Featured Image: Courtesy of DWLLRS
By C. Jayden Smith
A pair of young South Orange County musical artists, who have garnered millions of online streams and can boast nearly 750,000 monthly listeners, can attribute the name for their group to one reactionary, yet introspective, comment from a bandmate’s father.
Bren Eissman, one half of a group with friend Joey Spurgeon, recalled sitting in his bedroom a couple of years ago, playing a limited number of chords on his guitar and screaming out song lyrics when in walked his father.
“He’s like, ‘You know, you and Joey should call yourselves the Dwellers, because you’re always dwelling on things and always thinking about stuff,’ ” Eissman said. “And I was like, ‘Dang, that is a sick name for a beach rock band.’”
The duo now goes by the name DWLLRS and has largely shifted to alternative, indie pop music. However, the suggestion had staying power, as the two recognized their tendency to overthink and overanalyze together, actions they have since used to bring together people across the United States.
Eissman and Spurgeon, natives of Dana Point and San Clemente, respectively, go back to their days together in the fifth grade playing in San Clemente’s National Junior Basketball leagues. They didn’t start playing music together until after they had shared a dorm during their freshman year at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa.
The two came from starkly different backgrounds in respect to music. Spurgeon began playing the guitar when he was around 12 years old, and his interest developed into writing songs before teaching himself to produce music on Apple’s Logic Pro system.
“I eventually started to learn how to record myself and some of my friends,” said Spurgeon. “Then, me and Bren met in college, and we started writing music together, and it felt really special.”
The veteran taught Eissman, who had previously invested himself more into theater, how to play the guitar, setting the group on track for where they are now.
“As our friendship was developing and he was teaching me more, that kind of just blossomed into us writing songs together,” Eissman said. “We eventually wrote our first song that we released—I think it was one of the first songs that we ever collaborated on; it’s called ‘And Then We’ll Be Alright.’ ”
Added to Spotify as a single on Jan. 31, 2020, their first major project recently topped five million plays in the past week. “And Then We’ll Be Alright” opened the door for several more singles to also see significant success within the following years, as all have reached at least 200,000 streams.
As DWLLRS’ initial release gained more recognition, Spurgeon said the growth felt surreal to them, to where they reacted with wonder as to why so many people were listening to and resonating with their song.
Eissman added that the two have always been confident in their abilities to make music that connected with people, because of their devotion and the importance music has held in their lives.
“We’ve always known that we needed to make music like that,” said Eissman. “But to actually see it connecting with people is the trippy part, because … sometimes (the realization) hits us and we get, like, super excited, and then other times we’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s cool, (but) that’s not real.’ ”
The Dana Point native continued, saying he and Spurgeon were honored to be able to produce songs, have an outlet for expression, and enjoy the “most rewarding thing” of getting people to connect to their music.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DWLLRS built its brand and musical portfolio online, culminating in another smash hit with the 2022 release of “Float Through the Ceiling.” As of early November, the song had 4.9 million plays after its Feb. 17 release—around the time Eissman and Spurgeon played their first live show in Laguna Beach.
Spurgeon said the experience was enjoyable, though agreed with his bandmate that the show also scared him.
“It was so fun,” he said. “We’ve always been really excited to play our songs live, because when we’re creating (them), there’ll be so many ideas going back and forth. I’ll be like, ‘All right, this isn’t going to make the record, but we’ll throw this in during our live set.’ ”
As the two continue their music careers, Eissman said he believes that when he sees that their music tangibly affects listeners, whether at a show or elsewhere, he’ll be able to define that project as a success.
Completing the difficult process of translating their emotions or turning real-world experiences into a good song is “the coolest thing ever,” he added.
“With that comes a sustainable lifestyle, whether it be for our careers, being able to use this outlet to build up the people in our lives, like our family and our friends, and then (for) also people who are complete strangers to us, so we can all connect on these emotions,” Eissman said.
Spurgeon said he looks for he and his partner to keep improving at what they do and producing music that captures the essence of who they are, adding that he wants to go on more tours.
“I feel like we’re in this place where we’re just starting to figure things out,” said Eissman, adding that “whatever our debut album will be, we’re really excited about it, because it feels special and we hope that it will connect with people.”
DWLLRS released its latest single, “Dividends,” on Oct. 20, which Spurgeon called one of his favorite projects. The band will next look to release an album in the near future.
DWLLRS can also be found on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, at @wearedwllrs.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.