Owl City inspired by dreams 

click to enlarge Isomniac: Owl City’s Adam Young’s upcoming recording “The Midsummer Station” includes songs based on his nightmares, making the album lyrically dark. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Isomniac: Owl City’s Adam Young’s upcoming recording “The Midsummer Station” includes songs based on his nightmares, making the album lyrically dark.

Adam Young — the Midwest keyboardist who records as Owl City, the “Fireflies”-famous, one-man band he launched from his parents’ basement in 2007 — certainly got lucky with his chart-climbing new single “Good Time.”

When he wrote the optimistic song several months ago, he envisioned it as a boy-girl duet; since their managers were childhood chums, he cold-called then-little-known Canadian artist Carly Rae Jepsen (who went on to own the summer with the irresistible “Call Me Maybe”). She was more than game.

“She said ‘I’m a big fan of what you do — you’ve played in Vancouver a couple of times and I’ve actually been to your shows!’” he says. “So the timing was just crazy. I can’t believe all the dots connected.”

But when Young premieres his latest Owl City album, “The Midsummer Station,” on a club tour that hits The City on Saturday, “Good Time” might be the only celebratory anthem that fans will hear.

Musically, the new recording is synth-fizzy and fun. But lyrically, it’s unusually shadowy and reflective, in self-analytical tracks like “Embers,” “Silhouette,” “Dementia” and “Dreams and Disasters.”

“I’ve never been the guy to write from his own personal experiences, I’ve always preferred to write from the imagination. But this time, I wanted to make sure that nothing was filtered,” says Young.

The singer, who still resides in his tiny hometown of Owatonna, Minn., has long suffered from insomnia, which he combats nightly with heavy doses of melatonin.

In sleep, he regularly is rattled by vivid nightmares, which he bemoans on “Silhouette” in his conversely light, pneumatic lilt: “Tired of waking up in tears/ Because I can’t put to bed all these phobias and fears.”

“I wrote and rewrote that song,” he says. “Just to make sure that everything in there had the right amount of darkness, darkness that I do deal with.”

Sometimes the nightmares even morph into Owl City material. The new tune “Metropolis” was inspired by a dream about Superman and all the emotional baggage he might carry.

Other nights, he says, “I’ll catch the last few minutes of a dream, and even if it was scary or frightening, I have to go into the studio and try to recreate that vibe with music or lyrics, so I don’t forget it. Therefore, I’m up all night. Every night.”

Ultimately, “Midsummer” is about acceptance. About having a “Good Time,” no matter what.

“So writing inherently optimistic-sounding songs with dark, melancholy undercurrents gives me something to latch onto,” Young says. “And if I didn’t have the music to focus on, I’d probably be a mess!”

Owl City
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m., Saturday
Tickets: $21 (sold out)            
Contact: (415) 522-0333; www.slimstickets.com

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Tom Lanham

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