The Way Forward: Angel Deradoorian

The former Dirty Projectors member talks about the positives of changing plans.

As the realization dawned on me that I would be in one place for a long time, a sense of anxiety and curiosity washed over my body. What would come of this forced domestic time out? 

When the lockdown happened I was in the process of preparing for a US and European tour. There was a ton of strategizing on how to make these two tours work. I’d need to prepare a solo set for the US and put together a band for Europe. It was a lot of brain space being used to organize these challenges. On top of that, I needed to create several videos in preparation of my album slated for release a couple months after quarantine began. I had to make a lot of content with little resources and little time. Soon after the lockdown I watched all the tours dissolve and my release date get pushed back many months. Time began to extend.

At first there was fear of getting sick but also a relief that all those stresses affiliated with my album had been postponed. I felt proud of myself for accepting the reality that the whole world was about to stand still, and because the unstable life of a musician was so familiar to me, this rocky experience would be a walk in the park. In some ways this has been true. Instability and the unknown are places I often dwell; but as time went on my creative drive began to suffer. Volatile emotions, spells of depression, and avoidance of making sound ensued. My body’s response to this global trauma began to outweigh the power of my mind. That sense of pride faded. This process played out for months while I had to force myself into creative mode at the same time. 

No more concerts, how about live streams? Wonderful friends from all over the country were getting together to put on virtual concerts. They made this option available to me, so I said yes. I would take all day preparing my room with backdrops, plants, and the careful placement of synthesizers to fit into the camera frame. The live streams were a technical challenge. I had to figure out how to feed sound and video through an online platform without creating latency, or worse, total failure. I worked through that part. Then, the music. It felt great to be inside some strange bubble playing music for people anywhere in the world. I didn’t have to go to soundcheck, didn’t have to eat chips and salsa in the green room, and I could leave the show right after I played. Great great. Eventually that felt like a lot of stress as well, and my willingness to make new, improvised sets while also doing all the streaming preparations fell to the wayside. The desire to connect with an audience in person outweighed the privileges of streaming from home. It was fun while it lasted. 

Limited resources. As it came time to prepare for making the music videos for my album a new strategy kicked in. I had to throw out my old ideas and start fresh from a very simple place. No more indoor shooting locations, no more crew: we had to pare down the team. This meant all the videos would need very focused visuals that relied more on energy than variety. All of these video ideas were thrown together more or less as we surrendered the majority of the control to the current circumstances.  “Saturnine Night” had to be changed from an elaborate dance piece to just me and my sister reenacting said night in a gestural performance. We relied on lighting and camerawork to invoke stress, indolence, and uncertainty. The shoot for “Monk’s Robes” was social distancing to the max. It was a “let’s go to the mountains with a pretty instrument” situation. Luckily we had a drone to capture the vastness and glory of the wilderness. Some videos became animated or heavily affected with little video content of myself involved. “Sun” resembled “Monk’s Robes” in it’s revisitation to nature. All of this was made possible by my partner, who is a filmmaker, camera operator, producer, and also somehow knows how to edit. My sister, as always, was by my side throughout the majority of the process to help, and to keep my head on my shoulders. A tiny team. In the end, these videos resulted in something quite stark, simple, beautiful, and left little for me to hide behind. They echoed the themes of the album and created a visual continuity that paired well with the music. I don’t know if that would have been the case had quarantine not happened. 

My usual focus on just music shifted to the other creative aspects that complement it. The visual elements, like photography and video, was a focus I thought I’d never really have an opportunity to steep myself in as a busy musician. I returned to college and have been studying philosophy, English, and history. Making my mind work in different ways again has lent to a new creative paradigm.  These changes have made me start to think about composing music differently, incorporating art differently, and approaching creative self-expression differently. Different in a way that is so beyond my grasp at this time that I only catch glimpses into what it will come to be. The feeling is very exciting, and something I hold inside for comfort. 

I haven’t been able to fill the void left by live performance and collaborations with other musicians yet. This is where the discomfort hits the most. I long for my friends in New York who I used to be able to just call up and go jam with. My friends in LA are retreating from the hot sun. The only place we could potentially link up is in a park in near 100-degree weather. Perhaps the fall will yield some fresh music. Maybe we can find a tunnel to play our acoustic instruments in and let the sound resonate throughout. Or, possibly near the reservoir settled on the grass singing and playing to the joggers passing by. Not every creative opportunity has uniquely arisen in this time, but I see it on the horizon and look forward to the slow changes in this suspended time warp.

Los Angeles based art pop artist Deradoorian just released her cosmic and hypnotic second album on September 18, Find The Sun. Find The Sun is not the record Angel Deradoorian originally sat down to make. It’s a waypoint on a spiritual journey of acceptance, the result of years of lifting veils that obscured her innermost self, and coming to the realization that in order to find peace, she might need to cede a bit of control. The result is something that could only be found by the physical act of its construction.