Described as a purveyor the dark, hybrid sounds of Soul Folk, Dorian Wood began experimenting with his haunting, pulsating concoction making the rounds performing at queer bars in Los Angeles. Before that, the Tico-Nico, born to Costa Rican and Nicaraguan parents, refined his music studies by going to Conservatorio de Castella in Costa Rica.
The traveling singer-songwriter is coming to OC for the first time fresh off a European tour. Wood's latest EP Down, The Dirty Roof released in September follows last year's inimitable full-length Rattle Rattle. His voice remains boisterous, charismatic and soulful as evidenced on the title track. A true tour de force, Wood's daring, rapturous arrangements are an experience to behold.
He's set to play the Orange County Center for Contemporary Arts (OCCCA) alongside French Blues singing phenom Edith Crash this Saturday, but the Weekly caught up with him to ask about his transformation from shy choir kid to frenzied Soul Folk preacher.
I've cited a number of influences in the past, but I feel that these continue to change, and after a while they no longer prove to be true. My grandfather Calasanz Alvarez taught me to play piano and to always strive to strengthen my own style, but I've rebelled against his methods and ideologies over the years. If anything, I constantly strive to stay one step ahead of anything that starts feeling like an influence. I over-think everything. People offer their two cents, I pay attention, then I run and hide and then I go back to not knowing what the hell I'm doing and why I do it. I would then say that people are my influence, both the presence and the absence of people.
How did you first go about crafting your soulful folk sound and the preacher-like power in your vocals that you're noted for. What were your initial expectations for it?
I was a quiet loner kid in school. I always sang the loudest in any choir, but I would also poop my pants a lot and kids would avoid me or bully me. I was also very feminine and I dressed differently. To this day, I live in fear that people will find out that I'm still that awkward, smelly kid. The need to be accepted is still the beast I wrestle with, despite all the strange crap I do.
There's a definite ghoulish gospel element in your music. How does that translate in live performances for folks that haven't been to one of your shows before?
It varies. No two performances are identical. Audience members bring with them a great deal of what will go down. Sometimes it feels like church, but that's not up to me. I don't like to dwell in that energy-all-around-us mumbo jumbo. As a Christian, I believe in what I believe in, but I don't expect the audience to share in my beliefs. I'd be shocked if they did! My beliefs are very personal, and just like my disgusting sexual practices, I keep it all in the bedroom, except for the times when I don't, and then religion and sex come tumbling out, intertwined, throwing punches and making a huge mess of things. Those moments can be fun, too. I don't know. Every performance is a mutually shared experience with the audience, whether they know it or not.
You toured Europe recently in support of your latest EP. Any unique experiences you'd like to share?
Speaking of church, I recently performed in a beautiful church in the South of France. It was built in the 1600's and much of the inner structure was comprised of reclaimed ship's wood. Just beautiful. Everyone in the village came to the show. Lots of families. At one point, in between songs, I whistled, and then the entire audience began chirping like birds. I was awe-struck. "Did you know they could do that?" my guitarist asked me onstage. "No!" I responded. It was a glorious moment and I feel fortunate that I've had many moments like that. People everywhere are amazing and continue to amaze me, again and again.
What can you tell us about that newest EP "Down, The Dirty Roof?" How does it differ from your other experimental work?
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The EP is a first cousin to my recent LP Rattle Rattle. Both deal with moments of passion and despair as the world around us is quickly coming to an end. "Down, The Dirty Roof" contains songs that were recorded with my friends in the Rattle Rattle Chamber Orchestra, as well as gritty, personal meditations that were recorded solo in tiny rooms. All of them dwell on how tough things are for many of us financially, and especially those of us who have been shunned by society for a number of stupid reasons. If you will, a way of celebrating life as the smelly kid that nobody wants to play with.
SolArt Radio presents Dorian Wood and Edith Crash as part of You Should Not Be Here at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Arts, 117 N. Sycamore Street, Santa Ana, Sat., 8 p.m. Free. All Ages.