The Dirty Projectors, fronted by David Longstreth, have been an influential outfit since its formation in 2002. CP hopped on the phone to chat with Longstreth before the band's show in Pittsburgh at Mr. Smalls on May 29.
There's an inherent logic in self-titling your last record — sort of return to the origins of the band. Did you consider other names for this collection of songs? What was the process like in naming it Dirty Projectors, or did you think about it at all?
Yup — the 2017 record was always self-titled. [The new album] had various names as I was working on it — but Sleepless In Seattle
and My Best Friend’s Wedding
were already taken, so Lamp Lit Prose
is the one that stuck.
What’s the biggest challenge in performing this set of songs live, whether in just the technicality of the compositions or in something more ephemeral?
There’s always a learning curve to figuring out how to translate things live, and then also how to actually physically perform the parts. Singing and playing the instrumental stuff simultaneously can be hard, but for me there’s a metaphor in there about potential and effort that I love. It’s hard, but it’s also a big part of the fun of playing music: moving ever closer to, you know, actually being able to play music.
If you could somehow play your most recent or your forthcoming record for a younger version of yourself, when you first started the band, what do you think he’d think of it?
If only! Hard to say, because I often think of my younger self as so effing mercurial and willfully contrarian. But on a musical level, the self-titled record is kinda part II of The Getty Address
, which I made when I was 22. It’s the same thing — layering horn/string/vocal arrangements in a looped, sequenced rhythmic space, a larger story framing the songs — but with better actual songwriting … and wait, come to think of it, maybe I would identify with the mercurial and contrarian moods of that album, hahah ...
I do feel like Lamp Lit Prose
is the music I’ve been trying to make since I was a teenager. The combination of beats & guitars, the melodies, the chord progressions, the merging of arrangement and writing. If I heard “Feel It All” or “Found It In U” or something?? Umm yeah, pretty sure if Teenage Me heard the music I’m making now, it would melt the face of Teenage Me and I would instantly cease to exist in all possible timelines.
Were there songs that you recorded for the last album that didn’t make the cut? If so, why?
Yeah, definitely! I just didn’t finish them in time. You know those Oblique Strategies cards that Brian Eno made? One of them is “Work At A Different Pace.” I thought about that a lot making this record. Energy, momentum, timing … those are actually the most important things.
You’re going to be on tour for the rest of the summer. How is touring different at this point in your career? What have you changed in your daily routines on the road based on past experiences?
Good question — we’ve been on the road two weeks now, and I gotta say that I am really freshly aware of the honor and privilege that it is to get to travel the land and play music for people every night. Also newly appreciative of getting to work with folks who are, to me, some of the finest, kindest, hardest-working musicians out. Touring has been a blast, which itself is a new experience — looking forward to being in Pittsburgh!