INTERVIEW

Angel Deradoorian’s spirituality caused her to walk away from Dirty Projectors and rediscover who she is.

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“I’m sorry, my sister’s making fun of me,” Angel Deradoorian laughs down the phone. The pair are somewhere in Texas, en route to Albuquerque as part of Deradoorian’s second US tour of the year. After that, they’ll head across the Atlantic for a few shows in Europe, but for now the siblings are giggling over drive-thru coffee orders and the incessant chatter of a stubborn Sat nav.

“Right now, I’m kind of just floating around because I’ve been touring so much I don’t really live anywhere. I was in Baltimore, before that I was in New York, and I’ve been living in LA for the past few years. I’ve been moving around quite a bit.”

Working from the road is something Angel has become increasingly accustomed to over recent months. After taking a break from Dirty Projectors, releasing her debut album ‘Expanding Flower Planet’, and stepping up to the fresh challenge of going solo, the transition from city slicker to transient troubadour seems to be working well for the Californian.

“It’s liberating now,” she says, “but in the process of doing it, it took a while to feel what it was going to be. A lot of this process has been reaching for something that I wasn’t totally sure of how I was going to get it. I’ve been reaching for an idea or a future self that I knew I would eventually get to but didn’t know how long it would take or how it would play out.”

Predominantly known for her work in the Dave Longstreth-led Dirty Projectors, Deradoorian stepped back from the band in 2012 to focus on creating her own music. A change of city soon followed, and she moved to Baltimore with boyfriend Dave Portner (aka Animal Collective’s Avey Tare) to collaborate on Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks and take the first steps towards making ‘Expanding Flower Planet’ a reality.

“With Dirty Projectors, there wasn’t a lot of back and forth,” she explains. “David would write the music and we would play, so it was essentially just working out the parts and getting really tight. Then with Slasher Flicks, Dave Portner had the foundation of the songs, and we collaborated on that together. So when I went into writing alone, it was different because I’ve never given myself time like that; I’ve always been dedicating myself to other projects. It was really challenging to know what it’s like to make those creative decisions and not just be one instrument or one player.”

Armed with that understanding, away from the noise of New York, and with the time to explore and rediscover her own tastes, finding a sense of solitude was a critical factor. “I didn’t actually start writing this record in New York,” she says. “I started writing it in Baltimore. It would have been hard for me to start writing it in New York because… well, I could have done it there but the space in which you’re able to create is disrupted by city noise – there isn’t a lot of nature around you, and it’s expensive. There’s not a lot of solitude to be able to just focus and create so it was good to go to Baltimore and start writing the record and hang out in a house in the woods.”

Amidst the peace, however, lay a new challenge that Deradoorian had only tentatively explored with her debut EP, 2009’s ‘Mind Raft’. Where that release only scratched the surface of what was to come, ‘Expanding Flower Planet’ tasked Angel with the responsibility and ownership that helped make the album such an engaging listen, six years after that first release.

“It was less focused, I suppose, but for this record I really wanted to buckle down, which meant spending a lot more time alone,” she starts. “Doing it this way was a new experience for me, and I liked it, but it was really hard. I realised the importance of solitude and being alone with thoughts and ideas and trying to make them a reality. I couldn’t have made an album like this on a guitar in my room; I needed to build a studio workspace and figure out what I wanted. It took a little while to transition out of working with Dirty Projectors, to revisit my own tastes and interests, and discover what I liked now.”

It was a decision that proved to be a liberating one. Uninhibited and unencumbered by others’ schedules and ways of working, having the time to explore all creative avenues, and the freedom to ask herself bigger questions set the tone for the melodic spirituality that pervades ‘Expanding Flower Planet’ – an album that combines an array of styles including choral pop, ’60s psych, Eastern grooves and classical minimalism; all linked by Deradoorian’s unmistakable vocal range, sometimes multi-tracked and tangling with itself; other times alone, simple, crystalline. It’s one of the voices that played such a huge role in making ‘Bitte Orca’ [2009] Dirty Projectors’ most accomplished, accessible and interesting album to date.

I had to revisit all of my tastes and interests because you don’t really get a lot of time to deal with who you are in a group,” she says. “When I broke off from that, I had to deal with so many other things than just making music, all these existential questions like: ‘Who am I now?’ and ‘What do I like?’ and ‘How do I want to present myself, musically?’ I wanted to take this very honest path with my music and I realise it’s hard to do that.

“I kept thinking about painters and artists who make this amazing imagery and I’m like ‘How did you do that?! How is that in your head and you’ve put it on a canvas?’ It blows my mind what people can take out of their head and put into the physical world. I wanted to do the same; get it out of my head and into, um, people’s ears,” she laughs.

After such an inward-looking process and level of introspection that comes with revisiting your place in the world, it’s little surprise that spirituality plays a prominent part in Angel Deradoorian’s life. It’s a theme reflected in the album’s variety of styles, and the familiar depth and breadth of Angel’s vocal as it slides and soars through the scales with beautiful clarity.

She tells me: “That spirituality is important to me. I became more aware that my spirituality was going to play a part in my music because they’re synonymous, and a lot of what spirituality is to me is that I’m believing in something you don’t see that is going to push you to be as good of a person as you could be.

“Music is a very personal thing, and very much coming from a part of yourself that you don’t even totally know. I didn’t think people would talk to me about it because I didn’t think it was blatant, but you never really know what people are going to take from it.”

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It’s spiritual reflection derived from almost 15 years of writing, playing, and creating music. From making her name with Dirty Projectors to working with Flying Lotus and Björk, there’s obvious satisfaction in what she’s achieved so far but armed with a renewed sense of self and a quiet resolve, you feel that delivering her debut was all about turning the page.

“I think this was the most natural point for me,” she says. “I didn’t have the time and I also didn’t have that kind of awareness a few years ago. When I started playing in bands I was 16 and I just wanted to play and have fun and build experience. Now I’m at an age [29] where I can look back and see what I’ve been building, and that brings a new kind of awareness.

“The transition you go through from 20 years old to 30 years old is so extreme, and to be in a very successful band for the first half of my 20s and then break away from that and be alone, and start again, has brought a whole different kind of awareness, humility, and understanding that I could be somewhat known, decide to end that, and then do it again. It’s not so much about being known, it’s about creating something and letting go.”

In an age where debut albums arrive with relentlessly unchecked consistency, Angel Deradoorian’s patience feels even more virtuous, and ‘Expanding Flower Planet’ more than an album spat out during an existential break to fleetingly do her own thing. It represents a learning curve, a spiritual re-awakening, and a timely opportunity for someone so adept at adapting to finally do things her way.

“The main reason I split from Dirty Projectors was because I wanted to focus on my own music, but I needed those years of experience to cultivate myself. I’m still very split in that I feel I can be part of a group but that I’m also naturally an alpha-type person that can also lead it.

“You’re taking responsibility for your work and you’re representing yourself and any person putting their art into the world is taking a huge risk. You’re proud of yourself for being courageous in knowing there’ll be criticism but also that you’re living your full creative self and, hopefully, giving people a positive experience. It’s something I couldn’t take ownership of in the group and experience in the same way. It’s very powerful.”

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