The electro-folk duo Snowblink — Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman — played The Haunt on Saturday. Vocalist and guitarist Gesundheit talks to The Sun about touring Japan, mixing the sophomore Snowblink record (in a lakeside cottage and a beach house, among other locations) and delivering "vocal treatments" at Prospect Park.
The Sun: Tell us a little about your upcoming record, Inner Classics.
Daniela Gesundheit: Inner Classics features the first group of songs I wrote after moving to Toronto. The songs were written between tours in a cottage on Lake Erie in the middle of winter, our Toronto studio, and a guest house on a beach in Los Angeles. We spent a year recording and mixing it in Toronto, Montreal and Los Angeles with Chris Stringer (Ohbijou) and Mark Lawson (Timber Timbre, Arcade Fire). Several friends appear on the record, such as Barbara Gruska (Jenny Lewis Band, Belle Brigade), Thom Gill (Owen Pallett, Thomas) and Ryan Driver.
Sun: You’ve been really involved in performance art, most recently delivering “vocal treatments” at Prospect Park. (You might want to briefly explain to our readers what a “vocal treatment” is.) How was it like being part of that installation? And how did you come to be part of that project? What do you like about creating art, and how does that compare to creating music?
D.G: A very close friend of mine, and former Snowblink member, bay-area artist Dave Wilson, has been putting on outdoor art and music events since 2005. When I lived in the area I would perform at these happenings regularly. In 2010, I developed a new and more portable way to participate — I called the performances "Treatments." They are one-on-one improvised ambient vocal loops customized to the person receiving the treatment. The first time I performed "Treatments" I was in a hand built wooden shelter in a rural area north of San Francisco called Ukiah. People could wander around a lush hilly property, discover various installations, and, if they happened upon my little hut, they could climb in and sit with me for a Treatment. It is a highly intimate experience, which is a nice respite from playing to large audiences.
Sun: You toured Japan earlier this year, with Alex Lukasehvsky and Felicity Williams. How was it like collaborating with them? Any plans to head back to Japan soon?
D.G.: Alex has a wild hurricane sort of musical expression, and I always delight in the opportunity to accompany him. Singing with him feels like what I imagine trying to break a horse bareback might feel like — impossibly wild, unpredictable, and powerful. Felicity and I have a nearly psychic ability with one another - she can sing a line and I can follow as though I could read her mind and vice versa. We also can blend our tones to the point where one might not even realize there are two voices singing. I returned from that trip utterly refreshed and inspired. I would love to return to Japan, especially to Kyoto.
Sun: How would you describe your kind of music? Do you have some kind of musical philosophy?
D.G.: We might be electro-folk, or more specifically, non-denominational devotional pop. Non-invasive contemplative rock? I tend towards non-aggressive, pleasing sounds to frame potentially painful concepts — loss, longing, etc. — almost the way a dentist might use novocain in order to more effectively complete a surgery.
Sun: Who are your musical heroes?
D.G.: Katy Payne. Dolly Parton. Brian Eno. Leonard Cohen.
Sun: What was the best performance you’ve ever given?
D.G.: I think my favorite show in recent memory was our Toronto release show last week. Dan wrote arrangements for two string players (Amanda Penner and Mika Posen of Timber Timbre), our drummer Dan Gaucher joined us (Sandro Perri, Fond of Tigers), Felicity Williams (Bahamas) sang backup, and Misha Bower (Bruce Peninsula) and Feist sang guest vocals. It was a bit of a Snowblink big band, and I hope to tour with some incarnation of that in the near future.