Swingin’ to Dirty Projectors’ avant-pop leanings

Aug 8, 2012 at 5:00 am
Swingin’ to Dirty Projectors’ avant-pop leanings
Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg

The New York-based band Dirty Projectors has evolved over the past decade to become one of the most acclaimed, innovative and influential bands around. Each of their past three albums has earned overwhelming praise — not only from critics but also from more established artists like Bjork, David Byrne and Jay-Z. Their latest album, Swing Lo Magellan, was released last month. LEO spoke with bassist Nat Baldwin.

LEO: How’s the tour going? You’ve had some members come and go, so that must change the dynamic.

Nat Baldwin: Yeah, definitely. It’s been going well. Olga Bell has stepped in and is doing a lot of the things Angel (Deradoorian) was doing. She’s been great to play with. At first, when members are coming and going, things are shifting around, especially when you develop strong relationships with those people, obviously that’s hard at first … This is our first tour with this new six-piece lineup, and it’s off to a good start, I think.

LEO: Do you enjoy those challenges, having come from an experimental background?

NB: Yeah, definitely. In this instance, I’ve known (new drummer) Mike (Johnson) and Olga in the past, both personally and musically. It’s easier, it’s not like they’re total strangers coming in ... Especially from my earlier stint with the band in 2005-06, it was basically a different group every time we toured. That had its challenges, but it also was sort of exciting in a way, figuring out new ways to arrange old songs; that was fun, and something (bandleader) Dave (Longstreth) had fun with at that time. It gave him a broader range and palette to orchestrate.

Now, I think it makes sense to have a more solid lineup, especially with all the touring. People wouldn’t be able to come and go exactly as they did in the past. This lineup feels very solid for this tour cycle and, I imagine, beyond that.

LEO: Have you already started rearranging songs from the record?

NB: A little bit, yeah. Because there’s such a broad range in styles (in the band’s catalog), even though there’s some kind of common thread that links it all together — or, I think, anyway. I think that’s what makes it unique, too. But some of the songs that are more electronic, like electronic beats and basslines, we’ve rearranged those to perform in the live context, with live drums triggering some samples and me playing live bass. We’ve figured out how to do it live in a more natural way. The musicianship is at a level where we can do that and be adaptable, especially with Olga and Mike in there. They bring a pretty high level of playing, and that gives us a lot of versatility.

LEO: Did you think your music, and career, would be where it is now 10 years ago?

NB: No! I was doing things more in the (avant-garde icon) Anthony Braxton-realm of things, playing super-experimental stuff — playing shows for, like, five and 10 people (laughs). And I thought that was what I was always going to do. I thought that music was the only way. Then something happened where I realized I was really closing myself off, being sort of exclusive, almost snobby in my experimentalism … so, 10 years ago, I definitely would not have expected to be playing in a band like this, playing for a couple thousand people. That didn’t really cross my mind back then (laughs).

To read more about Baldwin’s early training with Braxton, go to bluecat.leoweekly.com.

Dirty Projectors

with Pop Etc. and Night Visions DJs

Tuesday, Aug. 14

Headliners Music Hall

1386 Lexington Road • 584-8088


$20; 9 p.m.