Hometown Hotspots: Oregon Getaway With Khai Dreams
Everyone knows that when travelling to new places, the best spots to visit aren’t the ones easily found on the web. It’s all about local favourites – those true hidden gems that make the place unique for its own inhabitants. In our Hometown Hotspots series, we’re catching up with musicians around the world to find those gems on a personal tour through their own cities.
Khai Dreams (she/they) is one of the many artistes who made it because of the internet. The half-Vietnamese American artiste used music and spaces like Gaia Online, Neopets, and Runescape as escapism when she was younger to be what she wanted.
The 23-year-old released her first singles, “I Hold You Close To Me” and “Lost In You”, in 2017, which garnered much success.
Her hit single “Sunkissed” from 2018’s collaborative EP with Atwood received nearly 200 million streams and became a familiar tune on TikTok.
This year, Khai Dreams released her first full-length album, Absolute Heartbreak, with ten tracks that showcase incredible songwriting skills.
She announced the album release on the same day when she released the album’s second single, “Rats”, which was inspired when listening to “white summer and green bicycle, red hair with black guitar” by The Pillows.
Khai Dreams explained that she was in a strange place when she felt like she had no control over her life after feeling burnt out and depressed.
Vulnerability through songwriting becomes Khai Dreams' secret weapon to navigate this big old world, making her new album Absolute Heartbreak the perfect unhinged bedroom pop music.
Speaking of the world, let's take a trip to Eugene, Oregon, with Khai Dreams to see where things started and some of her favourite spots.
LIFE IN EUGENE, OREGON
Eugene, Oregon, USA. Credit: Sean Pavone/Alamy Stock Photo
Eugene is a really great place if you are white and you like nature. Otherwise, it's pretty boring and a bit alienating.
It was a calm place to grow up though, and the long and rainy winters kept me inside and working on creative stuff. I also think a lot of what pushed me into pursuing music was a desire to get out of Eugene.
The song I picked for Eugene is “Blowtorch” by The Go! Team. That song captures how it feels to grow up in a quiet town. You get very bored, and so you learn to make your own fun (to varying results).
AN EATERY YOU’D FEEL HOMESICK FOR: EL SUPER BURRITO
In the past, I would have said there is an incredible Vietnamese food truck called Tam's, off a friendly street by the natural pet store in South Eugene. But that place has since closed, so my answer now would have to be El Super Burrito.
I go there every time I am back, and I miss it every time I am gone.
I could try and paint a picture of the salmon red linoleum that lines every part of the interior, and the broken arcade machines with perpetually stacked boxes in the back, or even the lingering smell of burnt oil and fresh gasoline, but you truly have to experience it yourself to understand the vibe.
That place will change your life.
The song I picked here is “God's Plan”. It is the song I am thinking of every time I enter that establishment.
YOUR SECRET SPOT FOR NEW VISITORS: ST ANTHONY FALLS
St. Anthony Falls. Credit: Don Hankins/Flickr
The Lorane Highway and all of its offshoot roads and trails. In the autumn it's especially pretty. a lot of gorgeous hillsides and groves/vineyards. It feels like you are looking at a painting.
Honestly, any of the roads on the outskirts of Eugene are very nice drives filled with lots of natural scenery. That said, be careful around abandoned logging roads.
The song I pick here is “Deadwood” by Predawn because of how well it paints a picture of autumn in my head. That song feels like a cool breeze and shining sun over an orange and green landscape.
Very calming, like a nice drive through an old country road!
THE PLACE YOU HOPE WILL STAY THE SAME: RIVERFRONT STEAM PLANT
There's an abandoned steam plant downtown that faces the riverfront. It has been standing there abandoned my whole life, and I hope it stays like that forever.
It's really cool looking. It makes the city feel more mysterious, like it has a dark hidden past (besides the racism). Every time I pass it, I think, “What is going on in there?”
The song that immediately comes to mind is “Crystalline” by Björk.
I imagine “Crystalline” and that factory are tethered by some ethereal thread beyond our mortal senses. I might even imagine that Bjork is in that factory. She is in that abandoned factory, and the Björk we know is merely a puppet being remotely controlled by factory Björk.
I really hope that factory stays like that forever.
Listen to her new album Absolute Heartbreak now.
This feature of Hometown Hotspots was created with Secret Signals.
Cover Credit: Stu Robinson, Illustration: Yana Pan
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.