By: Ashley Berry
After opening for Mike Andrews at Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles on August 22nd, 2012, Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink took some time backstage to chat with me about her musical inspirations, Snowblink’s soon-to-be-released album, Inner Classics, and how internet classifieds have given us a direct line to Fate.
AB: You’re from Los Angeles originally. How does it feel to be playing in your hometown?
DG: Oh, it’s rad! We played a house show on Saturday. A friend of mine puts on these events called Rubifox. She picks a private home and makes this whole event out of it: a chef-cooked meal and special drinks, a band plays, and an artist does something. It’s kind of a salon. So we did that on Saturday and then we played tonight at the Bootleg with Michael [Andrews]. It’s been amazing.
AB: Do you have any favorite things you like to do when you’re in Los Angeles?
DG: Oh, yeah! I totally have the rounds. Matador Beach, which is just north of Malibu, is one stop. There’s this sushi place called Bizen in the valley near my parents’ house that’s amazing. You know, beaches, hikes, and as many outdoor beautiful spaces as I can get to.
AB: I know that nature greatly inspires your music. Who are your musical influences in terms of bands?
DG: My peers are the people that actually influence me the most. When I was younger, it was people like Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell, but now, the people that inspire me are the people in my community. There’s this band, Timber Timbre, from Canada. I just think they’re amazing and Leslie Feist, who is also Canadian, blows my mind. There’s an LA-based band, the Belle Brigade. They’re old friends of mine and they’re great. Either that or just old music, old Hawaiian records, and other obscure stuff.
AB: Okay, so I wasn’t hallucinating when I was getting Hawaiian imagery while listening to your music!
DG: Oh, that’s the best compliment ever! I’m so glad that you could feel Hawaii in there!
AB: Oh, definitely! Your music has so many interesting qualities within it. The sound is very soothing and almost lullaby-ish.
DG: Well, if you have an actual physical copy of the record, which I know so few people do these days, but if you read the lyrics like a libretto in an opera, most of the lyrics are actually not lullaby-ish. Some of them are, but a lot of times I find that I like to present difficult subject matters in lyrics with a soft, gentle, lullaby-type sound. Then it becomes a safe space to explore what’s happening in the lyrics. There are many layers to it, but it is, upon listening, a lush comforting kind of place. That’s what I hope to create.
AB: Could you give me an example from a song?
DG: Yeah, the lyrics are usually about human relationships, but often tethered to nature references. There’s this one song that’s a remembrance of someone who had passed away, and I would use images of a whale swimming underwater to represent loss. “Oh, the tired that feet and bones can grow/ On a road paved over undertow.” So, it’s this road that’s shifting and unstable. “Oh, the lengths that grace can make me go/ Are as great as eight Grey Whales full-grown/ You’re the prayer I wouldn’t dare intone.” It’s a portrait of saying “good-bye” through this really lullaby-type song.
AB: I love that you use your voice, not only to sing the lyrics, but also as an instrument by making some really experimental sounds. It definitely takes the songs to another level.
DG: Yeah. Bobby McFerrin is a really obvious example of a vocal superhero, someone who has done extraordinary things with his voice. He stayed generally within this tonal realm where he was trying to sound like four voices at once. He could do unbelievable acrobatics with his voice. From a very young age, I got such nice feedback from people about my voice. People would say, “You sing so beautifully,” and I would feel like that was awesome, but I also wanted to take that and say, “Oh. If you think that’s nice, maybe I’ll lead you over here. Is this nice?” It was about testing and exploring.
AB: That’s so interesting because after seeing you perform, I get the sense that you perform from a really unselfconscious place that isn’t about pleasing others. I think audience members feel so much more engaged and captivated when the performance isn’t forced and comes from a more spontaneous place.
DG: I’m so glad that that comes across. I totally relate. I don’t want to be pleased either when I watch an artist perform. I just want to see someone be as much in their element as they can be and then just wonder at that.
AB: How did you and Dan [Goldman, the other half of Snowblink] meet?
DG: One summer, I was in Montreal and we traded voice and guitar lessons.
AB: Tell me you guys met on Craigslist!
DG: Well, it wasn’t Craigslist, but it was the McGill classifieds. He had posted an ad to teach. I saw his music and was into it and wrote to him.
AB: It’s amazing how many people have that same story! It’s kind of funny, but it’s also such a beautiful thing that we have the ability to put a request out into the universe for exactly what we are seeking, and that someone out there might respond.
DG: Yeah, it is amazing. It’s almost like saying to Fate, “Okay, here’s my GPS pin. I’m right here. Come!”
AB: How would you say that you and Dan are similar and/or different in the way you approach creating music?
DG: We’re pretty different. Stylistically, we’re really similar and that’s why we clicked so quickly when we met. He writes beautiful music as well, under the name Luxury Pond, and his music is also very gentle and soothing. So, we relate on that level, but when it comes to writing music, we’re very different. He loves the schedule. He’s so disciplined. I need to take a hike and lie by the ocean for two hours, and then I can figure it out. I get the work done; I just need a lot of empty space for it to happen.
AB: Are there any songs on the upcoming album, Inner Classics, that have a particular significance for you?
DG: There are a lot of them. I’m really excited for the album to come out. “Pray for Surf” is the first track on the album and I feel very connected to that one. It felt like new territory to me as I was creating it, and as we’ve been playing it, the response that we’ve gotten from people is that it is new territory. It’s definitely really exciting, but it also alienates a lot of people. It’s a song that has been polarizing in that some people are very drawn to it and some people are kind of repelled by it. But I feel very connected to it–I love that one.
AB: Do you guys know where you’re going to be for the official album release on September 11th?
DG: We’re going to be in Toronto and we play that night with a band called Bahamas. So, we’ll get to celebrate. It’s going to be a good night!