“V’Ger’s Dream,” a lovely song by the psych-pop artist Michael Droske, doesn’t sound like it’s about Star Trek. The “V’Ger” of the title is the tragic antagonist of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a sentient life form that evolved from a space probe that had been lost to the depths of the cosmos. (“V’Ger,” after all, is a corrupted form of Voyager.) But rather than leaning into the sci-fi elements of the source material, Droske has created a lilting slice of space-age sunshine: laden with honeyed slide guitar and mellow vocals, the song takes inspiration from the Beach Boys and the AM gold of the 70s. It would feel right at home on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.
I confess that I know only slightly more than the average person about Star Trek; what I know comes from friends online and a shameful past watching The Big Bang Theory. But you don’t need to know much about the series to get on this song’s wavelength. Its cozy, psychedelic warmth is easy to chill to, yes, but you can also hear a melancholy undercurrent as well. Even if you don’t know anything about V’Ger, or even the real-life Voyager missions, you get a real sense of wistful loneliness, where “days go passing by like dust on the solar wind.” The nostalgic soft-rock sound only reinforces this sense of quiet isolation: it’s the sound of someone who means no harm floating adrift, patiently waiting for a connection that may never come.
Tell me a little more about the story behind “V’Ger’s Dream.” What was it that drew you to write a song about it?
When I wrote “V’Ger’s Dream” in 2010 I was binge-watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and I became enraptured with the story of the Voyager space probes and the golden records they carried, which contained a tiny sample of humanity’s culture, voices, and music for some alien race to discover. I was struck by the duality of loneliness and hopefulness contained within that idea, of sending a probe out into the unknown, knowing that it would be 40,000 years until it reached the closest star, but still encapsulating a little bit of humanity’s creativity in the hope that someone will eventually find it, against all odds. I was in a failing relationship at the time I wrote the song, and while I was struggling, lonely, and wanting to cling to the past, I still felt that I had a message for the future that I wanted to share, as well as a hope that the future would eventually bring love and understanding, which it has.
This song is inspired by Star Trek, but it’s not the kind of inspired-by song where you need a deep understanding of the canon to enjoy it and understand what it’s getting at. How do you balance your own personal muse with the concerns of your audience?
If my audience doesn’t like Star Trek, then I don’t care to have them as my audience. Just kidding. I hope that the ideas of exploration, hope, and the transcendence of time and space that my song contains will attract people to learning about the Voyager probes. And my choice to use the name for Voyager from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “V’Ger,” was done in the hope of getting those potential Trekkies to google the name and check out the movie, and, of course, to attract present-day Trekkies to my music.
Although it’s a psychedelic song, “V’Ger’s Dream” forgoes the obvious sci-fi synth music for something indebted to the Beach Boys and AM gold. What is it about that sound that makes a song like this resonate?
The Beach Boys have always filled me with nostalgia for a time I didn’t even live through. I wanted to capture that nostalgia in this song, because, in essence, it’s a song about the past, and about hope for the future. The Beach Boys’ sound, in addition to being nostalgic, has always been ecstatically hopeful, too. I wanted the song to make listeners feel the spiritual wonder I felt when I first saw Carl Sagan in his 70s corduroy jacket rhapsodizing about the immensity of the cosmos and the relative insignificance of our species, while being bold enough to create a record to preserve our species’ particular beauty in the unlikely event an alien stumbles across it. The thought that some alien could form their idea of humanity by listening to Carl Wilson singing “God Only Knows” brings me to tears.
Who would you say your greatest musical influence is?
Brian Wilson, hands down, has got to be my greatest influence for vocals, except, of course, for everybody’s greatest influence, The Beatles. As far as songwriting goes, I owe a lot to The Beatles and Pink Floyd, but I think as far as sonic palette is concerned, Radiohead has influenced me the most, with their willingness to push the envelope and blur the boundaries between guitar and electronic sounds. Brian Eno’s first three psychedelic albums were a huge game changer for me, too. And while you can’t tell it from “V’Ger’s Dream,” I love 70s prog rock, especially Gong and early Genesis. Hopefully you’ll see some of those influences in my future releases.
Do you have any ambitions for the future?
Musically, I have some big ambitions for the future. “V’Ger’s Dream” is part of a long-distance collaborative project with a lot of my musician friends. Rebecca Ray contributed vocals, Harry Snyder contributed drums, Robert Madrid contributed flute, and David Hrivnak mixed and mastered it. They’re all in the Seattle area and I’m in East Texas, but I’ve got musician friends around the world who are helping me finish my debut album, so that’s really exciting that we can collaborate despite a pandemic and huge distances between us. My next single, “For Those of You Who Measure Time,” is also a collaborative project between me, Daniel Dillard on drums, Adrienne Kerr on sax, LipServus Sunny on trumpet, and David mixing and mastering again, and it’ll be released within the next couple months. Hopefully I’ll get the album finished before the end of 2021, and I’ve got a couple more albums’ worth of material I’ll be polishing, with a little help from my friends, for the next couple years! And in the meantime, I’m designing and building my own cob and straw bale house and a permaculture farm out here in East Texas, so there’s some massively exciting stuff on the horizon for me!
Finally, and most crucially: Kirk or Picard?
While I love Kirk’s swashbuckling swagger and razor-sharp sideburns, I grew up in the 90s watching Picard with my family every night at 9 p.m., so I’m definitely a Picard guy. Picard exemplifies the empathy, diplomacy, and dignity that leadership for the future is so desperately in need of.