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  1. At the first Older Boys session in December 2012. Persona Non Grata Studio had only just moved into its Arlington location and it was freezing in the unfinished space. We were tense, unsure of ourselves, flummoxed by how to play spare, lyric-driven songs without being able to hear the lyrics — and yet in retrospect, the tension was an asset, a dark rumble swirling through the room that made the performances feel fragile and alive.
In the final hour on Sunday night, before we had to pack everything up, drive it back to my place in DC, and get Josh downtown in time to catch his bus back to New York, we pulled out something I’d brought on a lark: an old Polaroid camera loaded with expired film. I took a photo of Josh tracking his last parts for the weekend, and he returned the favor. At the first Older Boys session in December 2012. Persona Non Grata Studio had only just moved into its Arlington location and it was freezing in the unfinished space. We were tense, unsure of ourselves, flummoxed by how to play spare, lyric-driven songs without being able to hear the lyrics — and yet in retrospect, the tension was an asset, a dark rumble swirling through the room that made the performances feel fragile and alive.
In the final hour on Sunday night, before we had to pack everything up, drive it back to my place in DC, and get Josh downtown in time to catch his bus back to New York, we pulled out something I’d brought on a lark: an old Polaroid camera loaded with expired film. I took a photo of Josh tracking his last parts for the weekend, and he returned the favor.
    [+]

    At the first Older Boys session in December 2012. Persona Non Grata Studio had only just moved into its Arlington location and it was freezing in the unfinished space. We were tense, unsure of ourselves, flummoxed by how to play spare, lyric-driven songs without being able to hear the lyrics — and yet in retrospect, the tension was an asset, a dark rumble swirling through the room that made the performances feel fragile and alive.

    In the final hour on Sunday night, before we had to pack everything up, drive it back to my place in DC, and get Josh downtown in time to catch his bus back to New York, we pulled out something I’d brought on a lark: an old Polaroid camera loaded with expired film. I took a photo of Josh tracking his last parts for the weekend, and he returned the favor.

  2. "It’s sort of like comparing making a fire and building a house. A song is fire. You react to it primally, instantly. You don’t have to decide whether you like it, and you don’t really have to sit down and think about it much after you’re done listening to it. It really does run through you like wind. Whereas a book is a journey: It’s a thing you agree to go on with somebody, and I think every reader’s experience of a book is going to be different. There are scenes in the book that feel very song-like to me, but I do think it’s a different sort of ride. It’s more of a marathon. My songs tend to sprint toward some epiphany and then explode."

    johndarnielle, discussing two art forms he’s made a career of intertwining, drives a railroad spike into what sets them apart. For someone who remains two big steps outside the mainstream even after 25 years, the dude is amazing at being interviewed.
  3. framedfractions:

art sorority for girls @ menahan

    framedfractions:

    art sorority for girls @ menahan

  4. Track Work: Art Sorority For Girls, ‘Dead Man’ | Bandwidth

    Some more love from bandwidthdc, who also featured “Man with a Van” earlier in the year; much love to writer/editor Ally Schweitzer for believing in these songs.

    I could talk forever about what went into this weird, sharp, angry piece of music, and hope I’ll get to put it all in writing soon enough. If you’re curious, though, here’s the near-full text of the email I sent Ally about “Dead Man.” She asked me to clarify I crack I’d made about finally sounding like a DC band; that’s where it begins.

    What I really was trying to do with that comment was just highlight the fact that, if you know me, this song is different. When I first started performing it, a couple of friends and even my own drummer asked for backstory, their voices and faces carrying a hint of “Are you OK?”

    It’s a lot less focused and intentional than most of my songs. The lyrics are pretty oblique; there aren’t many punchlines. And it’s a rough thing, made to be shouted. In rehearsals we could only play it once per session; the drum part Josh came up with was so physically shredding that his hands and arms would swell and ache for minutes afterwards.When we recorded the vocal, our engineer, Thomas Orgren, turned off all the lights in the live room, which I think helped coax the throat-scraping finale out of me.

    When I arrived in DC, my impression was that a lot of the local guitar-based music was like this. I went to a lot of shows where the songs were exciting but also loud and abrasive; I could never make out the lyrics, which drove me crazy. I’ve since learned that I was experiencing a newcomer’s myopia, that the scene contains multitudes if you look hard enough  — though I will say, solo singer-songwriters are in short enough supply that booking feels like a logic puzzle every time. Becoming friends with David Combs, a.k.a. Spoonboy, has helped: He performs nearly all of his shows seated and unamplified, and you can hear the words because people are singing along.

    Without getting too deep into it, I can say this song definitely comes out of the anxiety and doubt by which many young people feel assailed when their role models let them down — especially when said role model is one’s own father. I probably got a bump in this direction from listening to Spoonboy’s “Stab Yer Dad”; that song is very blunt and is all about self-actualization and the rejection of self-doubt, asserting one’s identity independent of and/or in reaction to those who have let them down. I’d touched on the topic myself in an older song, “My Father" (from the album Slow Dance), this flowery indie-pop concoction that was my way to shrug off the awkwardness of having grown up in a single-parent household, and thus having to explain myself to each new friend and lover who asked a well-meaning question about my childhood.

    "Dead Man" is more gestural than anything I’ve ever written. The first time Josh and I performed it I was freestyling half the time. Some of the lyrics that made it to tape — the chorus and the refrain for certain — were written with my usual sense of purpose. The others I will probably spend years deciphering, but I trust them because of where they came from. To me they evoke something vulnerable, at once defiant and terrified. And at their center lies a crisis of identity: What if, with each passing moment and breath, we are turning into our elders, even as we strive to avoid their mistakes?

  5. Here’s zanopticon making me cry. (That’s her on the bottom left, standing inside a life-sized Polaroid, in the spring of 2006.)

    Daoud is one of the first people I ever collaborated on a creative project with: he photographed me in front of a wall of my Polaroids my freshman year of college. The first portrait was a bust— it was taken with lots of lights set up in a friend’s borrowed dorm room, and with me in a low-cut tank top and this tiny blazer K. had given me, looking uncomfortable like I do when someone trains a camera on me. The one he ended up using was an off-the-cuff reshoot in front of a bulletin board in one of the art school hallways. I think I was talking when he took it. Later, after he graduated, we sent each other square shaped surprises sometimes: a copy of his EP, and my photographs of the first beginnings of spring at the end of a difficult winter. 

    Years later, he got in touch to say he needed to get out of DC, and so we spent a long weekend in New Haven trying to write together. I had just had this piece come out, and agents were asking if I had a book, which I did not, so I was trying and failing very badly at writing one. Essays, I thought. I remember that we took a break and hiked to the top of East Rock after brunch, and that he climbed a tree there. I remember how nice it was, to have someone sitting across the table from me, struggling while I struggled.

    Anyway:

    I love Daoud’s music. I hope you do, too. 

    Love you too, kiddo. Let’s do it again sometime.

    (BTW, the stated theme of this series was “Everything’s about to change; here are a few great people I’ve come to know, seen as I’d like to remember them.”)

  6. The new Art Sorority for Girls album is called Older Boys. It’ll be available 10/1. You can download “Man with a Van” for free right now.

    Meanwhile: A song of fathers and sons, perhaps the closest I’ve ever come to sounding like “a DC band.” Enjoy.

  7. Psst: The entirety of Slow Dance is now on YouTube. Share it with someone you love.

  8. FALL 2014 SOLO TOUR // ALL-ACOUSTIC EVERYTHING

    I’m hitting the road in October, traveling with the wonderful Dibson T. Hoffweiler. If you want to book us, play with us, or can suggest a good place to play (all-ages preferred), hit me at hello@artsorority.com. Dates/cities below are rough; tips on fun spots in surrounding areas are welcome. We love well-run living rooms.

    OCT 12 - New York, NY

    OCT 13 - Philadelphia, PA

    OCT 14 - Baltimore, MD @ Free Farm

    OCT 15 - Charlottesville, VA

    OCT 16 - Asheville, NC

    OCT 17 - Durham, NC @ The Layabout

    OCT 18 - Fredricksburg, VA @ Fredricksburg All Ages

    OCT 19 - Washington, DC

  9. So much happens.