Prizm News / July 1, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

A musical duo of two Transgirls releases a new album to get all our feet to dancing

Sad. Bad. Happy. Good. 

Sure, these could all be the normal course of emotions that humans experience in a given day. But for Madeline Eckhart and Natalie Grace Martin, this range of feelings represents an umbrella of experiences powerful enough to inspire an entire album. 

Above: DreamStates album cover.
Featured image by: John R. Aylward Photography

Together, Eckhart and Martin comprise DreamStates, an Akron-based, powerhouse duo who make synth-pop infused with rock, jazz, and estrogen. On “SAD BAD HAPPY GOOD,” their fourth full-length studio album since they were formed in late 2017, they set out to record a set of up-tempo tracks to remind their trans and non-binary siblings that there is still reason to smile and dance, even in these extraordinarily troubled times. Prizm chatted with the duo to learn more about their motivation, sense of identity, and path forward to create even more memorable music. 

Photo courtesy of Natalie Martin

What motivates you to keep putting out new music?

Eckhart: Part of our mission as a band is to make up for the staggering lack of pop music by openly transgender musicians in the music industry. So we’ve been constantly at work, constantly improving our techniques, and constantly exploring new territories for our lyrics. For example, our first album “Parts One & Two” is mostly all synthesized, programmed instruments. Every album we’ve made thereafter has incorporated a new live instrument; “Mode of Being” added the electric ukulele to replace all traditional six-string guitar parts, our cover album “Massive Sonic Implications” added the live bass, and “SAD BAD HAPPY GOOD” adds six-string guitar and a full horn section. 

How do you make a duo work?

Martin: Personally, I think one of the coolest things about our band is the dichotomy between Madeline and I. We have a very “yin/yang” chemistry. I’m a career musician with over 20 years of songwriting/performing experience, trained in multiple instruments and genres, while Madeline started her professional music career with DreamStates. Madeline came out as transgender at a much younger age than I did, and at very different points in our lives. She had just graduated college and was 23, while I was a married, 30-year-old father of two. I’m unsuccessfully monogamous, and she’s successfully polyamorous. I’m the owner of a neuro-typical brain, while Madeline lives with major depressive disorder. These differences all come into play when we make our music. 

Is there a narrative thread that can be traced through all of your different projects?

Eckhart: What truly binds us together is a shared passion for activism, and positive representation for the LGBT community. We never make a record without imbuing it with as much pride, optimism, and positive vibes as possible. 

Martin: The lead single for “SAD BAD HAPPY GOOD” is called “Impossible Me.” As the title says, the song is about my personal evolution from Chris to Natalie, and a statement that, despite the seemingly impossible odds I—and all trans/gender nonconforming folk—had to overcome to be myself, my best days are still ahead of me. Even the songs we write that are mundane from a topical perspective are revolutionary, simply because they come from a trans voice. The idea of a trans woman singing about being loved just like any other girl is, to some, a radical concept. Nevertheless, a big part of our activism is normalizing the experiences and emotions of transgender individuals. 

What’s coming up for DreamStates?

Martin: This August, DreamStates will perform at Akron Pride, and if you count the inaugural festival where Maddie was a backup singer in my “She/Her/Hers” band, this will be our third consecutive appearance at Akron Pride. The four singles from “SAD BAD HAPPY GOOD” are easily the best work we’ve ever done, with “Twisted,” “More Like Silence,” and “Spray Paint” serving as the perfect follow-ups to “Impossible Me,” and perfect representations of how far we’ve come just being a little band of two.