Jeromes Dream Drummer Erik Ratensperger on the Trio’s Past, Present & Future

Photo: Jonathan Velazquez

Jeromes Dream was a band that was part of the '90s post-hardcore/emo scene. Based out of Connecticut at the time, the trio worked hard during their initial run together, carving out their own space within the community that also included such groups as Orchid and Saetia.

In 2001, Jeromes Dream issued their final record, Presents, breaking up later that same year. The album was was recorded by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, and found the band delivering their most realized material yet. 

2019 marked the return of Jeromes Dream through a 12-song untitled album, and they've been keeping a steady live schedule when pandemic shutdowns allow. 

To start this year off, Jeromes Dream have joined forces with Iodine Recordings, who will be reissuing the trio's 2001Presents album.

I spoke with drummer Erik Ratensperger about the band's history, the forthcoming reissue, and their future.

Going back to the beginning, before you even got into a rehearsal room together, did you have a specific stylistic approach you wanted to pursue, or did that happen more organically?

We had no specific aim or stylistic approach when we rehearsed for the first time in 1997 in [guitarist] Nick’s [Antonopulous] mom’s basement. The common ground was that we were all cut from the local punk scene in Connecticut, but had no idea what would come of music until we played together for the first time—it was loud, blistering, and all unexpected… and the most unexpected aspect was how palpable the chemistry was between the three of us.

It almost instantaneously became more than just the music… there was an instant bond and it suddenly became clear that this is the only thing we were going to bring our attention to. The band became the epicenter of our lives.

Who would you say were your scene contemporaries back then? How important was the community aspect to Jeromes Dream?

While we felt like outcasts most of our time as a band, eventually we came across other like-minded bands who were rooted in similar philosophies of DIY punk and community—we were really close with bands like Orchid at the time and played tons together.

Other bands like Pg. 99, Usurp Synapse, Racebannon, To Dream of Autumn, Suicide Nation, Saetia, Spirit of Versailles, Anton Bordman, Oxes, Reversal of Man, and countless others were just some the bands that really stood out and were making their own mark at the time.

So, did you feel like you were part of a scene either locally or otherwise?

Over time, it really did feel like there was a scene, and it was super exciting. People like Peter Zetlan (of Sinola) would put on a yearly festival called Tin Can Full of Dreams (honoring his mother who had breast cancer). He played such a role in bringing bands and kids together for a good cause but also amplified DIY hardcore culture and community.

On that subject, what kind of bills do you feel you guys did best on? How receptive were the more traditionally-minded hardcore/punk folks to what you were doing at the time?

We were from Connecticut and to be honest, we had a hard time getting started there—a lot of kids made us feel unwelcome, and that only made us go harder as a fuck you to show them and ourselves that we could do it our way, and not quit or disappear, but break beyond the scene and basically create our own by actually touring. And we did that with a station wagon we bought for $350 and made it across to California and back and met so many rad people/bands along the way.

Anyway, yeah—we always felt like the odd men out.

Take us back to the Presents sessions with Kurt Ballou. Why did you decide to work with him on the album, and how would you describe the recording days? How happy were you with everything once the record came out back then?

We loved Converge, and Kurt was recording so many bands we were into at the time. He recorded our first record, Seeing Means More than Safety as well. It made sense to work with him on Presents because we felt comfortable with him and knew he would capture what we wanted without having to explain much at all.

We recorded Presents in 3 days, I think. We were excited about the record and we knew we were entering uncharted territory... everything from frame of mind to musical execution.

When Jeromes Dream broke up in 2001, were you satisfied with what you had done up to that point, or did it feel premature in terms of not having fulfilled more goals you had set?

I had personally pulled the rug out from under the band and regret having done it the way I did. I announced at a show that it was gonna be our last show without telling [bassist/vocalist] Jeff [Smith] or Nick.

I walked up to Jeff’s mic and just said it to the 30 or 40 kids who were there (including some of the Saetia guys, which was ironic cause we played their last show at ABC No Rio).

It was premature, but I was a fucked up kid who had a real chip on my shoulder and wasn’t in a great frame of mind. It wasn’t fair to Jeff and Nick.

How did you guys hook up with Casey and Iodine Recordings? Why was he the right person to handle the Presents reissue?

Casey put out some of our earliest music in '97 on a comp with bands like Converge, Cave In, Garrison, and many others. We were so thrilled to be included in such company.

So, when Casey told us he was going to revive the label, we felt really good about collabing with him on the reissue. It was so nice to work with someone who we know was a part of the history already. Casey is an original, and he’s also just a stand-up guy who is insanely hardworking, talented, and passionate. He’s doing the label for the right reasons.

Now that you’ve been back as a functioning band with the release of the 2019 LP, what can you tell us about future plans going into 2022?

We are writing a new record and planning to announce some shows later this year. Can’t wait to start playing again. This pandemic has really fucked everything up, hasn’t it.


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