Interview: Snowblink

Interview with Snowblink



Snowblink’s debut was one of our favorite albums of 2010, so we were keen to speak to singer Daniela Gesundheit about what inspired the follow-up. What we didn’t bargain for was talk of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Maui whale song and guitar that “sounds like orgasms”…

Questions and answers

Hey Daniela, where are you today?

Hey! We’re just about to get on a flight from Los Angeles to Toronto. It’s almost painful leaving this good weather.

You signed to Arts & Crafts this year. How has it been working with them so far, and what initially attracted you to sign with them?

So far everyone with whom we have worked at Arts & Crafts has been a delight, from everyone in the office to our label-mates. It is such a vibrant and creative team; we really feel lucky to work alongside them all. What attracted us to them? When a handsome, fun fellow who can have an intelligent conversation asks you out, you go see what it’s about!

How has moving to Toronto influenced you artistically?

The music community here is unparalleled, as is the support for musicians from the government. Even the dreaded winters help you stay indoors and get work done.

Are there any other great bands on the scene that we should be checking out?

Loads: AroarA, Thomas, OG Melody, Bernice, Eons, The Weather Station, Bruce Peninsula, Ryan Driver, Jennifer Castle, Fiver... This is in addition to the already acclaimed Timber Timbre, Owen Pallett, Leslie Feist and Ohbijou.

So, can you tell us about the inspirations and aims for Inner Classics, please?

Sonically, I tried to convey a fiery, windswept sort of feeling, without the aid of aggressive sounds. Dan [Goldman] and I are both naturally drawn to pretty mellow, opiate soundscapes juxtaposed with laser sharp lyrics and vocals. That is pretty much our sound, so I just kept on the creative trajectory I had begun with Long Live.

As for inspirations, I have certain friends, some alive and some passed, that continually serve as muses for me. The living muses just naturally donate exquisite one-liners in ordinary conversation. The experience of moving to Canada from California also played a role on this record.

How did the process of writing and recording this record compare to that of Long Live?

Long Live was a lot about veils: I was addressing subject matter that was difficult to present as is, so I got into adding some dim lighting here, some sheer curtains there to make that difficulty alluring. The sound of the record, especially my voice, was lovely but a bit shrouded.

Inner Classics is much more of a nude dip in a glacial lake: crisp, enlivening, exposed and clear. My writing process doesn’t seem to change much; I just need to tend to it daily, in relative isolation.

How do you feel you’ve progressed artistically since your debut?

I am looking out at current music now for what seems like the first time. I always just kept my nose to the grindstone to get my work done and, while I took note of my peers and of the greats from all eras of the past, I did not even pretend to be abreast of trends. Now I take notice. I still do not seek it, but it finds me.

That noticing, coupled with more and more collaboration with Dan on the production and, at times, the writing has opened me up to the manifold benefits of “playing well with others”.

Did you have any key musical reference points for this record?

Herman Melville’s language in "Moby Dick", a live online stream of Maui whales singing, a mix of Turkish psychedelic music from the late 60s and early 70s that my friend Jamie Dutcher turned me on to, a Hawaiian LP called Pua Olena by the Lim Family, Joanna Newsom’s Ys, Julianna Barwick’s Sanguine, Timber Timbre’s Timber Timbre, Owen Pallett’s Heartland.

There’s a more expansive sound to this album. How did you go about picking the other musicians who appear on the album?

They are all friends whose musical expressions we trust and admire. Barbara Gruska (Jenny Lewis Band, Belle Brigade) plays drums: I have known Barbara since high school and she taught me much of what little I know about music. Thom Gill (Owen Pallett, Thomas), who plays some additional guitar on the record, writes music that, according to one of my friend-muses, “sounds like orgasms.” And then Joe Phillips plays upright bass. He is the only bass player I know that knows what to do when I tell him to make “whale sounds”.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

"Unsurfed Waves". I think the version on the record is the fourth or fifth version that we recorded. The first time Dan played me a new, more upbeat arrangement of the song that he had been working on, I cried because I hated it so much. I really had to grow with that one, and now it is my favourite track on the record.

Thematically, where did you find inspiration this time round?

The title is taken from the Nei Jing, or the Inner Classic – the master text of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I have been experiencing the benefit of TCM for several years now, but I would not have incorporated my forays into the health world into my songs if the language surrounding TCM were not so poetic.

I have found TCM to be more of an art than a precise science, in that ailments are labeled in somewhat vague and slippery terminology, and treated with similarly loose prescriptions. For example, a chest cold might be attributed to too much “damp wind.” There are energy meridians in the body described as “The Hidden White” or “Wind Pond.”

I was digging the play on the notion of a “classic” song, and on how deeply personal our relationships are with our own canon of classic songs, when I decided to call the album Inner Classics.

We heard you performed with Feist at the Polaris Prize. How did that come about? Do you have plans to record together in the future?

We have been friends for a few years now, but the musical collaboration came a little later. We opened up a few shows for her this summer and we sat in on a couple of songs. It was really quite natural. Recording plans? Secret.

Who would be your dream collaboration and why?

Dolly Parton and Brian Eno, at the same time. Her brightness and emotional precision matched with his otherworldly production styles would be a dream. Not sure what we would add to that mix, but we can think on our toes.

And finally, what’s been your favorite record of the past twelve months?

Here’s two: AroarA’s In The Pines and Feist’s Metals.