The New Steez of Darwin Deez: "You Gotta Give the People What You Want."
Songs for Imaginative People, Darwin Deez's sophomore release, is one that signifies a rock-ridden shift of sorts for the eccentric indie-pop performer. The songs of his self-titled debut previously inspired moments of euphoria that were seemingly conjured up for a makeshift dance floor, especially "Constellations," and "Radar Detector," the latter serving as an ideal backing track for those early hours of the morning when your buzz has peaked.
When the album dropped on Lucky Number back in February, it became clear Deez was looking to try something new on for size, be it distorted guitars, a genre shake-up or both. As he readies for a spring tour behind it, Deez reflects on the process that went into Imaginative People and the songs he's getting to know all over again onstage.
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Darwin Deez performs tonight at Bowery Ballroom.
It's been a bit since we last heard from you, and I know you left New York not too long ago. Where've you been and what've you been up to?
I lived in New York for eight years, but last year I moved to Asheville and made the album. There's a lot of art going on there, a lot of music and otherwise.
So, three years in between records -- were you writing over the course of three years, or did Songs for Imaginative People come together more recently?
I wasn't able to really write anything while we were touring behind the first record. Darwin Deez came out in April 2010, and then we toured for like a year and a half pretty intensely. I started the new record in the fall after that, and it took nine months, just writing and recording. We did the whole album in that time. I didn't really have anything saved up from earlier, and I wasn't able to write anything on tour, being that there's a total lack of privacy. Though there's not a lack of free time, there's a low conversion rate of productivity when you're on tour. Ask any musician about that one; It's a weird paradox. It was all composed in that one year, when I was sitting in Asheville. It was so nice to have some space. I knew it was going to be cheaper than New York, but I rented a three-bedroom house for less than what I was paying to live in my apartment in Manhattan. I recorded everything in the basement. I took a lot of walks. I got in touch with myself more, no censors. It's crazy and not for lack of trying, but I didn't make out with a single girl in that whole year. There was just nobody. Everyone was coupled up there. That was really frustrating, actually [laughs]. People came to know me for not drinking or anything. I'd go out to the bars and hang out and stuff, but my friends got to know that my drink was just soda with lime, so that was a thing, and I didn't have any Internet at my house because that was a big vice for me, TV and Internet. Now, since I've been on tour, I've made out with a bunch of people and I drink whiskey every night. My real vices are TV, sugar and relationship drama. Those are my addictions [laughs].
Those are pretty universal vices, I think. When we're talking about ideal settings for writing, would you say that the environment you created for yourself in Asheville was it?
I don't know -- I have to be able to be alone, and I like to do that at home. I definitely want the freedom to make noise 24 hours a day. A lot of times, I don't get started until 8 pm with composing something. You want to be able to just go when it hits you. So, if you have to worry about not making noise, you don't want that. Whenever I go to New York City, it's always social overdrive. I'd see three friends a day and just go from one restaurant to another and it's great, but I call it social overdrive. In Asheville, it's kind of the opposite. I think some place where I have plenty of privacy in my home and I can make noise where there's also a creative community nearby ... that would probably improve my happiness and creativity.
What's your most vivid songwriting memory from your time there?
The last song that I wrote was inspired by a very benign moment with a friend of mine. She was dropping me off in a car, she was an old friend, but it kind of reminded me of how sometimes at the end of the date, you'd be sitting there at the end of your own driveway in someone else's car, and the car is idling ... the way that conversation can go, there's a tension to it, because of the attraction or whatever, or maybe you're not sure -- is that person in or not? -- all that sort of came to me from this old friend there with no vibes or anything, just dropping me off. It was a social thing, but it wasn't a mind-blowing thing. I don't think it necessarily has to be a crazy rock party adventure to inspire songs; it just has to be something social.