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Be Specific: Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth talks Kanye, MJ and Merle

dirty projectorsSometimes the man in plaid feels like Mighty Merle. (Photo by Tom Hines.)

By Allison Stewart

In part one of Click Track's conversation with Dirty Projectors' frontperson Dave Longstreth, we talked about multi-lingual groupies and the DP's (mostly) unexpected success. In part two, in advance of the band's 9:30 Club show next Tuesday, Longstreth, who oversaw the upcoming September 28th re-release of the DP's "Bitte Orca" (with a bonus disc of live tracks and b-sides), talks about the contents of his iPod, and why he feels like Merle Haggard.

Do you think the band has gotten as big as you'd want it to get?

I don't know. These are really good questions, but I don't have answers yet. We've been moving around so much on tour that I don't have the headspace to think about it. For the most part, when I've sat there and made songs, I've always let songs happen in whatever space, in whatever time. So as to whether the band's as big as I'd want it to get, I think probably so. I don't know. Or not.

Bands usually say the problems come when they look out in the audience and don't see themselves anymore.

There's this amazing essay about Merle Haggard where [the writer] is sitting in the front of the bus with Haggard in 1983 and Merle is speaking about exactly that. And he was talking about how he's playing a little bar in the south, and he knows exactly what he can and can't do because everyone in the bar is one of him, you know? They're gonna tell him when he's gone too far. But the problem is, when he's playing these big arenas, which he was back then, he's [trapped by it]. And I think the machinery for making a band into some sort of commercially viable enterprise, that machinery is so refined with the internet and all that stuff, you would think that the process of going onstage, where everything you do is what you are, would be incredibly productive. But I don't know that it is. I kind of feel like Merle.

What have you been listening to lately?

I've been listening to a [lot] of '90s radio hip-hop. Of course Lil Wayne. I guess I've been getting deeper into the [stuff] I'm already into.

Have you heard any of the new Kanye songs?

I heard the one with Bon Iver. I love that he's talking about blowing someone away. It's [expletive] crazy. It reminds me of that Dylan song "Joey," from "Desire"? It's a song about a Brooklyn bagman named Joey. It's all about, "What made them come and want to blow you away?" An image of real violence like that, how often do you get that in Dylan? I've also been reading this anthology [by John and Alan Lomax] called "American Ballads and Folk Songs" . It's transcriptions of recordings they made on their first trip down south in '33. And that phrase appears surprisingly often, particularly in reference to bad men of the railroad and weird western mavericks, talking about people getting blown away.

Kanye seems like you in that everything he [hears and reads] is grist for the mill. Everything goes into the big blender in his head.

Yeah! Another thing I liked about [the Kanye song] "Power" -- no, not "Power," I didn't like that one. "Monster." It reminds me of Michael Jackson. It's just a sincere song about monsters.

By Allison Stewart  |  September 2, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: Dave Longstreth, Dirty Projectors  
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