Tonight Dark Dark Dark kick off a new tour in support of their new album, Who Needs Who, with two Minneapolis album release shows at the Cedar. Supporting DDD on this tour are Partisan Records’ family members Mountain Man and Emily Wells! Can’t catch the show tonight? You’ll have another chance this Friday to see this powerful line-up.
Emily Wells is fresh off the heels of a busy 2012; she signed with Partisan Records, collaborated with Dan the Automator, released her new album, Mama, and spent a good amount of time on tour. A classically trained violinist (and multi-instrumentalist), Wells is often labeled a “one woman orchestra” due to her badass looping capabilities. Yesterday she also announced Mama Remixed, a 14-track collaboration from various artists. You can download that album for free right here.
Recently, Wells was handpicked to write an original song for the final scene and end credits of Stoker, Korean director Chan-Wook Park’s (Oldboy) forthcoming first English feature film (out next year). Wells also collaborated with composer Clint Mansell (Requiem For A Dream, Black Swan) on an exclusive recording for the film’s soundtrack.
MFR spoke with Emily Wells last week as she prepared for tour. When we got her on the phone she was cutting foam with a turkey cutter to fit a new sample pad that is “changing her life.” You can read the interview below.
You’re kicking off a tour with Minneapolis sweethearts Dark Dark Dark and you’ll be here for two separate shows— have you had a chance to hang out in Minneapolis and explore in the past?
I went there for the first time on the last tour I did in the spring. I played at the Cedar Cultural with the Portland Cello Project and had a blast; it was a really fun show. Kind of in and out. I’m going to be there a lot more this time because we’ve got those two shows with a day off in between, so I’ll have a chance.
You’ve been labeled the ‘one woman orchestra’ by many. Are you going to be playing alone for this entire tour, or did you bring along your sometimes drummer and bassist?
No, I’m going by myself. It’s been awhile since I played with them and it wasn’t so much on purpose but out of necessity. And now I’m playing drums myself and I can’t even imagine handing that back to someone else- just because I love doing it so much. Not that I’m that great at it, but I like to do it.
You are an artist that is hard to define on a genre level, do you feel like that is an advantage at all?
I think it kind of depends on a mood. I think journalists, if you are talking about it from that standpoint, are often looking for the thing to write about that is atypical or controversial, so I guess you could say it could be an advantage in that way. But I think people also, myself included, are always looking for a way to define something. Especially when it comes to music. “Oh, what kind of music do you play?” It’s the most common question you get asked probably. Or “What instrument do you play?” So not being able to say “it’s this” is maybe a disadvantage because people [think] it’s too much work. I don’t even know.
The need for people to define things— do you feel like that got a bit easier once you signed with Partisan Records?
No, I don’t. I mean, it’s hard to say. I still feel kind of in the early stages of the whole label thing, so I don’t want to necessarily write that off or embrace it yet. I think it is yet to be seen what that has done for me or not done for me, cause I think that there is also a story, and independent artist, a thing. But it certainly hasn’t changed the difficulty. If anything it’s just more people trying to figure out how the hell to market me (laughs). When it was just me it was like, “whatever, I don’t know what any of that means so I’ll just keep playing.”
You had label talks in the past but continued to release music on your own. How did you finally decide to join the family at Partisan?
I wasn’t like, Ani DiFranco-ing it out over here like “I’m going to put out my own records and this is my thing.” My thing is making work, my thing is exploring music and all of those things that go into writing songs. Selling records by myself doesn’t interest me, I just did it because it seemed like the smartest thing to do, or I hadn’t found the right family, or [finding a label] wasn’t my drive. It was working on my own. You make a lot more for record sales if you are your own label, so I was just kind of going with it. Then Partisan came to a show I did and one of their acts was opening for me and they happened to stay. They were like, “oh I’ll listen to one song” and then ended up staying for the whole show. They were really persistent; I think that helped a lot. I was like, “yeah, nah, not really looking for a label right now,” but it got to the point (I think when I was really having to weigh it out— it’s a pretty big deal for me to just do it. Wow, big change) I just thought, “what do I want to be spending my time doing?” And It’s not just trying to reinvent the wheel as a label. It really came down to a time thing; if I have a few lifetimes as me then I could just stick it out on my own, and I don’t, so that’s just where it got to. And you know, they’re a good label, it’s a fair deal, and it wasn’t like I had signed to Universal. Baby steps.
It took three years to release Mama and I’ve seen the word “hiatus” used to reference that. I hardly feel like three years is a hiatus. Did you feel like you were taking a break or just taking your time?
It’s interesting because it wasn’t intended to be that long. That record has been recorded for over two years and I ran into a few different snags time-wise. It was written and recorded over the course of nine months, a few songs were written before that, so I was ready to go but it wasn’t mixed. I started working with this guy who was super amazing but he is paralyzed from the chest down and halfway through the mix process he got [sick] and we were stalled for months. I wanted to finish with him, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I wanted the continuity, I didn’t want to start over. Finally the record was mixed and then I had to decide— I brought the record to Partisan completely finished, mixed, everything. I was planning on releasing it myself, and they had been considering it. The label got involved, then we had to wait for another six months, all these little things kept stalling it. I was not on a hiatus at all as a writer and touring artist, I was just frustrated.
I also recorded a whole other record during that time; I have a new record completely written now. Plus [I was] going through a time in my life that was extreme change; it’s not all calculated hiatus. Yeah no, that’s just life.
You’ve definitely been busy. You have Pillowfight, the project with Dan the Automator, you have Mama, and now you have Mama Remixed coming out.
Yeah it’s 14 tracks of all the songs remixed, four of them remixed twice by two different bands or artists. I am really, really, excited about it. It’s such an exploration of the song, a study almost, because everything is so in depth.
How did you go about approaching artists to be a part of that?
We approached a lot of different people. A few people who are friends of mine, then a few people we reached out to that I thought would be rad. We weren’t saying “make it a banger mix” or “make it a club mix” it was just “throw yourself into this.”
Were you nervous to hear the remixes; what had been done with the songs?
I wasn’t nervous but I did start to think about what it must have been like listening to all the stems. When I recorded it it wasn’t that isolated. My dogs were in the back and who knows what I’m doing, whistling under my breathe or something. That was kind of personal. I mean, I’m already putting it out there for everybody, all the personal stuff. It was interesting to hear what lyrics people gravitated toward or away from. There was one song, “Dirty Sneakers,” and I had kind of forgotten about this, but my best friend— I had collected her voicemails over the course of a year or two and just saved them. So in “Dirty Sneakers” buried in all the audio are her voicemails. There is also this part that I had originally sung that was buried. I put them there for myself, they weren’t going to be audible, and then at the very end it kind of comes up and you can hear it. So The Blow did a remix of that and they found all of this extra audio and they took out all of my regular vocals and used these extra vocals and sounds as the lead. That was really surprising when I had listened to their remix the first time because I had forgotten entirely that those were even in there. They were a buried treasure or something.
Incredible. I can’t wait to hear it. One last question for you— Halloween is coming up, what is your favorite costume to date?
Well I was Andre 3000 a couple years ago and I got kicked out of a bar wearing that costume. That has to go down in the history books I think. I was wearing the similar set up to the “Hey Ya” get up. Suspenders, boots, it was a far cry from the real deal but I tried.
Emily Wells is at the Cedar Cultural Center tonight (10/3) and Friday (10/5) supporting Dark Dark Dark in their album release celebration.
Interview by Laura Yurich
Dark Dark Dark w/Mountain Man & Emily Wells
Wednesday, October 3 2012 & Friday, October 5 2012
7pm // $13 // All Ages
Cedar Cultural Center
Posted 7 months ago