Alt/pop/synthwave artist, Joey Arena recently dropped his cover of Van Halen's "Dreams," which immediately earned the praise of Sammy Hagar, who called it his favorite cover that anyone had ever done of any of his songs.
The Arena track features producer/songwriter/guitarist, Justin "JD" deBlieck (Ice Nine Kills,) on guitars and the pair are currently in the studio working on more music for Arena's upcoming synth wave project.
Arena, who is the frontman for Ovtlier, was a huge Van Halen fan growing up and was thrilled to be able to pay homage to them with the release of the track, "It was definitely the soundtrack to my childhood. I would play that song on repeat and drive my mom nuts and my brothers and I would pretend we were Power Rangers and stuff because that’s how I rediscovered who the artist was. I knew Van Halen in my youth, but we didn’t have Google or the Internet or anything to do a quick search when you heard something. When I heard the song in the movie after hearing it on the radio and read the credits and that it was Van Halen, I just ended up out playing that song and that was it."
"I just played it for so long for so many years and still, when I go back and listen to it, it just reminds me of being a kid again. It reminds of that carefree time in my life with no problems and long Summers and all that warm, fuzzy stuff."
Arena had been wanting to work on this type of music for a few years, but it wasn't until he was sidelined by the pandemic that he had the time to really do it. Both he and deBlieck were on the same page with cutting the cover of "Dreams," a favorite that they both share.
"I wanted to cover “Dreams” before the passing of Eddie and once that happened, I told my producer that it’s a prime time now to get this out there as a tribute to him. Guitar is my forte and obviously, the loss of Eddie struck a serious chord with so many people, but particularly guitar players. I wanted some feel-good stuff and wanted something that would hit the feels of people, but we did not expect Sammy to hear it. Putting his quote in there was not a brownnosing stunt at all. It just happened to work out that way so that was pretty wild," Arena explained.
Arena's version of the track does a great job of staying true to the essence of the original song while bringing in a few new elements and he says that was done almost unconsciously, "When we did it, we had no plan beyond slowing down the song a little bit tempo-wise. Then I wanted to add the saxophone, because the genre that I’m interested in and the genre that I’m trying to mold around this has all of those eighties' super cheesy instrumental type takes of it, but Van Halen was so synth-driven on top of being guitar-driven and then you add the vocals in and it’s just kind of magic."
"It wasn‘t actually that difficult to try to implement my sound because they already had the ideas, I just had to add the saxophone really and just did some dynamic stuff with the vocals. I brought it lower. I have a pretty strong mid-low range on vocals and I kind of just wanted to flex that a little bit and see what it would sound like. The original is so good that there wasn’t anything that I wanted to change, instead I just built around it and threw the Sammy Hagar quote about Eddie in there and that was really just a hat tip and a respect thing to these legends."
Looking ahead, Arena shared, "I have a follow-up for my original single, I have a single called “Fever” that will be coming out shortly in the next couple of months. Again, it’s super feel-good and I want to take people on a musical journey with my music and remember more younger and vibrant times in their life. I want them to be able to put the music on and just cruise to it and put it on in the background and have a great conversation with friends and family and all that stuff. I want to try to change the current of what has been getting put out in the industry. That’s kind of my goal."