Angel Deradoorian’s Cleaner Side

Published August 4, 2015

ABOVE: ANGEL DERADOORIAN. PHOTO COURTESY OF BENNET PEREZ

“It’s a metaphor for the expansion of consciousness,” says Angel Deradoorian about the title of her debut solo LP, The Expanding Flower Plant. Although the Los Angeles-based musician is most recognized for her work as the bassist and vocalist for Dirty Projectors, in 2009 she released a solo EP Mind Raft under her surname, which she continues to use as her solo moniker. Six years later, she’s finally ready to release The Expanding Flower Plant. Out August 21 via Anticon, the album lures listeners into a hypnotic soundscape with each of the tracks standing as unique constellations within a genre-transcending orbit. Her latest track, “Komodo,” which we are pleased to premiere below, leads us gracefully through shifting rhythms, as the Sacramento-native’s voice rises and falls over a steady bass line. Deradoorian’s vocals harken back to an ancient past, while an ominous feeling permeates throughout: “Run for your lives / run for the hills / don’t close your eyes,” she sings.  It is within this track that minimalism and swelling rhythm converge.

The musician cites influences that range from Krautrock and psychedelic rock to Middle Eastern and Native American rhythms, all of which can be heard in tracks like “Komodo” and “A Beautiful Woman.” In “A Beautiful Woman,” Deradoorian’s dreamy vocals pair with electronic and acoustic experimentation, reflecting the lasting impacts of previous collaborations. Between Mind Raft and now, the 29-year-old worked with Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, Flying Lotus, and members of Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend, among others. Before the album release, we spoke with Deradoorian over the phone. She was in Los Angeles; we were in Brooklyn.

J.L. SIRISUK: Have you been in rehearsals all day?

ANGEL DERADOORIAN: No, I’ve had interviews all day, but I’m leaving tomorrow to drive across the country, so I’ve been getting ready for that as well.

SIRISUK: Your tour starts in about a month. Where are you going across country? Is there a main destination coming up?

DERADOORIAN: The tour start in New York and I live in L.A., so I have to drive to the East Coast. I’m going to rehearse with my sister in Virginia, then we’re gonna start the tour in Brooklyn, and it ends there as well. [laughs] Then I have to drive back across the country.

SIRISUK: It’s been six years since Mind Raft came out and I’ve been waiting for an LP. What finally led to the LP?

DERADOORIAN: It’s just a matter of logistical reasons. I didn’t start writing this record until two years after Mind Raft came out because I was just working with Dirty Projectors so much. We were about to start up another album cycle with Dirty Projectors, and Dave [Longstreth] and I had a talk about whether or not that seemed right for me at the time, or if I had to just take a break and focus on my own stuff. So I ended up doing that and I started writing in 2011.

SIRISUK: When you started writing, did you have some kind of theme or concept in mind or did it come together organically?

DERADOORIAN: In general I just like to write music before I consider the overall theme, so eventually it took place later when I started writing more of the lyrics. I think the only concept I had was to combine certain elements sonically into songs. It was all very loose in the beginning.

SIRISUK: Were there certain things you wanted to experiment with sonically?

DERADOORIAN: There were a lot—I mean every song on the record ends up sounding pretty different from each other because I wanted to explore all these different types of sounds I like. I think what I wanted to keep prominent were vocals and the beat.

SIRISUK:  From Krautrock to Middle Eastern music, there are many different influences heard on this album. What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

DERADOORIAN: I kind of discovered all that on my own later in my teenage years. I mostly grew up hearing jazz, soul, and R&B music because of my dad. In high school I had to learn who Led Zeppelin was on my own, and I never listened to The Beatles when I was a kid. It was an interesting endeavor once I finally realized I could go deeper into discovering music. I learned about a lot of stuff through friends. As a teenager I listened to Radiohead and Can. What else is there…I listened to a lot of Radiohead. [laughs]

SIRISUK: Do you have a favorite Radiohead album?

DERADOORIAN: Kid A. I listened to that one a lot.

SIRISUK: You collaborated with Flying Lotus and then you were with Slasher Flick. I’m wondering what drew you to those projects?

DERADOORIAN: I’ve known Dave Portnoy from Animal Collective for a really long time and he wanted to start a band for Slasher Flicks, so he asked Jeremy [Hyman] and I to make a power trio group—just play some shows in the U.K.—but then it ended up turning into a bigger project. People were feeling it and then Flying Lotus invited me to sing on his album. I’m friends with him from living in L.A.

SIRISUK: Moving on to your solo work after Dirty Projectors, how did you decide who you wanted to join you in the recording?

DERADOORIAN: The majority of the album is me playing. I had drummers come in and replay the parts I wrote, and then my sister and Niki [Randa] are on three or four of the songs. I wanted to add some other people’s elements into it and I’m also not that great of a drummer. [laughs] I needed that to be a little more solid, but that came at the end, after I had written all the demos. I just wanted to bring all the sound to this level.

SIRISUK: Was the recording done in different locations?

DERADOORIAN: Yeah, I started recording in Baltimore and I recorded in my studio in Los Angeles. Then I did extra stuff at this church in Highland Park, California—[it was] cool for reverb effect, because the rooms are huge. We wanted to use the space of the room to get some bigger sounds going.

SIRISUK: What can you tell me about “Komodo”?

DERADOORIAN: This one started out mostly with the melodies in the beginning of the song and I worked around that. It felt pretty different when I started making it because I wasn’t writing a lot starting with the melody, so it took its own course in a very different way. I gave myself a lot of freedom to build up to those dynamics or change the parts and have more stops. It ended up sounding pretty cinematic and spacious, which I like.

SIRISUK: It does feel very cinematic. In terms of videos, does any specific aesthetic come to mind that would represent your tracks?

DERADOORIAN: I feel like I have a pretty eclectic taste in music and art, so for every song I can see a different kind of video. Like nice visual, colorful things but I think it will probably be a mix of human videos and animation in different tracks. I love animation.

SIRISUK:  Which artists do you like?

DERADOORIAN: I like this artist Alice Cohen, who I just did a collaboration with. She’s based in New York and we did a one-minute music and video piece. As far as a contemporary artists go, I really like this guy, [Peter] Birkhäuser. He paints his dreams. He was a student or a patient of Carl Jung. I really like Carl Jung’s art. There’s a lot of people.

SIRISUK: Do you ever listen to Mind Raft? Does it feel different listening to something you created so many years before?

DERADOORIAN: Yeah, there’s a lot of things I’d want to change [laughs] but I still think it holds up pretty well. I mean, I don’t feel super attached to a certain time when I hear the music.  Some of the songs I still play live and, through that I feel like I’ve been able to have it move with me through my life as opposed to being just a little piece of time. I’m proud of myself for doing that when I was 22 and I learned a lot from what I do like about it and what I don’t feel is necessary anymore.

SIRISUK: How do you feel about yourself right now as an artist? Were there certain challenges you had set for yourself with this album?

DERADOORIAN: I’m a little stressed out. [laughs] I’ve got a lot coming up but I’m looking forward to touring and stuff. It’s been a very different mode—being in a creative zone and writing and recording and then moving into the next phase. It’s a very weird job to have as a musician, because you spend long periods of time alone and then you have to go work with people for a long period of time and present your music after you’ve been making it by yourself. It’s a very drastic phase. I’m just getting into the flow of it because so many things are changing. I just want to stay very creative in this time of a more logistical—oriented life.

SIRISUK: Do you have a favorite song on the album?

DERADOORIAN: I like” Grow,” the last song on the album. The second half of that song I like because it puts me into a new realm of what I like musically. I feel like I got a lot of inspiration making that song. It goes back and forth—sometimes you hate your music, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes I listen to the record and it’s really hard for me, and other times I listen to it and I give myself a pat on the back.

THE EXPANDING FLOWER PLANT WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 21. FOR MORE ON DERADOORIAN, VISIT HER FACEBOOK