Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

David Longstreth and Dirty Projectors

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

David Longstreth and Dirty Projectors

Article excerpt

The band's singer-songwriter talks about its new album.

"I've never thought of a skyline view as bucolic, but there it is," David Longstreth said, standing on a roof in Brooklyn, looking across the East River to Manhattan. He had been rehearsing in a studio with his band, Dirty Projectors, preparing for a tour to support its new record, "Swing Lo Magellan."

Lean and easily engaged, Mr. Longstreth, 30, the group's singer- songwriter and guitarist, is a critical darling and musical over achiever who has collaborated with the likes of Bjork and David Byrne. Especially after "Bitte Orca," their 2009 breakthrough album, Dirty Projectors became synonymous with complicated, conceptual indie rock.

But "Swing Lo Magellan" took a different tack. "These are songs without any context," Mr. Longstreth said. "They're less about arrangement. They're less about orchestration." And they were made with a slightly different lineup from the band's previous albums: Mr. Longstreth wrote with the singer Amber Coffman; another regular vocalist, Angel Deradoorian, was on hiatus. "I think change and flux is a bit in the DNA of the band," he said.

The album was written and recorded over 11 months in a house in Andes, New York, which Mr. Longstreth packed with some favorite books, like the Bible and Guy Debord's 1967 "Society of the Spectacle" (a prescient text, he said, for the Internet age) and music by Neil Young and Lil Wayne.

When he returned home to Greenpoint, he spent time with his older brother, Jake, an artist whom he idolized growing up. "I'm probably a musician because he was a musician: he played guitar," Mr. Longstreth said, adding that "It was amazing" to have his brother as a roommate. "We would listen to '70s Rod Stewart records and Blind Willie Johnson stuff. He's definitely a big inspiration for this record."

Mr. Longstreth spoke with Melena Ryzik about his other influences and about directing a short film for the album, to be called "Hi Custodian" and released soon. "It's kind of like 'Runaway,' the Kanye movie," he said. "I love that Kanye movie so much. It's amazing. It's incredible. I just love how grandiose it is. I love how epic it is. I'm a sucker for those kind of mythic themes and just the scope of it, the abstract narrative and the wide shots." These are excerpts from the conversation.

Q. Are you a taskmaster?

A.I guess I kind of have that reputation. It's dense music; the singing is fairly intricate, and so is some of the instrumental stuff. There's a definite energy that comes out of, boom: How do we do this? How do we figure this out live? I always love when there's a deep dual thing that happens between the recording and the live show. I remember when I first saw Guided by Voices; those earlier recordings are so deconstructed, kind of like four-track music, and so artful in their collage and in their weird fragility. …

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