ABOVE: EJECTA’S LEANNE MACOMBER
Bright, uptempo and crystalline, the debut album, Dominae, by electro-pop duo Ejecta—which is comprised of former Tigercity bassist Joel Ford and Neon Indian touring keyboardist Leanne Macomber—is fresh, at times filled with an almost childlike wonderment. At other moments, the songs linger in a much more adult melancholy. Given Macomber’s explanation of the album art—a silhouette of a nude woman laying on her side, stark against a black background—that juxtaposition of imagery and music is a perfect fit.
“Ejecta, the name, is a term in volcanology. When a volcano erupts, the stuff that’s left over is called the ejecta. So it’s about rebirth,” she says. “This woman [on the album cover] is like a newborn, she’s had a rebirth. Maybe she’s displaced somehow. Maybe there’s like a sci-fi element to it. Maybe she’s like [Milla Jovovich’s character] in The Fifth Element.”
Dominae, which came out this week, strikes a balance between Macomber’s more raw songwriting style and Ford’s more polished studio work. Tracks like “Afraid of the Dark” and “Mistress” crescendo slowly, building to an almost dance-worthy pace. “It’s Only Love,” one of the album’s first three singles, is a stand out. “Tempest,” Dominae‘s final track, lacks that same driving beat, but it’s captivating in its simplicity, ending abruptly and leaving the listener wanting more.
ALEX ERIKSON: You’ve both worked on other projects prior to Ejecta. How did you meet?
JOEL FORD: Our old bands were touring together a few years back, and we spent a couple weeks together on the road out west. It was years ago. We just kept in touch, and we saw each other at festivals over the years, and then I reached out to Leanne because I wanted to make new music with a female singer. I knew she could sing, but I hadn’t really heard her music. She sent me a bunch of tracks and some demos and it was pretty amazing, so immediately we started working on stuff.
ERIKSON: “Silver” is one of the first tracks you worked on together.
LEANNE MACOMBER: Yeah, he sent me back a rearranged version of it, and I really happy with it, and that was sort of how we started working together in the studio. Then he sent me a song, “It’s Only Love,” and I worked out some vocal parts. It was pretty slow in the beginning, but I knew immediately that it would work out even though we’re very different musicians.
ERIKSON: I’m curious to know what it sounded like before Joel got his hands on it.
MACOMBER: He’s very slick and I’m kind of a bedroom keyboard type. It was really raw. Really crude, sort of visceral. Kind of more rock-‘n’-roll sounding I guess.
ERIKSON: Joel, you’ve got some pretty solid recording experience. Tell me about that.
FORD: Over the past few years—I was actually just talking about this yesterday—I didn’t have the means to make electronic music for a long time, even though it was all up in my head. I started doing this imprint with my friend, and we made a bunch of records and produced a bunch of records over the years. Driftless is a new label project of mine, and Ejecta is the first release on it.
ERIKSON: It’s interesting for me to hear that some of the demos Leanne worked on were rougher and that Joel actually made the music more slick. Your individual musical backgrounds might suggest that would be the other way around.
MACOMBER: I have a band called Fite Bite that’s kind of simple, lo-fi, dreamy, mellow music. A lot of the songs that I’ve written over the years were much too dancey or too heavy or too energetic for that project, because Fite Bite is sort of soft and pretty. So I had these demos that really had no place because I didn’t have another project—I was always looking for Ejecta, basically, with these demos that had nowhere to go over the years. That’s what was so nice about working with Joel, because I found a collaborator that could take these really simple, rowdy, abrasive demos and make them really shiny and beautify them the way he has with Ejecta. I had these really hastily done songs and put in his hands they’re much more polished.
ERIKSON: The song “Tempest” finishes the album, and it’s a little bit different from the other songs on the album in that it doesn’t have the same driving beat, it’s a little bit dreamier and it ends abruptly.
MACOMBER: Joel was always wanting to try something minimal in juxtaposition to the more energetic songs with more instruments in them. We had saved that up and were like, “Yeah, we should definitely do something [like this].” That song, I had literally just run into my ex-boyfriend or something and was crying the whole time I wrote that song, so it really lends itself to a stark, simple—I’m just very exposed in the song. It’s ripped from my diary, I guess. We thought it would be an unusual song for the album, but ultimately I’m glad we kept it.
ERIKSON: Is this an album to dance to or to listen to?
FORD: I think it can be both. The live show reflects that pretty well. We played our first shows recently for CMJ, and we’re doing a show on the 23rd at Glasslands. It’s us as a trio, Leanne, a drummer, and myself. We’re playing as a band, but it’s not a rock band. It’s a little different.
ERIKSON: What instrumentation do you use live?
FORD: There are actually no keyboards on stage, which we both really like. I’m sort of controlling electronics and paying bass, the drummer is hammering away at the drums and Leanne is playing guitar and singing.
ERIKSON: “It’s Only Love” is the first single?
FORD: We released three singles this fall leading up to the album release: “Jeremiah,” “Afraid of the Dark,” and “It’s Only Love.”
ERIKSON: Tell me about “It’s Only Love.”
MACOMBER: Joel wrote all the music and he sent it to me a long time ago and I was just humming along with it for months, trying to figure out how to sing it, and I had some little fling at the time where “It’s Only Love” is just like a sarcastic thing. This guy was driving me crazy. He was someone that I couldn’t get to commit to me, so “It’s Only Love” is like “It’s Only Love.” [laughs]
FORD: [laughs] Yeah, “It’s Only Love” is like it’s only love.
MACOMBER: I think that was one of the first ones [when] we sat down and were recording that we both really believed in right away.
ERIKSON: That’s interesting to hear you say it’s sort of sarcastic, because based on the music I would assume that the subject matter of the lyrics is more serious.
MACOMBER: It is serious. It is kind of sad in that it’s like, “Oh, you gave me a little bit of love, but now you’re not going to give me the whole thing.” The choruses are bemoaning…
ERIKSON: Dating in New York?
MACOMBER: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
ERIKSON: Where does the name of the album come from?
MACOMBER: Dominae is sort of like a female lord, I guess a lady. If she was addressing someone in official documents, she would refer to herself as the Dominae. I think it’s late Latin, sort of early English. I love that it has a sense of—it almost sounds like someone is in charge. But it almost has the opposite feeling on the album cover. She almost looks like she’s picking herself up after falling.
ERIKSON: Ejecta is not you, is it?
MACOMBER: Yeah, it is.
ERIKSON: So is it a character that you are inhabiting?
MACOMBER: Yeah. The work is so personal in some places, it’s nice to have a character to defuse the highly personal themes. I can be completely honest and bare my heart if it’s a character baring her heart.
FORD: You ruined the mystery! [laughs]
ERIKSON: Had you not told anyone before?
MACOMBER: People have been slowly figuring it out.
ERIKSON: Last thoughts?
FORD: One of the songs from the record [“Afraid of the Dark”] is going to be on Vampire Diaries. Hopefully all of our fans at the show at Glasslands are 12 years old and huge fans of Vampire Diaries. [laughs]
DOMINAE IS OUT NOW. EJECTA WILL PLAY GLASSLANDS THIS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.