As always, it was a rainy night in Cleveland. This time however, I had something to look forward to. A Dan Deacon show at the Grog Shop in support of his latest album Gliss Riffer; a name Dan said auto-correct absolutely wants to slaughter.
Dan Deacon is a very professional musician but I am also positive he is a wizard of sorts. He was accompanied on stage by his long time friend and collaborator Jeremy Hyman who you may also have heard drumming for Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks.
The show started out with the Cleveland band Pleasure Leftists throwing in their surf-punk rockabilly two cents. Their singer had the healthiest vocal chords I’ve likely ever heard. Then WUME was another electronic duo with a lady drummer. It always amazes me to watch drummers keeping up with electronic music; the sheer mixture of the acoustic and electronic elements racks my brain every time. They had vocals sprinkled here and there throughout a very energetic set, and a pretty fun light show too.
Then comes the prize: as Dan Deacon’s lights started circling the ceiling and spotlighting the crowd, a song we all know came over the venue speakers and overwhelmed us all with a wringing sense of enthusiasm. What song you ask? None other than “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid, obviously.
Once the song ended Dan took stage and had us all laughing at his witty half-joke half-philosophies of tumblr. He started the show out with the song “When I Was Done Dying,” which is by far my favorite off of the new album. He commands the entire room with little effort. I was once again impressed by the collab while watching Jeremy Hyman’s punchy and tight drumming technique. This duo was the epitome of genuine and strong music.
Dan Deacon is the type of musician that can make you feel the most intense feelings through his electronic music, and it is completely authentic. I have a hard time tapping into those emotions after listening to other electronic musicians, but I feel like the drums helped accentuate that authenticity as well. Think the sincerity of Animal Collective’s albums Centipede Hz or Feels if you’re wondering what vibes I’m talking about.
Better yet, just go listen to this killer album! Also get yourself to one of his shows so you can be a part of the madness in one of his interactive dance circles during his song “Learning to Relax.” His performance is a must join, because you do NOT just watch him, you’re a part of the show yourself. The Beasts welcome him with open arms into all of our cities!
Check out our interview with Dan below!
How was the process of writing and recording your newest album?
The writing was pretty fun, it was the most fun I’ve had working on a project and I kind of look back on that process and need to get back into that mindset. It’s kind of like anything else you have to force yourself to get back into it, but that didn’t happen with this record. I was already in the zone; I would lay in bed and think about all the pieces. Right now my brain is very performance focused and I keep thinking about how to augment the show. I am trying to differentiate the show from the record. It was the first time I had worked on something on my own. I tried to you know, force myself to do as much of it on my own so I could learn how to do it again. I finally felt like I was comfortable with Abelton, It was a big learning experience. Normally when someone says it was a learning experience they mean it was a terrible nightmare, but this was a very positive enjoyable learning experience.
What does the album title Gliss Riffer mean?
Gliss Riffer is a music term short for glissando, a lot of music terms are in Italian for some reason. The slide when you run your hands up a piano.. that’s a glissando or the trombone which is the quintessential Gliss instrument. A lot of my music has these cascading melodies but I also just really like the word. I think it is a beautiful word that exists but is not really used. And Riffer is one who plays riffs.
I was going to see you open for Animal Collective, do you know them from Baltimore?
Oh yeah, but by the time I had moved there eleven years ago they had all relocated to other cities so I didn’t really know them from there. We played a lot of the same festivals, I met them and we had a lot of mutual friends. But when I actually first heard about them I thought they were a Brooklyn band because they all lived there.
Can you give us a little info on the player piano in your tiny desk set and your equipment? Which is your favorite?
I’ve been pretty obsessed with player pianos since college. When I heard about disklaviers which are computer controlled player pianos, I became pretty fascinated with them. The reason I went out to record and mix in Montana for Bromst was because they had one of these pianos. I learned a lot about its limitations. It’s an acoustic instrument, but it’s played via a computer, but it’s not an electronic instrument, it is a mechanical instrument. It has the limitations of mechanics and a physical limitation even though it’s not human. It’s a very unique instrument, they’re very temperamental.
Are all of your shows as interactive as the Tiny Desk one?
I do a lot of crowd interaction. When I started playing, I was a solo performer and I would try to always make the show as different from other shows as possible and I would always think what are the things that change night to night that I can incorporate into the performance. One was the venue, so I alternated playing on a weird spot in the room, leaving the venue or staying in the venue, utilizing space differently and then the audience. When you change the focus of the show to the audience, the audience goes from a crowd to an actual collective body. A bunch of people who go from ‘I identify’ to ‘we identify’. Also the moment that choice is entered into the equation people think about things differently. If you choose to participate that’s very different from choosing Not to but even choosing not to do that is a choice. I like how people can dip in and out of that, I feel like that simple shift from choosing to participate or not is something I am fascinated by.
Can you tell us who you’re about to go on tour with and are you’re excited?
It’s the Miley Cyrus tour that starts tomorrow. I try to have no expectations. I am excited but I don’t know what it will be like so I’m kind of trying to walk into it ready for anything.
Do you enjoy playing solo or in full bands?
I like to mix it up. This tour is with a long term collaborator, the drummer, Jeremy Hyman. I like playing solo, I like playing as a duo, as a trio or a large ensemble. It really depends on the show that I’m trying to put forth at the time, the logistics behind how to make it happen.
What is the first album that impacted you?
The first record that made me realize I wanted to be a composer I bought at a library dollar bin. It was a split between Stockhausen and Kagel and I didn’t know either of them and I hadn’t really heard twentieth century Avant Garde music before and it just blew me away. I just started trying to find out as much about music like that as possible. I’d say that record really resonated with me.
What has been your favorite show so far?
We played this festival in Portugal over the summer that was really a magical experience, it felt really great.
How great is it to tour the world?
It is a wonderful privilege and I am really happy to be able to do it.