Dirty Projectors: "I just do what appeals to me at any given moment."

In Australia to play a series of festival dates — Tasmania's Mona Foma, Melbourne's Sugar Mountain festival and the Sydney Festival—frontman David Longstreth and sidekick Amber Coffman took some time out from rehearsals to speak to our very own Alyx Gorman about the creative process, art and other forms of inspiration aside from music.


Do you enjoy reading mostly short stories while you’re out on the road?

Dave Longstreth: Short fiction does lend itself to being on tour, because it’s little packets...you know, little short stories and you can get through them just on a bus ride, or before you fall asleep or something like that.

Do you find that the fiction that you read kind of seeps into something like your lyric writing process?

Dave: I just brought all of George Saunders’ books with me this time so I want to saturate that somehow. I don’t know how much a textual voice really lends itself to lyrics in a one-to-one sort of way because, you know, one is on the page and the other is not but I guess we’ll see.

What is it about George Saunders at this moment that makes you want to absorb it into your music?

Dave: When we were in South America last month I was reading this Best Short Fiction of 2012, which is just some compilation that comes out every year, and he had a story in there called “Tenth of December” that really really blew me away. It turned out that last month a collection of his, called Tenth of December just came out and — it’s one of those moments where suddenly everyone’s like: “have you heard of Kendrick Lamar?!” It’s like he’s having a moment like that right now, so yeah, I'm just checking it all out.

Where do you see the parallels and major differences between visual and aural arts?

Dave: I just love to make those analogies indiscriminately, you know, between media. I like to extend the analogy further until it breaks, or it seems to yield a suggestion that makes no sense at all.

Can you give me a specific example?

Dave: Say you’re talking about like, abstraction on a canvas, you know, emphasising the two-dimensionality of the picture plane or — whatever, some modernist bullshit — it’s fun to think about the different ways that you could apply that to a recording you know, is the flatness in terms of a frequency range? Or is it flatness relative to, some other aspect of the mix, maybe the spatial depth or the stereo width. Forcing those analogies between different mediums can really just be a way of coming up with new ideas. It’s not necessarily the most sensible thing to do but it can be fun I guess

In visual arts there’s less impetus to appeal to a great number of people at once. Do you find the need to create for a broader audience challenging? 

Dave: It’s not something that I think about a whole lot, because you have to be probably really smart, and very cunning and clever to be able to actively court a very large audience and not sound like you’re utterly betraying yourself. I’ve never really trusted myself to be that clever. So I just do, I just do what appeals to me at any given moment.

Amber, can you tell me about some non-musical artists that you are impressed by at the moment?

Amber: I don’t know shit about visual art, really. I have some friends who are visual artists that I really love but...I love film a lot.

Can you tell me about a particular moment in film that you find that you ever recall in your own creative process?

Amber: Well I’m really interested in acting and being a part of film, so I feel like I get super inspired when I see like, “making of” films that I like, or just a really good movie that I get lost in. But I don’t think that necessarily inspires me.

Dave: I love the moment in Back to the Future when he’s trying to get back to 1985, and the DeLorean won’t work, and he bangs his head against the steering wheel and it comes back on. For me, that’s an inspirational moment.

Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated to the point where you break, and then ending up breaking through?

Dave: That happens all the time. I love to push myself to that point where, I don’t feel like I can go any further. You’re tired and bleary and either you’re doing really shitty work at that point or something good will come out of it. That’s that DeLorean moment.

With shows at the recent Mona Foma in Tasmania and Sugar Mountain festival in Melbourne under their belt, Dirty Projectors’ play at the Sydney Festival Monday 21st Jan.  Ticket details here

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