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The Dirty Projectors

The Dirty Projectors

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 18th June, 2012 9:30AM

It's been three years since the Dirty Projectors released critically acclaimed album Bitte Orca. Now David Longstreth and co. are back with a similarly eclectic, more morose set of tracks in Swing Lo Magellan. We caught up with singer Amber Coffman to discuss the new release and to discover that Dirty Projectors really is David Longstreth's thing.

Hey Amber, you guys are about to go on tour for the new album, yeah? Are you looking forward to it?

I am very much, yeah.

Let’s start by talking about the new album: tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process.

Hmmm. Well Dave (Longstreth) wrote all the songs up north in the woods. He started last January and spent a ton of time up there by himself working on writing the skeletons for the songs and making demos for himself. He did that for a few months during the winter of 2011. Come summer, we started putting down rhythm section stuff with some of the band members, and making better recordings of certain parts. It was a really long process, it took us a long time to get it together.

Tell us about the process between David writing the songs and you fleshing them out: what sort of input does the rest of the band have?

I mean it’s different for every song. He always has a really specific sound and blend of sounds in mind for each song. So yeah, it’s hard to explain but you know, it’s sort of like we take it song by song and part by part really. It’s very, very detailed for every single moment of every song.

Reflecting on this album, Swing Lo Magellan, as a whole, how would you describe the sound and theme?

I don’t know. I think that this album is really honest and more personal than anything David has done for a really long time. It’s about a lot of things: I don’t really want to say what those are.

If you were to compare it to the last record, Bitte Orca, how would you say it is different or representative of a progression?

It’s definitely darker and it’s deeper I think. Yeah I know it’s really vague but the last album was really bright and exuberant and stuff, and this one is very searching, is what it is. It’s honest and searching and thoughtful I think: that sounds really stupid to say that now that I’m saying it.

In terms of channeling these emotions: does the band bring anything to the table or is it just David?

Hmm. I mean I really feel the songs and I really feel them when I’m playing them, you know, and I think everybody feels that way. David’s the one who has created the content and the lyrics and all of that stuff for the most part. It’s a big part for us because we put our souls into it and a ton of work into it and we really care about it: we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t really feel it, so yeah. I donno, these are tough questions to answer.

The Dirty Projectors sound more generally is very eclectic. Are there a few influences you would describe as ongoing cornerstones of the Dirty Projectors sound?

Well I mean there are some things that David likes to play with at any given moment as far as putting and certain style into music go. There is a core in there that will always stay: I don’t necessarily want to go off naming those influences. Sorry, I’m not explaining myself very well, my head is a little crazy right now because we’re rehearsing all day every day and I just got back from that.

Every time that David makes a record he tries to do something really different. You can still hear this Dirty Projectors sound in there but it’s always going to change. He really doesn’t like the idea of recycling your sound or bands becoming a parody of themselves, so he’s always trying to push things onto the next thing.

You guys have been a band for quite a long time now and released a number of records. How has the dynamic of the band changed and how have you kept it together over the years?

Hmm, yeah, that’s a very good question. David has put a lot of different bands together since he started. Before I joined every album was a completely different group and then starting about five or six years ago some people started staying on and then it would be just a couple of changes each time, so that’s definitely something that switches up the dynamic. It’s tough to be on the road with the same people all the time for months and months: there are a lot of trying times. Early in the band’s life when they’re doing these tough tours where they’re sleeping on floors and stuff like that which we definitely did you just kind of try to communicate and do your best to keep it together and keep things honest, I guess.

And you guys are about to head out on the road touring. Is it a complex process for getting these songs ready for playing live?

That depends on the song: some of them have real simple arrangements and so it’s like ‘there we go’. Some stuff has chopped up vocals or this and that and we have to figure out a different way to do it live. IT’s pretty intense getting a tour ready, especially right now for us because it’s been a really long time since we’ve been on the road. We took our time with this album so it’s been 18 months since we’ve even played the show. So we’re working on a ton of music: all the new stuff and re-working all the older songs so it’s quite a process, definitely.


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