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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