Dark Dark Dark from Minneapolis makes music that draws from folk, jazz, modern classical and pop without showing favor to any of those elements in particular. Although the band's earlier material was largely written by singer/pianist Nona Marie Invie and fellow singer/clarinetist/banjo player Marshall LaCount, Dark Dark Dark is a more collaborative songwriting team these days, as evidenced by the even more fluid interplay of instrumentation on Who Needs Who. There is a lush simplicity to the music, especially on the band's latest release, Who Needs Who. We recently spoke with Invie about New Orleans, Roger Miller and Hedia.
See also: Dark Dark Dark at hi-dive, 10/26/12
Westword: Why do you think your band is often described as having a foundation in Dixieland?
Nona Marie Invie: Because there's a banjo and an accordion in our band, so people are always making comparisons to bluegrass and Dixieland, but that's not quite what we do.
Early on you visited and New Orleans. What drew you to that city?
I had a lot of friends who had visited it and loved it, and some people that I knew were down there playing music. So it's this idea of a musical dream world, I guess, that drew us down there. After we went down there the first time, Marshall and I lived there for a few months, and then we would go back for months at a time over the last few years. Marshall ended up moving down there, and when we're not on tour, he's been living there for the last year and a year and a half.
There's a lot of people making beautiful music all the time on the streets every day. It's the kind of place that's really inspiring to play with people and to just be creating music. It's a really supportive musical community. And it's warm and beautiful, and you can drink on the street. There's that side of it, too, that makes it feel good to be down there.
Do you still jump in the water every chance you get all over the world? Why is that important?
It just feels really good. It's total spiritual renewal. After being in a van every day for days and days, it's the perfect thing to do whatever the temperature of the water. We went to some hot springs yesterday that were amazing near Santa Fe.
You did an interview with The Line Of Best Fit recently, and you mentioned that you and a friend talk a lot about Roger Miller? What is it about Roger Miller that you find interesting?
I just like how candid he is. He was just a wild mess. He was himself wherever he goes. He was fully out there in the world being whatever he wanted to be writing songs. I appreciate the simplicity of his lyrics. He's written so many songs on every topic. I love country music.
What does Anonymous Choir allow you to do that you don't do, not that you couldn't, with Dark Dark Dark?
It just feels really casual for me. It's really fun to rework songs by artists I really love and respect. There's no pressure to perform, or tour or put anything out. It's fun singing with my friends with piano and harmonies. We did a whole tape of Leonard Cohen songs and we've done Beach Boys and Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Prince Billy songs. It's kind of all over the place.
How would you say Who Needs Who reflects your evolving interests as a musician and songwriter?
I think that I spent a lot more time on the piano and didn't second guess myself as much with the kinds of things that I was writing on the piano and just kind of let it feel natural and put it out into the world as it wanted to be, I think.
Presumably you don't carry a full acoustic piano around with you on tour.
I have a keyboard, regular old digital keyboard. I love being able to play an acoustic piano when I can. It's kind of rare but it really makes the difference for me in how much fun I have in playing if I can play a grand piano or a baby grand. It happens sometimes.
When you've been touring, what are some local bands that have opened that have caught your interest?
There's this person named Bryce [Hampel] we're playing with in Santa Fe tonight. It's called Hedia. We played with him before when he had a band called Elephant Paintings. He has a bunch of different musical projects. I just really appreciate the way that he sings. I like how well-considered his songs are. The way they're crafted is really beautiful.