Cut from an unconventional stone, the Brooklyn art-rock outfit Dirty Projectors are revered for their avant-garde blending of musical styles, kinky rhythms and atypical album ideas. Under the innovative lead of head Projector, David Longstreth, the group has once again managed to refurnish its sound, perspective and prowess on their latest release.
Out July 9 in the U.S. via Domino Records, Swing Lo Magellan is a cunningly personal collective of songs wrought with heart-rending croons, dynamic songwriting and sly musicianship. The record cuts and dives in ways, surprising and comforting, combining playful motifs, social-consciousness and introspection.
“Every release is pretty different, it stands as its own thing,” says vocalist/guitarist Amber Coffman. “This record goes pretty inward, where as [2009’s Bitte Orca] was pretty outward as far as the overall tone is concerned. This record is very much the opposite—I feel like this one goes a little deeper.”
Conceived over a twelve-month marathon of writing and recording in which bandleader David Longstreth sojourned in a remote house in Delaware County, New York, the record’s twelve songs were selected from about forty finished demos. With the wealth of material generated from Longstreth, the creative translation of ideas over several months of visits from the other band members was a hurdle that presented itself during the recording process.
“One challenge about this record,” explains Coffman, “was that Dave had made a bunch of demos for all of these songs and then having to go back and try to re-make these moments that were really organic on the demos was sometimes really hard. We were just working to try and have the final pieces feel really alive like they did in the beginning.” She adds, “In some cases it was the demo vocal or the demo guitar or the demo drums that would get used, which Dave played. [Laughs] And Dave is not a drummer.”
Since joining the group in 2006, Coffman and Longstreth have built a colorfully fortified buttress of a creative partnership, with levels of high transparency and shared experiences; Coffman seems to serve as both Longstreth’s Ethel Mertz and his Dr. Watson.
“Dave and I have always been on a similar wavelength. We are really close and share everything. We definitely talk about every little creative vision. When it comes to a song where I am singing on my own, we’ll sit and work on that together. It’s hard for me to describe; it’s not something that I talk about a lot.”
Following more than a year and a half of incessant touring in support of Bitte Orca, the band recognized the significance in taking a break in order to create a sufficient follow-up to their breakthrough record.
“We have been off, not touring for about 18 months. And that time off has really allowed everyone the chance to go inward. Something about having a clear calendar certainly does something good to you psychologically, and I am not sure if enough bands allow themselves to have that. It has allowed us to recreate ourselves and start fresh.”
Following the release of the new album will be an accompanying film directed by Longstreth titled Hi Custodian, which will feature music from the record and star all of the members of the group. “We shot a bunch of music videos in April out in Southern California and they are all loosely connected to make a collage with a bunch of songs on the record, combined with all of these images that Dave came up with,” says Coffman of the project.
“Right now, as a band, we are feeling very confident about this record. Our main focus is to get it out so everyone else can hear it, too.”
photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg