Q&A: Dark Dark Dark
Dark Dark Dark photo by Tim Piotrowski
Interview by Ryan Warner
The wandering, romantic collective that is Minneapolis-based Dark Dark Dark are as poised as they are well-equipped to become the city's next big thing. That is, if they decide to continue calling Minneapolis their home, something the group seems to be at odds with internally. To the band's credit, their fleeting nature has more to do with a desire to experience the world and less with the grandeur of indie fame. After interviewing Dark Dark Dark over the course of the past few months, it's apparent that even if they weren't in a band, they would probably still be hopping trains or floating down rivers in homemade boats away from the Cities. It's this passionate longing mixed with the group's out-of-time European folk aesthetic that makes them so charmingly engrossing; even if it means we won't be able to convince them to settle down.
2009 looks to be an even bigger year for the band. Right now they are working on material for a sophomore album, as well as scoring new music for the feature length musical movie entitled FLOOD. The film was shot last year amidst a project called Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, in which boats were built from salvaged materials and floated down the Hudson River. Directed by bassist Todd Chandler, FLOOD will also feature the members of Dark Dark Dark as actors.
City Pages: Your debut, The Snow Magic, was built with very particular styles and themes that gave the record an atmosphere all its own. Now that you are writing new music again, I wonder how it can evolve to keep listeners interested without damaging the already wonderful formula.
Dark Dark Dark: We've grown a bit, and are ready to make an album that is coherent, pushes our arrangements, and focuses on our favorite ideas. The content in the stories and lyrics is still about human condition and personal problems or victories, but we are "drowning" less people, less people are disappearing from our songs, and we're visiting more positive places. We're probably also visiting a few more major chords as a result, but not going totally dance or anything. If anything, we require even quieter venues and careful sound than before. In the beginning we were writing for loud places like bars or the street, but we won't really do that anymore, and we want to write carefully and quietly, so that when things get loud, you know it.
CP: Has spending so much time with your instruments on the road improved your abilities? Has anyone picked up any new talents?
DDD: We are always pushing what we understand about our instruments and how we work together. Nona and I are playing the piano a lot more, and I feel like I understand the limitations of the banjo or the accordion more. We've worked together and with our instruments enough to be more intentional in our experiments.
CP: The last time I talked to the band, you seemed to be making progress on your film, FLOOD. Is there any new information about the process or when it might see the light of day?
DDD: I know that [Dark Dark Dark bassist and FLOOD director] Todd and Ava are about to shoot the last of the footage this month, and that editing has been in progress already for a couple months. It is being submitted to festivals, so a rough-cut will be ready for some upcoming deadlines, but it's still safe to say that it won't be ready until very late this year or early next year. We've locked down time in August in an amazing studio for producing the score, and our own Jonathan Kaiser is in charge of that process. The only involvement I've had this month is to say, "No piano is too nice for Nona Marie Invie." And I think it worked. Look for updates at floodmovie.com.
CP: Your music has an antique quality that attracts listeners who might be a bit oversaturated with the constant flipping of musical trends. Do you think you will always carry a sound that is reminiscent of the past?
DDD: Our songwriting process is always evolving. We're definitely inspired by a lot of older, more traditional kinds of music, but are also into the music of the future. We'll always wink at the past, but we are writing new music.
CP: Where is Dark Dark Dark at the moment? Have you managed to find some time for yourselves between writing records and making movies?
DDD: We've had a much needed break: Nona and I in New Orleans, Jonathan in Minneapolis, and Todd in New York. We refer to it as our Bermuda Triangle. Nona and I have had the time we need to think about directions for our new songs, and we're excited for everyone to be back together to work. We got to see Andrew Bird and his band, and we flew back to Minneapolis for a weekend to see Antony and the Johnsons, as well as a band called Uke of Spaces Corners, so February has been a month to see our dream shows. The near future still holds the Swimming Cities of Serenissima project in Venice, Italy, and soundtracking for FLOOD, but we are definitely anxious to make a record. We start touring again on March 1 for about a month and a half, and there is a special 7" accompanied by a Dosh remix and an Odd Nosdam remix coming. That's been an amazing way to collaborate with others.
CP: On the band's blog you mention missing breakfast at the Seward Café in Minneapolis. Are there any other local restaurants you are looking forward to patronizing when you return to the cities?
DDD: We know Seward Café is one of very few collectively owned and operated cafes in the country, because we ask everywhere we go. That's why it gets special mention when we are homesick. When we come home we'll probably go to Seward Café for lunch and then Hard Times for dinner. Not to create the impression that we only eat things off the grill, because Minneapolis has amazing and real food from around the world. It's the Minneapolis food that fuels our nine-month trips.
Dark Dark Dark tour dates:
Mar 2 2009 Charles Mansion - Tallahassee, Florida
Mar 3 2009 Community Resource center - Gainseville, Florida
Mar 4 2009 The Wormhole - Savannah, Georgia
Mar 5 2009 The Secret Squirrel - Athens, Georgia
Mar 6 2009 Wonder Root - Atlanta, Georgia
Mar 8 2009 Thanky Gallery - Richmond, Virginia
Mar 9 2009 Bo Bos - Asheville, North Carolina
Mar 10 2009 J J's Bohemia - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Mar 11 2009 Ida - Ida, Tennessee
Mar 15 2009 The Marigny Theater - New Orleans, Louisiana
Mar 16 2009 TBA - Houston, Texas
Mar 18 2009 The Belmont - Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 Dominican Joe Coffee - Austin, Texas
Mar 22 2009 1kind studios - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mar 23 2009 Copper Star Coffee - Phoenix, Arizona
Mar 24 2009 Detroit Bar - Costa Mesa, California
Mar 25 2009 Buchan House - San Luis Obisbo, California
Mar 26 2009 Hotel Cafe - Los Angeles, California
Mar 27 2009 TBA - Oakland, California
Mar 28 2009 Caretaker's House - San Francisco, California