Key Losers' Katy Davidson: "Phoenix Is Way Cooler than Portland, In a Lot of Ways."
Though she didn't start playing music professionally until after she had moved away, Katy Davidson of Key Losers (formerly of Dear Nora) says that Phoenicians seem to be able to sense that she's a native.
"It's a cool feeling," she says over the phone from Fun Fun Fun Fest, where she performed playing guitar in YACHT. "Phoenix is pretty much my favorite place in the States to play."
Davidson took some time away from watching bands at the festival (she was particularly excited about Omar Souleyman and Big Freedia) to discuss her new album, California Lite, the strange myth of California, and why Phoenix is cooler than Portland (in a way).
Key Losers is scheduled to perform Monday, November 14, at Trunk Space.
Up on the Sun: California Lite seems to have three specific geographical locations. Maybe I'm being a little presumptuous when I think of Arizona as one of them, but obviously there's a lot of Portland connections, obviously a lot of California imagery.
You've spent a lot of time in all three places, but what influenced your decision to focus on California with the album?
Katy Davidson: Well, I wrote most of the album when I was living in Long Beach, and I was just taken with how much time I spent in my car. Not even necessarily because I needed to; I worked close to home, but going out to see friends, spending time on the freeway, getting into that mental space that you get into when you're just in your car, especially alone. Driving, it's not like a mental space that you can compare to other times in your life. It's almost dreamlike in a way. That combined with driving past oil refineries -- the drive itself would be dreamlike, [but] everything would be so blunt, like driving past an oil refinery with an American flag wrapped around it. It's so much awesome fodder for songwriting, at least for me, living around that.
There are some really Californian sounds going on, too. A lot of Steely Dan moments and Laurel Canyon sounds.
That's 100 % intentional. I loved thinking about Los Angeles in the 1970s. I love David Crosby's solo album where he invited all the other Laural Canyon people over to sing in his living room...
Is that "If I Could Only Remember My Name?"
Yeah, love that. So it was just fully ripping on that stuff, in a 100 % conscious way. It's sort of like, like I described when I was writing about the album, that time, at least from this perspective, in 2011, it just seems so beautiful and golden. I almost picture it like a beautiful movie. Yet, there were so many awkward, terrible things going on at that time in the world, too. I love the play on those two things.
Sure. In that same vein -- your band on this record features Tom Filardo (Asleep in the Sea), Karl Blau, Phil Elverum (Microphones/Mt. Eerie), and more. It's kind of, like that Crosby record, a big, sprawling thing.
It's kind of true. When making this record, outlining what I wanted it to be like, I've grown up with these people musically. We're all just getting better and better, and I was like, "I want all these people to show up on this record and just be free." At this point, we're all friends, you know? We've all been playing together and playing shows for however long. Yeah, I just kind of assembled my dream band, and they all agreed to it, and I just set them free. I couldn't be happier.
Obviously, you feel fairly home at Trunk Space. I've seen you play there a couple of times as Dear Nora. I imagine it's a pretty comfortable place to you to be.
It is. In the US, Phoenix is one of my favorite places to play. People are always very appreciative. Even though I started playing music professionally after I left Arizona -- I grew up there -- it still feels like people embrace me there as a native. It's a cool feeling. Playing Phoenix is pretty much my favorite place in the States to play.
I feel like I've been talking about how so many elements of '70s and '80s soft rock are popping up on indie records. There's sort of a renaissance of people being interested in the sounds right now.
Yeah, I think that there is to a certain extent [laughs]. You probably heard the Bon Iver record. It's there. People are exploring soft rock a bit. It's nice to hear when there's really genuine songwriting backing it up.
[Opposed to it] just being an aesthetic choice.
Do you feel like that Bon Iver record doesn't back it up?
No, I do. I didn't meant to make it sound like I don't. I'm thinking of -- I won't name any names, at all -- but I do think there's been a renaissance of the soft rock sound, and it's like, just like any other genre of music, you can just tell when the song writing is not there. And also, you can tell when its just a throw back. I'm looking for great songwriting, and a little bit of a hybrid with anything contemporary. Some bands are doing it, but maybe not doing it so well.,