David Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) Talks with Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) on the Talkhouse Podcast

Dirty Projectors meets Mount Eerie at Walt Disney Hall

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we’ve got a very cool episode that was inspired by a very cool performance coming up in Los Angeles soon. It’s David Longstreth in conversation with Phil Elverum.

Longstreth is the focal point of the band Dirty Projectors, which formed about 20 years ago in Brooklyn, and was part of a scene that kind of elevated indie-pop into something more serious and timeless. It’s been clear throughout the years that Longstreth is a musical searcher, having never been content to repeat himself. That’s led to an incredibly varied catalog that can even border on pleasantly confusing, and the huge undertaking that he’s in the midst of—and the starting point of this conversation—is no exception. About 10 years ago, Longstreth began working on what I’d guess you’d call a contemporary classical song cycle called Song of the Earth, which he performed with the ensemble stargaze a few years back. He’s since been refining and reworking the piece, and along with Dirty Projectors and the world-renowned L.A. Philharmonic, he’ll perform it on March 2 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. That’s a huge group of people and a massive undertaking—and not to be missed.

At almost the opposite end of the spectrum will be that evening’s opening act, Mount Eerie, aka renowned minimalist songwriter Phil Elverum. Elverum is almost a mythical figure in indie-rock, having forged a truly unique path over the past decade, first under the name The Microphones and later Mount Eerie. His music is often deeply personal, and he’ll move from simply structured indie-folk into fully immersive lo-fi drones in ways that can confound and disarm. His catalog is wide and deep, though if you’re unfamiliar with his music, a good place to start is 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2. At this concert, he’ll not only open the show for Dirty Projectors but he’ll also—as you’ll hear—participate a little bit, because Longstreth tapped Elverum to help out on a Song of The Earth piece called “Twin Aspens.” They were nice enough to give us a preview of the piece here, so check out a little bit of a not-quite-final version of “Twin Aspens,” composed by Longstreth and with some help from Elverum.

As you’ll hear in this conversation, these guys are deeply immersed in music, and certainly not just pop music. From hearing them chat I learned about Japanese Gagaku music, among other things. They also talk at length about Elverum’s incredible album-length song “Microphones in 2020,” which is essentially a history of his own evolution, with a fascinating visual to go along with it. They also talk a lot about starting the creative process with a palette in mind, which I found fascinating as well. Enjoy the chat, and if you’re in the L.A. area, I think there are a few tickets left for this once-in-a-lifetime performance on March 2. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast and thanks to David Longstreth and Phil Elverum for talking. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the great stuff at Talkhouse.com. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. Annie Fell has my eternal thanks for stepping in to record it at the last minute, too. See you next time!

(Photo Credit: left, Jason Frank Rothenberg; right, Indigo Free; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

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