Dirty Projectors’ ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ Is Like a Smooth, Rounded Rock

Dirty Projectors. Photo courtesy of Dirty Projectors/Facebook

Asking the Dirty Projectors’ main songwriter Dave Longstreth to explain his music is an exercise in futility. For the duration of their career, they’ve consistently challenged songwriting conventions, whether through the deconstructed art-pop of 2009’s Bitte Orca or by trying to recreate Black Flag’s album Damaged, without hearing it for fifteen years, as they did on 2007’s Rise Above. On their latest album Swing Lo Magellan, Longstreth presents the group’s simplest songwriting to date. Songs like “Just From Chevron” and “Impregnable Question” have a newfound intimacy, relying less on tempo shifts and odd time signatures in favor of laid-back melodies and straightforward word play. That’s not to say that they’ve totally ditched their Dirty Projector-ness entirely. Lead single “Gun Has No Trigger,” as well as opener “Offspring Are Blank,” are rife with shifting guitar solos, funky rhythms, and the beautiful coo-ing of vocalists Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle. These are the things that Dirty Projectors’ fans have come to love, but this time around, it’s much more personal.

Hive spoke with Longstreth in late May about recording Swing Lo Magellan, his theories about the afterlife and why this latest effort is like “a smooth, rounded rock.”

I read that Swing Lo Magellan was recorded in a “weird house.” Why was this house weird? Was it haunted?

I don’t think it was haunted, no. It was built by bootleggers about a 100 years ago.

Like alcohol bootleggers?

Like alcohol bootleggers, yeah.

So it was a log cabin? Or brick?

No, it’s made out of wood. It’s got a frame. It’s about the size of a house that would have been built about a 100 years ago. The interesting thing about the record isn’t really about the house that it was recorded in.

“I always turn around and look at what I’m doing and try to do the exact opposite of that. I’ve spent a good several albums for Dirty Projectors just obsessed with colors and textures and ideas about orchestration and trying to do things in that area that have never been done. Or never been done in that context before.”

What is the interesting thing about the record?

What do you think it is?

On this first track, “Offspring Are Blank,”is that a reference to the idea that babies don’t really know anything when they are born?


Am I way off?

No, that’s interesting. I never really thought about it like that. I can see that. Yeah, I was thinking of it as a generational-type songs, like “The Kids Are Alright” or something. But this one is a little different. It’s sorta like “the offspring are blank.”

There’s a lot of talk on the record about birth and death. Was there a lot of thinking about birth and death this time around?

I guess so, yeah. Something about like when you’re out on tour a lot … I don’t know, it gets in your brain, the realization that death is always pretty close. I guess I was kinda obsessed with that stuff.

Watch the video for “Gun Has No Trigger” here:

Embedded from www.youtube.com.