As you'll see from the exchange after the jump, Dirty Projectors mastermind Dave Longstreth isn't much of a talker. It's almost as if he'd rather let the music speak for itself -- and it speaks volumes, as evidenced by the act's latest opus, last year's Bitte Orca. One of the freshest sounding discs to hit the indie world in years, Orca is filled with songs like "Stillness is the Move," with its West African tinged guitar riffs and gorgeous female vocal harmonies (inspired, evidently, by medieval hocketing -- see video after the jump) that are utterly compelling.
Here's something not many people may be aware of: Before Longstreth performed under the Dirty Projectors moniker, he released an album (The Graceful Fallen Mango) on Chris Adolf's This Heart Plays Records label. The Bad Weather California frontman was living in Grand Junction at the time, and happened to catch Longstreth playing in a friend's back yard about ten years ago. "I just thought, 'Man, this guy is a genius. I want to put his record out," Adolf recalled when we interviewed him last year. "I put out the Dirty Projectors' first record. Me and Dave did tours together and we all had the same sense of humor and really got along well."
Since then, the prolific Longstreth has gone on to release quite a few albums, like 2005's Getty Address, which the band will perform in its entirety backed by the twenty-piece contemporary ensemble Alarm Will Sound in London, and the album that attracted the most attention, 2007's Rise Above, which is essentially Black Flag's Damaged re-imagined from memory with Western African guitars.
In advance of Dirty Projectors performance this Saturday at the Westword Music Showcase, we spoke with Longstreth about Chris Adolf, Bitte Orca and more.
Westword (Jon Solomon): From what I understand, Chris Adolf from Bad Weather California released your first album, right?
Dave Longstreth: Yeah. Chris is great. He's an awesome songwriter and such a generous big-hearted dude.
WW: Which record was that?
DL: I think it was from the year 2000. That was ten years ago.
WW: That's basically when you were starting out. It seems like you've definitely grown quite a bit musically.
DL: Yeah, I would say so. I don't know how I could summarize the last ten years.
WW: How would you say you've grown musically?
DL: I don't know. I've gotten into a lot of different things and approaches. Tried out some real specific patterns and things of that nature.
WW: Like the West African guitar, as well?
DL: Yeah, sort of a West African approach.
WW: Which you got into from an article that Brian Eno wrote?
DL: I saw that. He made a graph or something. Yeah, that's cool.
WW: In an interview you talked about when you first heard Pet Sounds, you really couldn't get into it, but one day it sort of clicked for you.
WW: What you think was it that made it sort of open for you?
DL: I don't know. It just kind of clicked one day. That's what happened.
WW: When you were putting Bitte Orca together, did it come out differently than you originally envisioned?
DL: No, it turned out more or less how I thought it would.
WW: Has it been challenging playing any of the material live?
DL: It was hard at first how to play it live, but we figured it out.
WW: Did you record live in the studio?
DL: Bitte was done pretty piece by piece, but I love that approach of getting everything live and just overdubbing a thing or two. We've been doing a little bit of that.
WW: What have you been up lately?
DL: Just kind of doing what we're doing. When is that show. Is it this weekend?
WW: Yeah, it's Saturday.
DL: It's Saturday!? We'll hang out in Brooklyn for a couple of days and then play a festival and then come back. That's what we've been doing for about two months now.
WW: How's that been going? Is that nice to play a gig, take some time off?
DL: Whenever we go on these long-ass tours you get so kind of exhausted and all that stuff, and you're like, "Man, I wish we could play one show per week." And then it would be so energetic and amazing. But it's weird, just so much traveling for every show you feel kind of weird about it, like in an environmental level.
WW: How so?
DL: Just taking planes everywhere. Just traveling 3,000 miles for a single show. It's insane. But the festivals pay for the flights so it's seems easy. But in a larger environmental sense, it's not that easy. It's expensive for the world for bands to do this. It makes me feel a little bit weird about it.
WW: It's kind crazy to look at a tour like U2's latest tour with a ton of trucks.
DL: I heard they have like 150 trucks.
WW: You guys are heading to London pretty soon to play Getty Address, right?
DL: Yeah, like a week after the Denver show.
WW: Have you been working on any new stuff in between gigs?
DL: Here and there. This and that.
WW: Any plans for the next record?
DL: It's hard to think about it when you're touring.