The Dream Syndicate is an American alternative rock band from Los Angeles, California, active from 1981 to 1989. The band is associated with the Paisley Underground music movement; of the bands in that movement, according to the Los Angeles Times, it "rocked with the highest degree of unbridled passion and conviction". Though never commercially successful it met with considerable acclaim, especially for its songwriting and guitar playing. Bandleader Steve Wynn brought the band back together for a festival in Spain in 2012, and the band began touring the United States and Europe in 2013.
While attending the University of California, Davis, Steve Wynn and Kendra Smith played together (with future True West members Russ Tolman and Gavin Blair) in a band called the Suspects, regarded as the first new wave-influenced band in the Davis, California music scene. Wynn also recorded a 1981 single with a trio that he called 15 Minutes, which included members of Alternate Learning.
After Wynn moved back to Los Angeles, while rehearsing in a band called Goat Deity (with future Wednesday Week sisters Kelly and Kristi Callan), Wynn met Karl Precoda, who had answered an ad for a bass player, and the two joined to form a new group, with Precoda switching to guitar. Smith came to play bass and brought in drummer Dennis Duck (Mehaffey), who had played in the locally successful Pasadena-based band Human Hands.
Duck suggested the name "The Dream Syndicate" in reference to Tony Conrad's early 1960s New York experimental ensemble (better known as the Theater of Eternal Music), whose members included John Cale.
On February 23, 1982, the Dream Syndicate performed its first show at Club Lingerie in Hollywood. A four-song EP was recorded at the home of Tom Mehren in Pasadena, with Paul B. Cutler engineering and producing, and released on Wynn's Down There label, and the band quickly achieved local attention for its often aggressively long, feedback-soaked improvisations. Influences on the band, which was soon deemed "a seminal force in the city's '80s underground rock evolution", were The Velvet Underground, Neil Young, and Television.
The band was signed to Slash Records, whose subsidiary Ruby Records released its debut and by far best-known album, The Days of Wine and Roses, in 1982. The next year saw the UK (Rough Trade Records) release of the album's lead track, "Tell Me When It's Over," as the A-side of an EP which also included a live cover of Neil Young's "Mr. Soul." Days of Wine and Roses "sent shockwaves through the American underground in the early 1980s", but MTV favored a different kind of music.
Kendra Smith left the band and joined David Roback, formerly of the band Rain Parade, to form Opal. She was replaced in the Dream Syndicate by David Provost.
The Medicine Show was recorded in 1984 in San Francisco with producer Sandy Pearlman. The commercial failure of the album contributed towards the group's temporary breakup. They opened tours for R.E.M. and U2 and released the 5-song EP This Is Not the New Dream Syndicate Album - Live (1984), the last record to feature Karl Precoda on guitar (who soon after left to pursue a career in screenwriting) and the first appearance of bassist Mark Walton. The band left A&M after the label rejected its demo for "Slide Away", later released on the semi-official It's Too Late to Stop Now.
In 1985, Wynn and Dan Stuart of Green on Red wrote 10 songs together which were recorded with Dennis Duck, among others, and released by A&M as Danny and Dusty: The Lost Weekend.
After a brief hiatus and, in the words of one reviewer, having taken "a trip through the major-label meat grinder", Wynn, Duck and Walton joined with Paul B. Cutler, who had produced the group's first EP and played guitar in the proto-Goth 45 Grave, to form the final version of The Dream Syndicate. They recorded two more studio albums, Out of the Grey (1986), produced by Cutler, and Ghost Stories (1988), produced by Elliot Mazer. A live album, Live at Raji's, was recorded in 1988 (also by Mazer) before Ghost Stories but released afterward. The band ceased to exist in 1989.
Posthumous releases include 3½; The Lost Tapes 1985–1988, a collection of unreleased studio sessions, and The Day Before Wine and Roses, a live radio performance recorded just prior to the release of the band's first album.
Since then, Steve Wynn continued on as a solo artist. Mark Walton went on to play with the Continental Drifters. The reformed band (Wynn, Walton, Duck and Jason Victor, Wynn's longtime lead guitarist in the Miracle 3) played again on September 21, 2012, at Festival BAM, in Barcelona and has continued with further limited performances in 2012 and 2013.
In December 2013, The Dream Syndicate played two nights with three other reunited Paisley Underground bands — The Bangles, The Three O'Clock, and Rain Parade — at The Fillmore in San Francisco (Dec. 5) and The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles (Dec. 6 benefit concert).
On September 26–27, 2014, the Dream Syndicate will play at the EARL in East Atlanta, the band's first shows in the South since 1988. The September 26 show is expected to feature a full playing of their debut album, The Days of Wine and Roses, and the following show is expected to feature their second album, The Medicine Show. Savage Republic, a California art/post punk band, will open the shows, along with local indie rock band Small Reactions.