Interview by Miriam Cadoni
Entering Maryland’s Darsombra magical world, it’s like get access to a parallel dimension full of intensity and bright colors. What makes special this ‘trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock’ duo is their visual approach. In order to know better about this amazing musical creation, we enquired masterminds Brian Daniloski & Ann Everton. Read with us this great interview!
Hi Brian & Ann, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. First of all, how are you and how today is treating you?
Ann: Hi! I’m enjoying my day! It’s a day off between Thunder Bay, ON, and Winnipeg, MB. We’re driving through lots of beautiful wilderness with lakes and rocks and pines. . . and the best part is, we’re hoofing it to Winnipeg tonight so we can see a movie about Rush! We are both huge fans 🙂
Brian: I’m having a great day! We’re just taking it easy today.
Even though I’m aware that the following question might be redundant would you mind for the readers that aren’t still familiar with Darsombra, to introduce how the duo got together and offer us some additional biographical hints?
Brian: Darsombra started as my solo project at the beginning of the 2000s and existed in that form for several years, there were many tours and a few albums that came out in that time. Then I met Ann in 2009 and we started working together by 2010 with Ann only creating visuals at first, then in 2013, Ann joined me performing on stage.
Ann: Really the band came together almost by accident! When Brian and I met, I was making video art and he had a solo music project, which was called Darsombra. Our friend Selena was putting on a show in Baltimore, where we live, and suggested I show my video work behind Brian while he plays music. That was in late 2010. . . then, in 2013, another friend encouraged me to begin performing on stage with Brian at our shows (as opposed to just hanging out in the audience with the projector), so I began to learn how to play the synthesizer and how to sing from the heart. And of course, I started playing the gong too. . . it’s hard to put it all together because it just happened so organically. It’s like, we never thought of putting a band together when we met, but then when it happened, it was so natural that we never thought twice about whether or not we should be doing this. And we are enjoying watching Darsombra evolve—we know there’s more to come.
On the 9th August will be released your fifth album “Transmission”. Considering that the previous full-length was released 5 years ago, what you can share about its overall production?
Brian: Our previous release “Polyvision” came out 3 years ago in 2016. Our new album is music that we were developing at the same time as “Polyvision”. Our original plan was to release a double album with “Polyision” as the first album and “Transmission” as the second album. However, at that time we were anxious to get a new album out and get back out on the road because it had been 4 years since our release “Climax Community”, and we knew we could probably complete, record, and release the two relatively shorter songs which comprise the “Polyvision” album in a much quicker time than the one song that is “Transmission”. Besides that, a double record is a lot to ask of peoples’ attention spans. Maybe next time…
Ann: This album required a tremendous amount of work to compose, record, produce, and release. But I’ve enjoyed every second of it, as I imagine Brian has too. . . it’s what we do! We love to do it! The song took 5 years to fully compose (we wrote a whole another album, “Polyvision” in the time it took to make this one), and the video took the last two years of that time as well. It’s an expansive piece of sound and image that feels like a dissertation, or a child. . . Leben Werk.
If compared to “Polyvision”, “Transmission” features only a self-titled forty-one-minute track. What the listeners should expect from this and which are the challenges for both of you while performing live this mastodontic chef d’oevre?
Brian: “Polyvision” was two 20+ minute tracks. We just wanted to expand on this long-form idea and get even more preposterous, so “Transmission” is one 41+ minute track that is a journey through the wacky world of Darsombra. The challenges of playing “Transmission” for me are staying focused and immersed in it for the duration of the performance. There are no breaks.
Ann: Listeners should expect a bit of a journey! If they wish to take it with us. (I’ll also give away a top-secret tip about “Transmission” from the Darsombra Tip Vault: we were watching lots and lots of Scooby-Doo while writing the song.) The challenges of playing this song live for me have been: staying focussed and not letting my mind wanders, and being mindful that I don’t flail my body in a way that will require physical therapy (because that happened before! It’s too easy to go deep into the song when playing!).
If I remember correctly in the past years, your releases were published by an interconnected cooperation of several labels such as At A Loss, Public Guilt, Exile On Mainstream, Translation Loss, and Noise Bombing. Why, this time, did you opt to completely self-release your opus “Transmission”?
Brian: We decided to self-release because it just felt like the right thing to do at this time. It’s an unusual and very personal album, so we thought that it would be nice to be able to have complete control over how it was manufactured, handled, and delivered. Plus, we’ve really been cultivating a very DIY “bring it right to the people” approach with our constant touring, so we decided to expand that idea to the album releasing aspect of what we do as well.
Ann: Honestly, it’s such an unusual album that we felt suited to market it ourselves. We take on a very cottage-industry approach to many aspects of our lives, which of course extends to the band—aside from our logo, I make all the art, do all the graphic design, send templates to the production facilities, etc. . . and Brian records and mixes all of our music, from home as well. We even went with a local masterer so we could keep an eye on the mastering process—we wanted nothing to be hurried or accepted if it wasn’t fully serving this very strange song!
What’s also proves to be really interesting are the slight graphical differences featured on both Cassette and CD and LP versions. Why did you choose this solution?
Briann: We knew we wanted to release “Transmission” in multiple formats; cassette, CD, LP, and digital. Each of these formats has a different size “canvas” in which the art can take place. Rather than just resize and recycle the same art for each format, we thought that it would be more fun to have elements of the art that are completely unique to that format. The LP has a poster in it which is completely different than the booklet that comes in the CD. The cassette version has a long fold-out with art that is different from the other two formats as well.
Ann: We had a lot of great images from over the years to work with as well, so why not customize the artwork per format?
Your fifth full-length is simply called “Transmission”. Conceptualized to it, which meaning holds for your this word and how it does reflects in your music and your LP?
Brian: The title “Transmission” came near the end of the creative process for this album when pretty much everything else was complete. It’s working title was “Epic” but we knew we were not going to use that as the actual title. It has multiple meanings for us. In some ways, it felt like both the visual and musical elements of this piece were transmitted to us from another time and/or place. Also, when we committed this album to a recording, that is a transmission, and when we perform it live, that is a transmission. So we were searching for a title for a long time, but when “Transmission” came to us out of the ether, it felt like the obvious choice, as if it was its title all along.
Ann: Honestly, I feel like the piece was transmitted to us from another dimension! Like it was poured into Brian, it was poured into me, and then I had the task of making a film to do it justice. . . a lot of the process was me telling myself I could do it, that I was worthy of playing and visualizing this song! But as it was transmitted to us, we transmit it to the listener. . . so “Transmission” worked. For the longest time, I wanted to call it, “On Earth”, but I like “Transmission” better.
Visuals in Darsombra plays always an important part and the trailers are a direct testimony of this. In which way, do you plan all this and also, how the visual might be directly connected/pertinent with the musical mood of the song?
Ann: My background is in video art; after 20 years, I am finally calling myself a filmmaker. Typically, I compose and produce the video after the song has been fully written. Then I shoot scenes inspired by the music, as well as sort through old footage I’ve shot over the years for imagery that is relevant to the song—and then edit it all together and there are our video. It usually doesn’t take so long, especially when the song is recorded, at least as a demo. However, because it took such a long time to fully musically compose “Transmission”, I came up with visual ideas and shot the footage while we were completing it, and the full film to “Transmission” took almost 2 years to finish! As I mentioned before, a lot of the time was spent reminding myself I was up to the task! It was a big production for me, with lots of actors, and footage shot in three continents over the past 6-7 years. But Brian did some of the film composition too, as well as quite a lot of acting!
The songs we write are open-ended—you can interpret them however you wish. So of course, when composing video, we try and make a point to not make anything too set-in-stone when it comes to defining the meaning of the song. I come up with loose narratives that the music could easily be a soundtrack to, but I tend to keep these narratives unspoken because we love to see how others interpret the work, both visually and musically. “Transmission” is such a giant, all-encompassing song, that it required a giant, all-encompassing video which might include some dancers in a graveyard here, a few basset hounds there, some castles in Spain, some traffic footage from Indonesia, the eyeballs of about 2 or 3 dozen friends, and a beautiful young bison wandering through North Dakota. . . it’s all in there.
While I’m writing this interview, Darsombra has already started their two-months long tour in the support of “Transmission”. What are your expectations and how the tour is treating you?
Brian: We expect to have blast and so far it’s been awesome! We’ve been out for about 3 weeks now. We’ve got 6 to go. We’ve played lots of great shows, seen lots of great bands. We’ve connected with old friends and made some new ones. We’re currently making our way across Canada.
Ann: I expect to connect with a lot of beloved people and places, as this is a familiar route (we toured almost the same route in 2017). I sincerely hope they enjoy this new piece of music we’re presenting. . . I’m still working to understand it myself. The tour, so far, has been fantastic! Lots of fun times and sweet shows, great company with old and new friends, great music, and I got to fully immerse my body in Lake Superior twice, so I’m happy.
What 2019 has in store for you? Have you any plans to extensively tour Europe too?
Brian: For the rest of 2019, we still have most of this tour to finish up, which will take us up into October. We might do a few regional shows later in the year around the winter solstice. As for Europe, we already did a 7-week tour of Europe earlier this year in spring 2019. We performed “Transmission” at most of those shows, even though the album wasn’t out yet. We are hoping to come back in 2020 in the summer or fall. We’re working on that right now.
Ann: We’re hoping to head back to Southeast Asia in 2020, as well as out towards California here in the US, and possibly Europe in the fall if they’ll have us back!
So, Brian & Ann, we’re almost at the end and with this please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers. Thank you so much for this interview!
Ann:Thanks, Miriam!!! Hi everybody! Can’t wait to see you sometime soon! Let’s go do a generator show on the Moon! Who wants to come with us? 🙂
Brian: Thank you Miriam. Hi everybody! We hope to see you in the next few years and bring you “Transmission”!