Q&A: Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors sure does like Wikipedia


It was early morning when I got the e-mail confirming my phone call with Dave Longstreth from Dirty Projectors. It was to be at 9a.m. my time, the following day. I went to work and went about my business as usual when it hit me.

What does one ask the Dirty Projectors anyway? I went online to do some research- just a little digging around here and there so that I was up to speed on what the band was doing; you know, normal things. After about five minutes, I had given up and spent an hour just watching various live performances on YouTube with the occasional cameo of acute penguin video every now and then. A friend of mine popped up on my Google Chat screen:

Friend: Hey! How's Phoenix? What are you up to?

Me: Oh, it's alright. It's finally cooling down. I'm just sort of watching Dirty Projectors videos on YouTube trying to think of what to ask them during my interview tomorrow.

Friend: Dirty Projectors? That's freaking cool! Good job! And good luck, too. Isn't that guy like insanely smart or something? He's probably pretentious.

Me: I don't know. I've met him before and he was super nice. I don't know though...we'll see, I guess.

The next day...

Did you expect me to actually wake up on time for this? I rolled out of bed about 10 minutes before I was actually supposed to call Dave's cell phone. Bad allergies and all, I sneezed for about five minutes before making the call. How'd it go? See for yourself:

UP: Hi Dave, how are you?

DL: I'm good. How are you?

UP: I'm okay. Just woke up. You're going to have to excuse me if I sneeze from time to time; I'm just getting over a cold.

DL: That's totally cool. I've been there.

UP: Anyway, first of all, how are you? How was Europe?

DL: I'm good, Europe was awesome and it's good to be home for a little while.

UP: We last met at your in-store performance at Stinkweeds two years ago. A lot has changed since then. Congratulations on all the success.

DL: (interjecting) Whoa, you were there?

UP: Yeah, I was one of the very few lucky people in the audience that night.

DL: Yeah, that show was so sparsely attended, like maybe 15 people.

UP: I know, I was surprised because I knew that you guys were playing some bigger places and a week later I saw you play a packed show in L.A.

DL: Was that at the Ex-plex?

UP: Yeah, it was kind of weird, but a good time, if I remember correctly.

DL: Actually that time in Phoenix was our second time in Arizona. We played at the other one [Stinkweeds] maybe a year before and that was a really fun time. It was a really beautiful night and it was outdoors and the sound was great.

UP: Awesome. Anyway, Bitte Orca is becoming one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. It was really rather a surprise to me when I first heard it because it was unlike your other work. Can you tell me a little about the making of the record?

DL: Um, I think so. I'll try. It was we recorded in Portland, like last summer pretty much. A lot of the songs had been written while we were on an endless tour from the previous album [Rise Above], and yeah, we actually had a friend who runs Marriage records who was in the process of buying an old building. It was a huge old building that used to be used for laundry back at the turn of the century, when laundry still required horse-drawn wagons and huge machines. It was gigantic warehouse... an absolutely beautiful building. It was to be the new home of Marriage as well as a small publishing house- (stopping) long story short; there was a big room with about as big a football field and a bunch of smaller rooms. So we sort of set up in this big old building and created our own environment. It was pretty sweet.

UP: That sounds awesome. Now I have to ask you... I have been a huge fan for a long time and was wondering if we will ever hear any songs off of Graceful Fallen Mango live?

DL: (surprised) Whoa, now that's old...you had that album? I'm trying to think of what's even on that...there was "Spring is Here" and "Maggie and Me..." and I can't remember, it's been so long.

UP: Yeah, I've actually owned two copies. I first bought it in California years ago, but lost it when I moved to Phoenix and found it again at Stinkweeds on a total fluke.

DL: Oh my God, that's pretty impressive. Especially since there were only 500 of those ever made. Where did you get it in California?

UP: I found it tucked away at the Amoeba in Berkley when I was still in high school...probably around 2003.

DL: Yeah, Amber spent some time in NorCali so that makes total sense. She actually grew up in a small mountain town in Arizona for a while too.

UP: Do you know if it was north? Like maybe Flagstaff or Prescott?

DL: It was Flagstaff, actually. Yeah.

UP: Oh okay, that's neat. Are you guys heading over there on this tour?

DL: We've actually never been to Flagstaff. There aren't any places to play!

UP: There are some places, but yeah, on the tours that I have booked, I've had to play at houses mostly. It's a hard place to book sometimes, depending on whether school is in or not-- a lot of seasonal residents and snowbirds.

DL: Yeah, fuck, we'd want to go there sometime.

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