Dirty Projectors' mastermind Dave Longstreth has a strong aesthetic sense that is obvious with each listen to 2009's Bitte Orca. After nailing every critic's top 10 list, collaborating wiht Bjork and David Byrne, then touring the world, the band released an expanded edition of last year's breakthrough album. The expanded Bitte Orca has an extra CD of previously unreleased tracks; Longstreth says it was a way for the band to take "odds and ends from this whole period in our lives and put it out as a single entity. It feels like a nice way of tying the bow around the whole thing before going back to writing."
Before he takes the stage tonight at the Glass House, Longstreth revealed more of his eclectic aesthetic--including his thoughts on being compared to Phish, and who else they want to collaborate with.
How is Dirty Projectors coping with mainstream success?
It was a lot of changes; the way we tour now feels much different than other tours we've been on. It's just a matter of focusing our energies and making sure we're thinking about ourselves as one component in a larger entity. It's what it is in a band.
You've released music with Bjork and David Byrne--who else is in your list of dream collaborators?
I don't have a list! It's really just incredible that these two heroes of mine have ended up being people that we work with.
I read somewhere that you've been listening to a lot of hip-hop. Will that influence what's next album-wise?
We do it different every time. I personally think the collaboration with Bjork was the freshest shit we've made. But the way that worked was I wrote the songs super quick, as opposed to Bitte, which I edited a ton.
I went through so many different shapes and tones with that record; so many different colors and structures. I wanted to do something the opposite of that--I did Mt. Wittenberg Orca in four to five days, by making ProTools mock-ups of me singing all the different girls' parts and just giving it to them [to learn]. It was quite efficient.
I don't know what will be in the next one; it's too early to think about that. Right now it's all about being on tour; the album feels like a totally different part of the life cycle.
What about Solange Knowles covering your work?
Solange's cover of "Stillness is in the Move" is great; we played a cover of it with her. What I've been getting out of rugged '90s hip hop is the language...maybe I'll get into language more.
But trying to talk about whhat we're going to do next is super pointless; any idea I have would not be the sperm that would inseminate the egg becuase it's the wrong part of the month.
Your music is so complex and unlike what is generally heard on mainstream radio; do you think your recent success has to do with people's tastes getting better?
The way people consume music and listen to it now is really different; it's not giant media corporations engineering stars anymore.
For the moment it all seems a lot more grass roots, so it allows for a wider spectrum [of taste], of personal things being put forward. I feel grateful that our moment is coinciding with that one.
There are downsides; it's difficult to make money, for example.
These days, the way a musician makes money is by touring and that's OK, but the fact that the world is saying the recording is not worth anything is a bummer for me becuase I love recording; I love putting records together that have a certain feeling, as a work that is a unified whole.
You've been compared to the jam band Phish; Do you like that?
I don't see that. I think Phish is...I don't think that music is very good. I think it's super interesting though, because I was reading something about the return of jam bands, with a bunch of dudes from indie rock...saying they listened to Phish.
If you put that together with what we were talking about--that a recording is worth nothing and the only way a musician can make money is by playing music live in front of other people--you'd think there would be a return to that embrace of that moment. A return to what jazz is about, improvisation and spontaneity.
The problem is jam band music ostensibly tries to use those things, but almost across the board that shit is just terrible.
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And so far people aren't really [improvising] with live shows. They're just rotely recreating what their album sounds like night after night. And that's what audiences want to hear. Maybe that will change.
Maybe the connection we have with a band like Phish is the inflection or just doing it all live, in that moment, in front of people, and for real; not cueing any tracks. That may be it, because I like to reinvent songs from earlier periods of the band in different arrangements, a different feeling. That's something we love to do.
What have you been listening to lately?
I have been listening to a lot of '90s hip-hop and '80s Bob Dylan. That's sorta it.
You think you'll ever collaborate with Dylan?
(Emphatically) I don't think so. (Laughs.)
Dirty Projectors perform tonight at the Glass House. 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, 7 p.m., $20.