Damon & Naomi discuss the influences behind new album & “The Aftertime” video
Veteran dreampop duo Damon and Naomi will release their new album, A Sky Record, this Friday (8/6), which pairs them once again with guitarist Michio Kurihara. Just ahead of that you can get one more early taste via "The Aftertime." It's a beautiful song with Kurihara's fluid style washing over it like a gentle wave at sunset.
The video for "The Aftertime" was directed by Naomi and fashion designer and artist Gary Graham. “Gary Graham and I have worked together for almost 15 years," says Naomi. "I wear his clothing every day and on stage and I have collaborated with him on many videos for his brand, GaryGraham422. 'The Aftertime' is a song about the kind of freedom you can give back to yourself, after emerging from a challenging situation — be it a relationship or a year and a half of lockdown…”
Gary adds, “The original idea was about a squatter who begins overlaying her own imaginary world onto an abandoned building. I love the interior landscapes and the seascape and the castle wallpaper — our castles, the interior/exterior worlds we occupy. Naomi's voice is like an heirloom siren call, the chanteuse as trickster from a faraway place. That place is where Damon & Naomi live, a place that offers a new hypnotic understanding of time, of getting to see how long the sun lasts.”
The video for "The Aftertime" premieres in this post and you can watch below.
We asked Damon & Naomi for a list of things that influenced A Sky Record and they came back with a list of inspirations for both the record and the new video, including musicians (Carole King, Sandy Denny), collaborators (Graham and Kurihara), instruments (Fairlight synthesizer, nylon string guitars), record labels, books, cinema, and more. Check out the list, with five choice from Damon and five from Naomi, complete with commentary, below.
A Sky Record is out August 6 and there's an option with a companion book featuring contributions from Jarvis Cocker, Soichiro Nakamura, Michio Kurihara, Damon Krukowski, Susanne Sasic, Naomi Yang, Richard Youngs, and Lindsay Zoladz (preorder).
Damon & Naomi will celebrate A Sky Record with a release show at Brooklyn's Baby's All Right on August 12 with Ryan El-Solh, and JR Bohannon. Tickets are on sale.
10 things that influenced "The Aftertime" video and the new Damon & Naomi album A Sky Record
1. Gary Graham: I co-directed this video with my friend, the fashion designer Gary Graham. We share a love of old textiles, old houses, and how the past haunts the present. Gary found this incredible location near where he lives in Franklin, NY, and came up with a story (he designs all his clothes from stories like this) about a woman who is squatting in an abandoned part of a house, living above the owners unbeknownst to them. Gary’s currently a contestant on Making the Cut Season 2, the final episode is this week!
2. Carole King: I like to plonk out Carole King's songs on the piano, and I suspect some of her chord voicings and structures snuck onto this record. I know I was inspired to start “The Aftertime” with the middle 8/bridge because of the way Carole King often starts songs somewhere other than the verse, like on “So Far Away.”
3. Tarkovsky: I love Tarkovsky’s films because of the way he incorporates the dream into everyday life - my videos aren’t science fiction, or historical sagas, and they certainly aren’t three hours long, but Tarkovsky visual language has been a powerful influence on them regardless.
4. Sandy Denny: Sandy Denny is a constant inspiration for me, her vocals and delivery and songwriting. Heartachingly beautiful. You’re likely to find me plonking her songs out on the piano, too...
5. Fairlight synthesizer: The keyboard sounds I use are mostly Wurlitzer, Rhodes, Hammond… analog electric instruments. And I love the analog tape wobble of Mellotron. But while we were working on overdubs for this album I was suddenly drawn to the weird, cold sounds of the early digital synth, Fairlight. It’s just touches here and there on the album but they were important to completing the overall sound - in “The Aftertime," you can hear the Fairlight enter for the final chorus.
1. Sky Records: Our new album is named for this German record label from the 70s, which released mostly instrumental records by a group of Krautrock players we like a lot - Michael Rother, Jaki Liebezeit, the guys from Harmonia and Cluster, also their collaborations with Brian Eno. We were listening to Sky Records while writing our new songs, not that they turned out ambient or motorik or whatever, but we did want to capture something of their calm. What we kept asking ourselves was, what if we made A Sky Record…?
2. Michio Kurihara: We have worked with electric guitarist Michio Kurihara since the year 2000, when he came to record with us as part of the band Ghost - and we have recorded and toured together ever since, often as a trio. But Kurihara hadn’t been able to leave Japan in recent years, for family reasons, so it had been some time since we’d gotten to spend time with him. In November 2019, Naomi and I were invited to play a small festival in Japan, and we took the opportunity to invite Kurihara into a Tokyo studio to overdub his parts on top of basic tracks for our new songs. It was kind of miraculous timing, in retrospect. We got to spend our lockdown overdubbing the rest of our parts on top of Kurihara’s beautiful electric guitar. It’s just the three of us on this album.
3. Nylon string guitar: I’m a drummer first, and Naomi says I play acoustic guitar like a percussion instrument (she’s right). But in recent years, at home, I’ve also been playing a lot of nylon string guitar, which has led to more fingerpicking and different chord choices as I write. This all started with a tour of Brazil, when the promoter ran out of dollars and I offered to take a Brazilian guitar home instead of cash… best tour decision ever!
4. Rose Simpson’s memoir, Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden: A Girl’s Life in the Incredible String Band: This book arrived while we were recording our overdubs, and something about Rose’s spirit made me feel very free about putting down whatever felt right at this moment, for this song, on this instrument, at this time. I just felt uplifted by her hippie embrace of the present, I guess! And her courage - she is a self-proclaimed “non-musician” who dove in and contributed to some of my favorite albums.
5. The Criterion Channel: The Criterion Channel was a godsend for lockdown… we ended up working our way through many of their archival film series. But one in particular ended up influencing the album, because we became a bit obsessed with the soundtracks to early Kurosawa. There are two composers he worked with extensively then, Fumio Hayasaka and Masaru Sato; both use a lot of spare percussion, especially traditional Japanese instruments, mixed with more familiar “western” tropes both classical and popular. Maybe it was initially because the movies are so haunting, but we ended up buying some LPs of the music and they work beautifully on their own. Soundtracks can project a feeling very powerfully, I suppose cause they are illustrating precisely that and just really go for it. That’s a goal we tried to adopt for these songs, too.