NIU favorite showplace for suburban rock band

By Vickie Snow

When it comes to showing their stuff, these guys like it best at NIU.

No, they aren’t flashers—they are the members of Dreams, and they know how to get an audience pumped.

Dreams, a Palos Hills-based rock band, is five guys who have known each other most of their lives and have been jamming together since 1985.

They call their music “party tunes,” and they play songs by groups like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Styx, Cheap Trick and Van Halen.

But Dreams isn’t a bunch of copy cats. A typical music set consists of half originals and half cover tunes. Any ballads they perform are originals. The have 15 originals that are songs “we feel are as good as we can do,” said Paul Smith, lead guitarist.

When they write songs, it’s a group effort. Usually, one member will bring in the basic structure and the rest of the band will add to it, Smith explained.

The music is basic rock and roll, not heavy metal—”it’s not as heavy, but the energy is there,” Batastini said.

Their musical influences range from classical to jazz to rock artists, Smith said.

Dreams’ musical talents are accented by the work a light man and a sound man that keep the performances consistent.

While Dreams has been playing professionally the last five years, its musical background is not so new.

Smith said he picked up the guitar in eighth grade and bassist John Skore started plucking classical notes in second grade. Batastini admitted he started out playing the trumpet in fifth grade, but in high school realized he’d get “more chicks” by drumming it out. When singer Linas Kastys went to Germany for his junior year of high school, he discovered singing was his thing.

While the band members put the band together on their own, they have had some help since. Keyboardist Todd Loizzo’s father, who owns a recording studio in Oak Lawn, has been a big influence on Dreams. “He helped produce us and grow a lot faster than we would have on our own,” Smith said.

So far, Dreams may sound like a typical band. But they feel there are a few things that make them stand out.

“People over the years have helped us make us different,” Smith said, adding that the NIU crowd makes DeKalb “the best place” for them to play.

If you were one of the 1,500 people who caught Dreams at The Jungle three Saturdays ago, you know what they mean. Kastys climbed onto the balcony, jumped into the crowd, got back onto stage by a sea of arms and then started singing “I’ll Drive You Crazy,” one of their originals that the crowd seemed to know.

Kastys said “we get so pumped we don’t feel things” like landing on people.

Their on-stage energy reflects their passion to make it big.

“We’ll take being semi-successful, but we want to be big,” Kastys said. “We want to be rock stars.”

Five years down the road, Dreams hopes to have some albums out and a recording contract. “We want a shot at a record and to get it distributed nationally,” Smith said. A few record companies are showing interest in Dreams, he added.

“It’s our ‘dream’ to be successful,” Smith said. They decided on the band’s name after talking about hundreds of possiblities. “Dreams are something every young person can relate to,” he explained. “Our logo is in black and white because we don’t dream in color.”

Working toward their dream has been an on-going project. Batastini said that over the past five years, they have become more disciplined and definitely put in a lot of hard work.

Their dedication is more intense and they have improved individually and as a whole, Smith said.

The band members have graduated or are completing college to have something to fall back on of their musical talents don’t take them where they want to go. Smith, the only band member who is an NIU student, said it is his goal to finish school and focus on the future.

Dreams seems to be catching the attention of many people though. For instance, Dreams had the opportunity of jamming in front of 7,000 people last September for the Tinley Park Fest at the new World Theater. They said it was great to have that many people demand an encore.

Dreams also has played at various local parties and in 1988’s Battle of the Bands at NIU, which they won.

Being in a band means time away from other fun things, they admitted. “When our friends are at the beach, we’re practicing,” Batastini said, adding that they practice three days a week for about five hours a shot in Loizzi’s studio.

Partying has to take a back seat sometimes. Nobody parties for weeks before a gig. “We want to go out there 100 percent ready mentally and physically,” Smith said.

Working around certain demands “is worth it…being in a band is better than anything,” they agreed. The band members said they get to go places and meet people they probably wouldn’t if they weren’t in the band.

If you missed Dreams at The Jungle, they will be playing there again before the semester ends. Until then, you can catch their act at Two Rivers Sports Bar in Bolingbrook Feb. 23 and at P.J. Flaherty’s in Evergreen Park March 30.