Can you talk to us more about your latest single Queues at Dani Keys?
It’s about the perils of big city ambition, our susceptibility to it and how it drains empathy. It’s about keeping up appearances; a kind of social facade and how exhausting, fraught and counter-friendship that can be.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
It was inspired by two things – ‘Jeremy’ and a fictional nightclub called Queues at Dani Keys.
A friend told me about a party he attended, where he kept being asked if he knew Jeremy, as if knowing Jeremy was some kind of school council badge; a rite of passage.
The nightclub and the ‘Greg’ character in the video is an obnoxious combination. Greg is that suit & tie guy you see sneaking young women through a side door, before plying them with alcohol, while you queue outside.
How was the film experience?
The director Puck Murphy, who is one of these unassuming sort of visual effects geniuses, built a mirror box. When you stand inside you see yourself repeated again and again in the distance, everywhere you look. It’s tiring, overwhelming, even a little nauseating. We were trying to embellish the big city facade idea, through an all-consuming vanity.
The single comes off your new album Every Orchid Offering – what’s the story behind the title?
I saw a poster advertising a comeback concert by an older, high profile musician. You could see he’d found God and I wondered, how does a man who womanized his way through his youth come to reconcile, or feel the need to. I thought how tantalizing it must be for him now, every night still adored, his libido safe-jacketed inside, with a cross hanging from his neck. The album’s about those choices we have around our desires, gender roles, empathy and our longing for meaningful connectedness – spiritually and interpersonally.
How was the recording and writing process?
I wrote much of the album at a beautiful black sand beach town called Piha, in New Zealand where I’m from. Other songs were written in Brooklyn and while traveling through Europe. Some we recorded in Auckland, NZ and others in Brooklyn. About 30 American and New Zealand musicians contributed.
What was it like to work with Marivaldo Dos Santos and how did that relationship develop?
I was mixing at a Brooklyn studio called The Bunker and Aaron who runs it said you have to ask Marivaldo to play some percussion on Queues. He arrived with a conga drum, a cowbell, a wine bottle and a triangle. He said press record, I’ll give you one take of each instrument. Easy. I’ve always been enamored with percussion-heavy Brazilian music. Growing up my sister used to give me Brazilian mix tapes and 10 years ago I spent some time observing samba music in Rio’s Lapa neighborhood.
What role does David Bowie play in your music?
It’s hard not to be influenced in some way by David Bowie, if not aesthetically, then through admiration for the way he was continually innovating and reinventing. I returned to the album he made with Brian Eno, ‘Heroes’, while I was writing Every Orchid Offering. ‘Heroes’ is that rare thing – equal parts pop, instrumental and soundscape. It’s intrepid, yet tasteful and arranged. It felt like Bowie could articulate what you couldn’t – a wry observation, a confession, always with an enviable eloquence. In that sense he was so outward looking and acutely dialed in to the zeitgeist.
What aspects of sexuality did you get to explore with this album and what led you to write down about these themes in particular?
Around the time I moved to Brooklyn I noticed LGBTQ rights were gaining broader media coverage and one by one states were legislating to give gay relationships parity. Of course the landmark Supreme Court ruling last year cemented change. Insidious bigotry and racism is ever-present and it’s a scourge. It makes people vulnerable and curbs individuality. I write about things I care about and above all it’s connectedness, empathy, love and celebrating difference.
Any plans to hit the road?
We have a show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn July 30, before San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and L.A.