When you’re in a critically acclaimed band like the Dirty Projectors, finding time to do those mundane things like laundry or talk to writers becomes a bit precarious. Such rings true for bassist Angel Deradoorian, who has more than a few things on her plate: the Dirty Projectors’ upcoming, coast-to-coast tour with TV on the Radio; the release of their highly anticipated Domino debut (and fifth full-length) Bitte Orca this June; plus her first solo EP, Mind Raft, is due this week from Lovepump United and now streaming in its entirety on Muxtape. A noticeable departure from the arty, angular textures of the Dirty Projectors, Mind Raft draws on darker, more rhythmic arrangements during songs like “Weed Jam” and “High Road,” but showcases her brooding voice during the somber, folksy sounds of “You Carry The Deed” and “Moon.” Though just over 22 minutes, the five tracks hint that she’s primed for a solo career, should she want one.
I caught up with Angel last Friday morning before her 14-hour practice day: she was busy prepping her solo shows, the Dirty Projectors’ forthcoming tour and a collaborative effort with Bjork at Housing Works this Friday.
I’ve never seen a last name like that. What’s the proper pronunciation?
It’s Armenian. The American pronunciation is Derra-door-ian.
That’s how I’ve been saying it.
Well then good. Most people don’t get it. I think the Armenia translation of that name means “Son of the Priest” which is kind of intense.
I’m going to go over to the laundry-mat real quick and change over my laundry.
Well, anyways, it’s a good last name and translates into a good band name. Did it yield any childhood nicknames?
Oh, yeah. I’d say most of them were in a less positive light. It was funny: kids in elementary school would call me “DeraDorito” or something like that. Many incarnations– same with my Dad when he was in college. His friends used to write his name on the blackboard every day in a different way.
Thinking about growing up, when did you start getting into playing instruments?
When I was around five. I went to a private school that taught violin to the younger children, so I started very terribly playing violin. No five year old sounds good on that. So I gave up and started playing piano when I was seven–about 16 or 17 years ago.
Were your early musical influences more oddball stuff?
I started listening to Radiohead and Elliott Smith–that’s kind of where I was at when I was 17. I wasn’t too knowledgeable in any lesser known, great bands from any era. I grew up in a city [near Sacramento] that for access to that, you’d have to dig deep to find it. That’s when I’d start to drive to Berkeley and go to Amoeba Records and start fishing for stuff. So, right around that time, was the beginning of learning about stuff that wasn’t so mainstream.
Did you ever find yourself lost in Amoeba Records?
[laughs]. Yeah, I probably get lost in all of them. But the Berkeley one is the smallest. I definitely couldn’t find certain sections. I wanted to find the tape section but I had no idea.
You were still buying tapes?
I was buying tapes for my car.
I’ve read that you left school to pursue music when you were 16. Was there initial feelings of anxiety around this musician as a career decision?
No. Not really. When I decided I wanted to do this, I was definitely ready to. You know, deal with all the shitty shows and all the shitty tours and just get that experience under my belt. I was just ready for it. It’s scarier now sometimes.
In what way?
There’s more expectations now. We’re not booking our own tours, there’s agents to do that stuff. Bigger shows, more publicity, and all those things that come along with it. Which is cool, but it can be a little overwhelming.
Yeah, that’s kind of the trade-off. Before, you sleep on random floors and people throw up next to you, and now people just stare at you.
[laughs] The odd disconnects that happen and the new connections that happen. Good balance happening, but it’s constantly changing.
With the release of Mind Raft EP this week–do you have plans to do a full record?
I do, eventually. It takes me a really long time to write music. I’d like to, but I have a lot of touring this year with Dirty Projectors. When I have a free moment, I’d like to start making a full-length.
Is it going to be difficult juggling between Dirty Projector duties and your own stuff this year?
It’s a little difficult right now, because I have some shows coming up, but ultimately, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult. We worked how to do both, but I’m just planning on being in Dirty Projectors this year.
You just said that it takes a while to finish songs. What makes these ready versus ones that aren’t?
I needed to do something. If I just sat around and [waited for them to be right]…I could just never put anything out, basically. These are some of the newer things I’ve written. I was able to find my style and my voice. It’s definitely still a new process and I probably won’t find these as the best batch of songs I’ve ever made, but it’s my first attempt and it needed to happen.
I’m throwing my laundry in the dryer by the way. I’m almost done. There we go.
How much for a dry? Dollar and a quarter?
Its 25 cents for 10 minutes. So I’m going to dry a bunch of stuff. Almost outta here. Okay. I’m good.
I have three rehearsals today, back-to-back. I think I have 14 hours of practicing today and I only have a little bit of time to run these errands in the morning.
People are fascinated with composition of Dirty Projectors’ tunes–does the experience with them affect the way you think about your own material?
Yeah, I think so. The music of Dirty Projectors’ has definitely been incorporated into my musical world and a lot of how I hear music now. It’s opened up a lot of doors in understanding how to compose and look at music. But I try to not sound like Dirty Projectors.
Where and when do you compose songs? Do you work at home?
I work at home. I work in my apartment. I would like to not do that. But it’s the only place I can really write. But I haven’t been writing lately.
Do you have stuff that flutters around in your head that will stay up there for months?
No [laughs]. I am one of those people that can make something up and be like “That’s really cool” then forget it ten minutes later.
So in an ideal world, who’s on your ultimate Deradoorian bill?
Wow, I’ve never really thought about that. Well, I guess I have–for my CD release show, I invited three girls who I think would compliment well [including Drawlings and the Holy Experiment]. But as far as ultimate? That’s kind of a tough one to answer. Maybe Fiona Apple–I like her. She’s really good at reinventing herself in really creative ways.
I like how she takes her time in putting stuff out.
Me too. I think that’s kind of why I can relate to her.
Deradoorian plays Cake Shop on May 5th and the Bell House on May 10th.