Weaver at the Loom is primarily one man, Dan Smith. It's a common name, but he creates lush new songs that are brilliant individually, and collectively tell a more incandescent story.
Concocted in his basement, his new album, Before Now, Was Then, Dan blends sounds that conjure up what being in love should be: floating through a dream amongst a dark, blue sky. Ahead of Thursday's release show at Triple Rock, Gimme Noise caught up with Smith.
Gimme Noise: You created your new album in your basement. What do you think of the parallels that are drawn to another certain Minnesota artist that did the same thing and made it big?
Are you talking about Adam Young from Owl City? I think we have different sounds and different approaches musically, but we may have similar work flows or lifestyles. I'm pretty reclusive as a person. I hibernate a lot. It just makes sense to work isolated in a familiar environment. From what I have heard through the grapevine, Adam Young is somewhat similar. I think it all just comes down to comfort. Creativity and performance can flow freely in a comfortable environment. For me that is my own personal space, i.e. my basement studio. I wanted that freedom and harmony to be present in the record. I figured setting up shop in my own sanctuary type atmosphere would be a proactive decision.
Why do you feel you work best when self-producing and engineering? What are the pros/cons of doing everything yourself?
I don't think self-producing is always best, or for everybody, but it seems to work for me. It definitely depends how you interact musically. Some people feed off of the moment and other musicians best. The collective group becomes something far greater than the individuals on their own. It is that magic "Beatles" phenomenon. I work kind of the opposite. I will start with a general idea or vision for a song and it is difficult for me to flesh it out in a group situation. It took me a long time realize this. For some people the band dynamic is catalytic, but for me it seems to be paralyzing. I miss the camaraderie off a band, experiencing success and failure together. But I work best alone and I think understanding yourself is the first step to truly actualizing your potential as an artist.
There's a lot of ambient/dreamy qualities on Before Now, Was Then. Was this your goal when writing. Was there anyone in particular that you were listening to when writing that influenced this album?
It was definitely intentional. I naturally gravitate towards that kind of sonic landscape sound. I don't think there is anything more to it than why some people like the color blue and some like green. It just resonates and feels natural to me. Post-rock was really my first musical love, I think I will always take some influence from it. Sigur Ros was basically a paradigm in my life, as well as Radiohead. Those two are permanent influences, but I was listening to a lot of things while recording the record: Elliott Smith, M83, the Killers, the Beatles, a whole bunch of film composers, Mogwai, the Album Leaf, Magnet, and many more.
What's the meaning behind the name Before Now, Was Then?
There was a large gap and many significant life changes that occurred between the first record and this record. The title was my way of addressing the change and progression. It is basically a trivial statement about the past and present. It is meant to imply that the present and past are equally significant, but that the past is forever gone but the present is always...well...present, I guess. It is important not to let the past determine your future. I wanted this record to be its own beast without pressure to compete with the previous release. I felt it was also metaphorical for the progression of my own life. I didn't feel like the same version of the person who wrote the previous release. It just felt dishonest to pretend and try to replicate it.
How has the music evolved since the first album? Did you feel the pressures of the sophomore slump?
I didn't really feel the pressure of a sophomore slump, after all, it wasn't like I was going up against a platinum record or anything. I was just competing with an EP I wrote throughout college. But I did feel pressure that the adult world was unavoidable and the cubical was waiting to catch my fall. I needed the record to succeed and that was definitely a source of stress and urgency. Musically, the record was noticeably different than the previous release. My main focus was to bring a new rhythmic energy to the sound. I wanted a complex rhythm section to contrast the drawn out drones of the ambience. This all formed the backdrop and pulse. On top, I wanted solid song structures. I have always believed that a song should stand on its own. But it is also fun to start with a strongly defined structure, flesh it out, and then pull out the main supports and see what happens. If things go right, you can kind of get the song to "float." That was the sound I wanted to bring to the record.
What's your favorite track off of the new album?
They all have moments that I find sentimental. But I think the last track "Never Really Dying (But Going To Live)" is my personal favorite.
Although you mainly work by yourself, is there anyone local or national that you would like to collaborate with?
Locally, I really admire Justin Vernon, Dan Wilson, Cloud Cult, and Halloween, Alaska. But if we are talking internationally and about a "dying wish" type scenario, it would be my dream to work with Thom Yorke or Jonsi Birgisson.
You say your interests are love and progress. Can you elaborate on this?
Weaver at the Loom. With Dan Mariska & the Boys Choir, Avian Sunrise, Lions, and Creators. 8 p.m., Thursday, May 10 at Triple Rock Social Club. Click here.
I don't want to put to much importance on the statement, since in reality I think it is mainly a reflection of my aversion to social network bio sections haha. But on the other hand, looking into it a little more, I think it is an accurate statement about my interests. After doing my undergrad in philosophy, I started to become very aware of my own incurable ignorance. I always wanted to figure out everything when I was younger, but I quickly realized that is impossible. Something about love and progress always seemed to ring true for some reason though. Something about those two things always seemed important.
What can we expect at the CD release show?
A good time. I don't want to put any preconceived expectations on it, that usually is the recipe for disaster. I just want everyone to enjoy themselves and maybe a Tallboy too? It's been quite a while since I played live. I'm excited to get back out in the world!
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