Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Interview: Dawn Landes

Dawn Landes loves MySpace.

“When I was in fifth grade and you had your birthday everyone wrote a little note about why they thought you were cool and they put it in a Kleenex box. I feel like that’s what MySpace is like. Every day you get to go to the Kleenex box and take something out. It’s really awesome,” says Dawn.

The analogy is Dawn’s music in a nutshell: charming, somewhat off-kilter songs that conjure up vivid memories. And if recent events are any indication, that Kleenex box is getting pretty full. Dawn toured with Midlake during the begining of September (including a stop at Webster Hall), and finished with a headlining tour of the United Kingdom. She plans to stay in Europe. “I’m going to move to France for a couple months ‘cause I like Paris a lot and I want to learn to speak French a little better,” says Dawn.

Although this pond-hopping suggests worldliness, the Brooklyn by way of Louisville, Kentucky native is a homegrown talent. Earlier in the year, she played dates with fellow Brooklynites Arizona in the cozy confines of Club Europa. These shows also featured collaborator and occasional Arizonian Eric Stevenson on cello, but complications prevented current tour drummer Ray Rizzo from joining in.

“Ray was supposed to play that show with us, but he had the wrong address. Every song we played we were expecting him to come and he never came until the set was over,” says Dawn.

Lineup difficulties aside, Dawn delivered a powerful set, her voice pristine on slow burners such as “Twilight,” and gleefully full-bodied on the big choruses of songs such as “Kids In A Play.” Besides the difference in volume, the pair also illustrates the spectrum of her material, as she effortlessly weaves more straightforward relationships with abstract, esoteric songs.

“Sometimes they’re based on something I read or something I imagined or dreamed," says Dawn. Although she admits that there’s a part of her own personality that goes into her music, she tries to appeal to a wider audience. “Anything is autobiographical, you can’t help it. There’s a bit of that in everything, but I think it’s more universal; it applies to a lot more people than me hopefully,” says Dawn.

She had previously prepared a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” but her cover Peter Bjorn and Johns' “Young Folks” was a happy accident. The cover has since become a live staple, with Ray Rizzo and Eric Stevenson contributing vocals, the latter adding a flute to substitute for the whistling, but it began with a very different set of people.

“I went to SXSW and I heard the song for the first time. I was doing my showcase there and I got this group of bluegrass musicians to play with me. We concocted this arrangement really quickly and just did it for the show,” says Dawn.

They would eventually record the song in a space Dawn described as a cross between a garage and studio in Texas. It was a fitting stop for the part-time sound engineer, whose previous collaborations include Hem, Philip Glass, Joseph Arthur and Ryan Adams.

“I’m definitely more at home in the studio. I’ve spent a lot more time in the studio. In the past year or two, I’ve been performing a lot more, but you just can’t get that personal thing. It’s like being in your bedroom,” says Dawn.

Dawn alludes to the difficulty of translating her studio tinkering into a live setting. Her biography mentions a dizzying array of instruments: "8-dollar guitars! pink accordions! glockenspiels! optigons!" She has also created film scores, and her songs have been licensed

Yet, for a musician that has labored so hard on her art, Dawn is refreshingly open-minded.

“I think any opportunity for people to hear my music is cool,” says Dawn.

Hopefully, that opportunity will only continue to grow.


Thanks to Dawn and Marni for making this interview possible!

MP3: Dawn Landes - Bodyguard
MP3: Dawn Landes - Suspicion
MP3: Dawn Landes - Young Folks (PB&J Cover)

MySpace: Dawn Landes
Official Site: Dawn Landes


Bushwick is Beautiful said...

hadn't heard bodyguard before, and im glad i have now! thank you, it's a must download

Roland said...

Sorry guys, had to take it down. So it goes...

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