Interview: Dirty Projectors songwriter David Longstreth achieves discovery in seclusion

This interview appears in ALARM #40. Subscribe here to get your copy!

Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan (Domino, 7/10/12)

“Gun Has No Trigger”

Dirty Projectors: “Gun Has No Trigger”

Dave Longstreth has one hell of a view. Slumping his lanky frame in a plush leather chair, the Dirty Projectors front-man has been given a room in Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel that has a massive floor-to-ceiling window, displaying the island of Manhattan in stunning panorama. The funny thing, as Longstreth points out, is that the accommodations are a bit superfluous. “I live just a couple blocks that way,” he notes.

Despite the junketed overkill of the meeting place, Longstreth can attest that time away from home can really clear one’s head for answers. Last year after touring behind his band’s breakthrough 2009 album Bitte Orca, Longstreth hid himself away, renting a house in upstate New York for the sole purpose of writing and recording new songs. Narrowed from more than 50 demos to 12 final tracks, the resultant Swing Lo Magellan is Longstreth’s attempt at concentrated songcraft. “This album, for me, is just about the songs,” he says, “this idea of a verse and a chorus and lyrics and melody.”

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Free iPad download of ALARM #40 w/ Soundgarden, Refused, Converge

ALARM is back in print, and being the shameless self-promoters that we are, we’d love if you bought a print subscription. But let’s say that you have one of these newfangled “iPads.” Let’s also say that you like free things, particularly those that pertain to awesome music and cultural stuff. In that event, might we direct you to download ALARM #40 (Nov/Dec 2012) for free?

Go here to read about and see what’s inside #40, which includes interviews with and stories on Soundgarden, Refused, Converge, Melvins, Dirty Projectors, Bloc Party, P.O.S, Squarepusher, Fang Island, and more.

Then go to bit.ly/ALARMiPad and click on “view in iTunes” to download that bad boy for $0.00. Mom might not love loud music, but she digs thriftiness. Make mom proud.
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Review: Matmos’s The Ganzfeld EP

Matmos: The Ganzfeld EPMatmos: The Ganzfeld EP (Thrill Jockey, 10/16/12)

“Very Large Green Triangles”

Matmos: “Very Large Green Triangles”

You’re in a chair, wearing headphones, with white noise hissing fuzzily at you from either side. Ping-pong balls have been scissored in half and set over your eyes, with a purplish light beaming at you from just inches away. You can’t see. You are told that the experiment will last 30 minutes. It may not work.

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Review: David Byrne & St. Vincent’s Love This Giant

David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This GiantDavid Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant (4AD, 9/11/12)

“Who”

David Byrne & St. Vincent: “Who”

David Byrne has one of the most recognizable voices in music, ranking somewhere between Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe. No doubt this is why everyone wants the former Talking Heads front-man to guest on their records. Dirty ProjectorsArcade Fire, Jherek Bischoff — they’ve all taken advantage of the static friction of that back-of-the-mouth tenor.

But Love This Giant, Byrne’s collaboration with St. Vincent, a woman who’s known more for her multi-instrumentalist abilities than her voice, is the first full-length he’s co-written with anyone other than Brian Eno.

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Review: Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo MagellanDirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan (Domino, 7/10/12)

“Gun Has No Trigger”

Dirty Projectors: “Gun Has No Trigger”

Earlier this year, when Dirty Projectors offered a stream of the new song “Gun Has No Trigger,” it felt like the band was fending off fans, critics, and music blogs with a stick — keeping them at bay, buying more time to wrap up more songs. Ever since the release of its schizo-indie breakthrough, Bitte Orca, in 2009, the band has become a bearer of the “most anticipated album” tag, as the expectations for follow-up Swing Lo Magellan have swelled to ridiculous proportions.

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Concert Photos: Rusko @ Congress Theater (Chicago, IL)

UK-based dubstep producer Rusko (real name: Chris Mercer) released his latest album, OMG, on Mad Decent one year ago Wednesday. Since then, he’s been working with some of the biggest names in the music business, including Rihanna and T.I.

Collaboration is turning out to be one of his calling cards; he’s worked with Switch, Diplo, Yo Majesty, and Wiley, and has remixed artists like Adele and A-Trak. In addition, Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors is featured on “Hold On,” a single from OMG. Despite his myriad connections, Rusko needed only his equipment (and some snazzy stage decoration) to wow the crowd in a recent jam-packed show at the Congress Theater in Chicago. ALARM staff member Kyle Gilkeson snapped these shots of the thousands-strong dance party.

Rusko

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Q&A: Alarm Will Sound

Alarm Will Sound: 1969

By the end of the 1960s, The Beatles had been absent from any kind of live performance for years. This supposed retirement from commercial concerts, however, never fully quelled speculation that the group could return to the stage in some way. Of the various conjectured shows, none held more what-if potential than a rumored collaboration between the Fab Four and German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

According to a vague report noted in a biography by author Michael Kurtz, Stockhausen was said to have arranged a meeting with one of The Beatles at his New York apartment in 1969 to discuss a joint concert, but a blizzard ultimately kept the two parties apart. Between Paul McCartney occasionally citing a fascination with Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge” in interviews, The Beatles including a image of him in the cover crowd of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and John Lennon’s “Revolution 9” getting regular critical comparisons to Stockhausen’s Hymnen, The Beatles and Stockhausen maintained at least a shred of connectivity to make such a collaboration possible.

Though the rendezvous, like most hearsay, has been proven to be devoid of truth, fiction has never gotten in the way of inspiration. Such is the case with avant-garde ensemble Alarm Will Sound and its most recent work, 1969. Mixing musical composition, scripted acting, audio dialogue, and archival video, the group’s live production uses the myth of the would-be collaboration as a jumping-off point to examine a time period rife with political, artistic, and social change. ALARM recently spoke with the ensemble’s conductor, Alan Pierson, to discuss the new work, its combination of history and falsehood, and why the year of 1969 was such a big deal.

Let me ask you about 1969. How did this concept develop?

We had been working on this for a long time. In a way, it goes back to those composer portraits as one-composer concerts. Those sorts of concerts, we felt, were a really good way for us to be developing our reputation in New York. But at a certain point, we felt like we wanted to do something broader than that. What I liked about the composer portraits was that they were a way of creating a contemporary music concert that really felt like an event, rather than just a collection of pieces.

There was a really special kind of vibe that you got when you had people walking into a hall to experience an entire evening of Steve Reich or of György Ligeti. The question was “How [do we] create that kind of experience with a broader repertoire?” and “What is a way to bring together really different kinds of music in a coherent framework?”

We did a couple of things along those lines. We did a show called Odd Couples at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which I think was really successful. But as we started brainstorming ideas for concerts, one thing I started thinking about was this idea of doing music of a single year and using a period of time as a way to connect really different kinds of music. Nineteen sixty-nine just emerged pretty quickly in that process as a really interesting time to look at. In the process of looking at that more deeply, I stumbled on this story of the planned meeting between Stockhausen and The Beatles, and it just seemed like too great a story not to tell.

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Angel Deradoorian steps out of Dirty Projectors’ shadow on debut EP

For 22-year-old Dirty Projectors bassist and solo artist Angel Deradoorian, the morning begins with an egg and cheese with avocado on a toasted sesame bagel. “Shit, can I call you right back?” Deradoorian exclaims. “I’m on the other line ordering breakfast.”

It’s forgivable that Deradoorian is a bit preoccupied. She’s about to hop on a plane to LA after our interview and has just returned from SXSW performing with the Dirty Projectors and solo, promoting her new EP, Mind Raft.

With the release of the heavily buzzworthy Bitte Orca (Domino) garnering solid critical acclaim, and live dates with Björk, TV on the Radio, and David Byrne, many would consider this “the year of the Dirty Projectors.” Also in 2009, Deradoorian stepped onto stage by herself with her solo debut, in the midst of the Dirty Projectors’ hysteria.

“I grew up in California and went to a public middle school, so I did always feel really awkward, especially in eighth grade,” Deradoorian says. “Every girl was pretty much a huge bitch, and I didn’t know how to deal with that yet. I wasn’t interested in what they were interested in, so I really felt pretty isolated.”

Mind Raft, with its hushed, bedroom melodies and down-tempo moodiness, bears some of the scars of that high-school angst and reflects a young woman slowly coming to understand herself as an artist. “There’s definitely some sadness on the record,” Deradoorian says. “These were the first songs of mine that I felt were fit for public consumption. I found them to be the most sincere and compatible with my persona. I’m learning as I go.”

After relocating to New York from California, Deradoorian met Projectors’ leader David Longstreth and quickly formed a musical bond. From there, Deradoorian joined the circus and never looked back.

“I met Dave in 2006, like a month after I moved to New York,” Deradoorian says. “I was just around a lot because I knew some of his friends and played music with them, and he asked me to join soon after. Almost immediately, we went on tour with Grizzly Bear, and it was crazy. It took me about a year to adapt to Dave’s music and life on the road.”

As for the creative process, Deradoorian acknowledges her role in the band and is content to let Dave do his thing. “I’m just trying to do as good as I can,” she says. “Joining the band was incredibly exciting and something that I was definitely ready for, so I put all my creative energy into being as good as possible.”

While being a Dirty Projector provides fertile ground for experimentation, Mind Raft is a trip into the ether of Deradoorian’s mind. It’s by turns spacey and beautiful, eerie and unsettling.

“I don’t know if I want to divulge who influenced Mind Raft,” Deradoorian laughs. “I’m really into kraut rock. It’s really pleasing to my ears to hear something like Can. I also listen to a lot of classical and Middle Eastern music.”

Between the exhaustive touring schedule of the Projectors, Deradoorian slowly began piecing Mind Raft together over a period of several years.

“I had a basic idea of what the record was going to sound like, but it ended up sounding way different than I had heard it in my head,” she says. “I wanted the drum tones to be very dead sounding, and I like reverb a lot, so those two things are in there. If I had to describe the record’s sound, I’d call it faux-psych R&B.” (Laughs)

The multi-talented Deradoorian feels a kinship with most instruments and believes that writing lyrics is the tough part of the gig.

“It’s weird that I play bass in the Projectors, but that’s actually the last instrument I learned,” she says. “Lyrics aren’t my strong point, so I usually don’t write music from a lyrical standpoint. I pretty much stay in my apartment and jam and try to figure something out.

“I come up with a lot of vocal melodies in the shower; that’s kind of my thing. So if I can remember them after I’ve showered, then I’ll try and record them before I forget.”

Prolificacy is not her goal, so for her next solo record, Deradoorian is content to take her time. “The next record will be a full-length, and I’ve set an incredibly long list of challenges for myself,” she says. “There’s just so much more that I want to do, and I want to make it really good. I really want to take a chunk of time and go off somewhere and work on it by myself.”

Deradoorian is quiet and contemplative throughout our interview, breaking for long pauses between responses, and obviously a bit uncomfortable with the whole process. She reflects a naïveté balanced with a confidence gained from years on the road.

“It depends on what you think an old soul is, I guess,” Deradoorian says. “I’ve been touring almost non-stop since I was 17, so I feel in that way I’ve become accustomed to traveling, but it’s so different each time. Especially when your band is becoming more successful like the Dirty Projectors, things seem to be changing every day.

“Money isn’t the biggest deal to me, and taking care of my mental health and wellbeing is way more important. I really do love playing my own music, and I’ll be doing that for a long time. Whatever else happens, I’ll figure it out as I go.”

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