previous EP, and they were just out of school and “Odyssey” was their first project. We like the same things, and we are on the same creative wavelength. When they finished “Odyssey,” we wanted to make something else, and we really wanted to work together again. When I wrote “Earth,” I thought I should contact them because I thought the song would go really well with a few ideas I had and I was sure they would also do something cool with it.


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What are some of the main inspiration points for the video?

2001: A Space Odyssey of course, was one of the biggest. That’s one of the best pieces of art of all things. It was a huge influence, along with more recent films like Tree of Life. I really wanted to make something that was similar to those movies. There are a few things in the video that reminds me of Interstellar, and it’s really funny because it was before the movie came out and when I saw the movie I was like, “Woah!” We were on the same vibe as the movie, and it was like we had ripped off Interstellar, but we made “Earth” before the film came out.

I was listening to “Threnody,” off your new project, and I thought it was interesting because the line about the soul going through the black hole is kind of like Interstellar. Was that before you watched the film?

Definitely, it was before. I’m pretty obsessed with everything related to black holes, space, and the cosmos in general. I think it’s so fascinating. Whenever I start to write something, it always ends up in space and black holes. But it wasn’t because of the movie, it was more like, I really don’t really know what’s out there. We don’t even know if it really exists but if it really exists, we don’t know what’s behind a black hole. It might be a gate to another reality or universe, or it might be nothing.

Your new project is titled Exodus. Is it a continuation of Earth. Home. Destroyed.? After your home is destroyed, you go beyond?

Exactly. I wanted to get deeper in the universe I started to create in Earth. Home. Destroyed., which was way more about our relationship with nature and the Earth. Exodus is more about our relationship to God, machines, and the place we have in this really synthetic new era. We are already in this artificial era with computers, machines, and robots. Machines are really a part of our lives now, and I really wanted to write about our relationship to these new forms of life.

Machines are really a part of our lives now, and I really wanted to write about our relationship to these new forms of life.

How many tracks is the project going to be?

Three tracks, it’s kind of like a trilogy, and in terms of time they are not one after the other. They are all the same time, from different places and perspectives, but all the same moment.

When did you start writing the project, and when did you finish?

I wrote it in Berlin as Fabulous and I were working on the “Earth” music video. At that time I was really into ‘70s progressive rock music. I found the psychedelic rock music of Pink Floyd and stuff from the ’70s, and I wanted to get inspired by their work, but make something modern from it.

I started with “Dimension Sleeper,” which is the first song on the project, and I got a few ideas of traveling in space, cryogenic freezing, and thought about how I could describe the feeling of waking up after you’ve been sleeping for a thousand years. Maybe you don’t even remember how to react in your own body, but I wanted to find words that could describe this feeling. The other ideas concern a god, machines, and nature, and all that.

[I] thought about how I could describe the feeling of waking up after you’ve been sleeping for a thousand years.

I did a few demos with my guitar and computer quickly at home, and then it took a few months to go in a studio in Paris to record it. They had some drums, cool synths, so I really changed my demos by adding more texture and different feels. I feel like on a production level you can hear more of my rock influences whereas my previous music is more dynamic and maybe a bit darker sometimes.



How many instruments do you play?

I play guitar, a little bit of piano, synth, bass, and drums, but they’re too loud. I’d love to have some drums at home. I’d love to play cello, it’s one of my favorite instruments, it’s so beautiful. The tone is deep and low, it can go really low in the bass, and if you go more in the high notes, it’s this really elegant, high sound. I really love it.

What is the setup you have for the live show you’re playing tonight?

I sing and play guitar, and I have a controller connected to my laptop. I have all the stems of my tracks so I can interact with them during the session on my controller. I can sing and play guitar at the same time. I try to do a bit of everything.

I know you DJ sometimes as well, right?

I wouldn’t really consider myself a good DJ. [laughs] I should stay in writing music, but I think it’s entertaining. I listen to different stuff than the music I create, and when I DJ I like to play more techno. I really like Night Slugs. It’s really different from what I do, but I really like the kind of futuristic, ahead-of-our-time sounds, like future club.


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What’s the favorite city you’ve played in over the past few years?

Every place is different, of course. Even the audience. The American culture is very different from the French culture, so you can feel that during a show. It’s really different. I really love Montreal. I went there last summer and it was lovely. In the summer it’s green, and there are squirrels in the street and you feel good. I love Montreal. I’d say Montreal is the best.

What are some things you’ve been listening to lately?

Lately, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s music because I love his movies, but I just discovered a while ago that he makes music. I love his music. It’s blues/rock and it’s really good. I’ve also been listening to rock from the ’50s and ’60s, and I’ve been really into Swans lately. Especially their albums made in the ’80s, because it’s really different from what they are doing now. Also Velvet Underground, Nick Cave, The Sonics, and The Bad Seeds.

I saw you post some Murakami quotes a while back. Do you have a favorite novel by him?

I love him. I read Kafka On The Shore, but I prefer his shorter books. In French it’s called Apres le Tremblement (After The Quake). It’s different stories in Japan set after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and there are a bunch of strange things that happen. The book is like 200 pages, and it’s just five or six stories of different people in Japan. He’s one of my favorite authors because he really puts you in between reality and dreams. You don’t know if the characters are dreaming, awake, hallucinating, or in a parallel universe.

I saw you like Hayao Miyazaki as well. What’s your favorite film by him?

I love every one of his movies. I really love Spirited Away, but I don’t know if that’s my favorite one—but when I first watched it, it really touched me as a person growing up. I also like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, where she she travels on a jet-powered glider. It’s kind of science fiction, and there are giant insects.

You recently did a side project, Ayahuasca, inspired by Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. What prompted that?

Some friends of mine used to have a record label called One O’clock, and they wanted to make a cassette label. They asked if I wanted to make something for them, and I didn’t really want to make any Dream Koala stuff on the label. I just want everything to be on my own label, but I was watching Eternal Sunshine, and I was like, “Woah, there are a lot of weird sounds in this,” and I loved the soundtrack. I decided to make a cassette for them using sounds from the movie. Not really music—it’s more like noise-stuff. I really wanted to get into the character’s heads so you can see all their memories, and some of them go away. Some memories get mixed up with other ones, and I wanted to make a tape inspired by this. It was only for one cassette so I don’t think I will ever do it again.

Why did you name your side project Ayahuasca?

It’s a psychedelic drink from South America, and the Native Americans used it in particular rituals.

Have you done it before?

No, never. I’m not really into drugs or psychedelics in general, but there are beliefs and rituals around it that are beautiful. The shamans drink it and try to communicate with spirits, spirits of the forest, animals, and human spirits on the other side. It’s linked with memories, and I thought the name was pretty beautiful too.

How old are you now?

21. I turned 21 in May, so it’s my first time in the U.S. where I can legally drink. It was really complicated to get me into clubs. When I had to play there, I had to get there before everything opened, and if I left I couldn’t get back in. It was very complicated.

Dream Koala’s Exodus EP is coming soon.