We express ourselves differently than a lot of bands. We have voices in our music, but not what one would consider typical lyrics. We deal more in concepts or moods rather than specific subjects per se.
Darsombra, the self styled trans-apocalyptic galaxy rockers, have just brought out their stunning new album Dumesday Book and it’s a truly wild journey that takes in a whole host of psychedelic rock mayhem all delivered in a cinematic fashion. To celebrate the albums release, Gavin Brown caught up with Darsombra members Brian Daniloski (guitar, bass, vocals, and sound design) and Ann Everton (synth, vocals, percussion, and projections) to talk about Dumesday Book, the trippy videos they’ve made, psychedelia, memorable shows and hallucinatory experiences.
E&D: Your new album Dumesday Book is out now. How excited have you been to be getting this album out?
Ann: We are thrilled! It’s been a long time coming and we’ve put a lot of work into it. We started recording just as lockdown in March 2020 began in the US, so it feels like we’re turning the page on a new chapter in our lives.
E&D: What were the main influences on the sound of this record?
Brian: All of the feelings, good, bad, and otherwise, that we experienced being stuck home for over a year while there was this horrible plague spreading across the planet.
Ann: Each of the ten tracks on the album are all so varied in sound and mood that it’s hard to say any handful of artists or creative products were overall influences, but in parts, we did draw a lot from the Sweet, AC/DC, The Who, Edgar Winter Group, Uli Jon Roth, Gary Numan, Rush, King Crimson, Star Trek, Monty Python, Frank Frazetta, and Mauzy Broadway.
E&D: Was the recording of the album a smooth process?
Brian: Yes and no. It was a long process. Our latest album had just come out only about a half a year before the world shut down, so we weren’t expecting to find ourselves writing and recording again so soon. We started recording as soon as the initial quarantine lockdowns were being put into effect. It started out very smooth. We were just recording our improvisations for a few months with not much else to do and nowhere to go. We felt like we had all the time in the world to just jam and record and experiment. No one knew when it would be safe to play live shows again, so there were no deadlines, no agendas. A few months in, after we had amassed several albums worth of demos and raw recordings, it then became something that we laboriously started to refine for the next couple of years. I was learning new recording methods and software, and upgrading studio equipment throughout the process. It felt very ambitious. There were definitely a few bumps and learning curves along the way.
E&D: What are some of the subjects that the songs on the album deal with?
Brian: We express ourselves differently than a lot of bands. We have voices in our music, but not what one would consider typical lyrics. We deal more in concepts or moods rather than specific subjects per se, but I like to think that we deal with any and every subject. The human condition. The trials and triumphs of being a sentient being bound to this planet.
Ann: The album deals with the foreboding awful majesty of the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the manic sense of freedom that followed for some of us, the day-to-day existential crisis and anxiety from the sense of unknown in spring and summer of that year, the joy our garden brings us at night, the maintenance of our world, the inevitability of death, the excitement of accessing modern medicine and the opportunities it can bring, the false sense of optimism in plague times, and the joy of returning to the road.
E&D: What does the Dumesday Book of the album title refer to?
Ann: Dumesday Book takes its name from the 11th century census book which served as the oldest public record in the English language, Domesday Book – so named because its decisions were unalterable, its sentence was law, and its survey of human activity so complete. The album’s sound follows the theme of survey as well, with glam-prog frivolity giving way to heavy psych doomscapes laden with music concrète field recordings.
E&D: Can you tell us about the trippy video you did for the album track ‘Gibbet Lore’ and what it is about?
Ann: We had such a good time making that one! The ‘Gibbet Lore’ video follows a theme of false optimism and quackery during plague times, as revellers cavort and collapse at a festival of fools, bonded by a virus to their bubonic doom. The muse’s connections were obscure when it came time to compose the video–a wolf howling on top of a mountain became a dog howling on a hill, the ominous toll of a slowed-down hand bell called for the lonely turning of a wagon wheel deep in a desolate forest (‘bring out your dead’ indeed—there was the Monty Python influence), and the plague-stricken dancers in loosely-interpreted Ren Fest garb were a surprise to me in the composition process. Although this work comes from the unique visions of camp Darsombra, we really are just listening to the muse and following her lead, whether we like it or not!
E&D: As soon as the album comes out, you are heading out on tour. Are you looking forward to hitting the road again in support of Dumesday Book?
Ann: Absolutely! We love touring and cannot wait to share this baby with the world.
E&D: Will you be playing a lot of new material on the tour?
Brian: Currently, our songs tend to be long, so we only have time for one or two songs during a typical set. The set on our upcoming tour will be half and half. One new song, one old song, with an optional new song encore if time permits.
E&D: What are your tour essentials that you can’t leave home without?
Ann: You can really find anything you need on the road in a pinch, or not even in a pinch—it’s bizarrely frequent how often fate provides us with the physical items that make road life easier for us. We are free-gans concerning food but also stuff. Waste not, want not—the road provides. So I’ll answer this question very literally and boringly: prescription glasses/contacts, my prescription medicine/herbs/supplements, and, at least at the beginning of tour if it’s after June, food from our garden. Optimal health is integral on tour.
E&D: What have been some of the most memorable Darsombra live shows that you have ever done?
Brian: Darsombra has played almost one thousand shows, over seven hundred since Ann has been in the band. There have been a lot of memorable shows in that time. A few for me have been, playing inside a cave in Germany, playing in the rubble in the middle of a section of the city of Bandung, Indonesia that was in the process of being demolished to make room for a super highway, where several homeowners had refused to move to make way for the inevitable “progress”. The community there were staging anti-demolition shows regularly as a way of protesting their ousting, and had managed to forestall their living situation for a bit before the inevitable. Also, playing multiple off-grid guerrilla generator shows in the Badlands of South Dakota. I have vivid memories of the numerous generator shows that we’ve played in scenic locales, even though there’s usually no audience other than whoever’s watching the livestreams, if we’re even able to stream. Sometimes we’re so off the grid that there’s no cell service, and that’s okay too. We’re happy to play for the insects, animals, and whatever aliens happen to be observing.
Ann: I’ll never forget the Eclipse Show on the late summer tour of 2017. We had just crossed southern Canada, and were making our way across the north of the US when we remembered a total solar eclipse was coming to cut a swath of corona sunlight across the center of the country. We found a place in the path of totality in Lost Springs, Wyoming (population: four, at the time), set up our gear by the side of the road outside of town, and played a show with the eclipse. It was great—we played a 2016 song, ‘From Insects. . . to Aliens (The Worms Turn)’, projecting the video on our van behind us, and went wild, flailing in the false night of the eclipse’s weird darkness. We even filmed it, and produced a 30-minute documentary about the show, released this past spring, six years later. Here it is:
E&D: What have been some of the best live performances you have ever seen and what made them so special?
Brian: My father took me to see Kiss in 1977 when I was ten. The lights, explosions, smoke, fire breathing and blood spitting, and the loud music really made a big impression upon me. They really do put on the best show in rock and roll. Ten years later, seeing the Butthole Surfers put on a show just as impressive in its own way, but in a tiny, dirty punk rock dive bar with a mere fraction of the budget of a Kiss show, was the catalyst for making me realize that perhaps I too could do something like this.
Ann: Seeing Magma in a little jazz club (the kind with small tables and chairs all over the audience) in Québec City in 2015 was unforgettable. We’re both huge Magma fans, so we had managed to procure a table right in the middle of the front row and could see absolutely everything. Never have I felt more engaged in a musical narrative than with Magma at that show—and they sing in a made-up language, Kobaïan! They told an entire epic narrative with just varying-colored lights, emotion conveyed through their faces, and the qualities of the sounds they were making. It was incredible.
E&D: How did Darsombra start as a band in the first place and what have been some of the highlights along the way?
Brian: I started Darsombra as a one-person project, originally named SUCKPiG, in the early 2000’s as a side project from the main band I was in at the time, Meatjack. I was inspired by other people doing one-person projects, like Robert Fripp doing his Frippertronics and Joe Preston’s project Thrones. In 2005, I changed the name to Darsombra, but not the original concept or the material, and started touring more regularly and putting out albums. In 2010 I started collaborating with Ann.
Ann: Brian and I began collaborating in 2010 at the suggestion of a mutual friend. I had been making artwork as an independent video artist since 2003, if not earlier—I’ve been messing around with video since high school in the nineties! Brian had been doing a solo guitar project for many years at that point, and like me, he’s been messing around with his craft since high school. The first time we performed together, it just made so much sense that we never looked back!
E&D: Who are some of your favourite ever bands to come from Baltimore?
Brian: Celebration, Trephine, Curse, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, so, so many more.
Ann: I really love Frank Zappa—technically he’s from Baltimore. Baltimore offers so much in the form of independent music—there are scenes for every taste and longtime players in those scenes, sharing their talents with the city in band after band after band. So I’ll throw some names out there and let you do the googling: Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis, Landis Expandis, Kristin Forbes, Rahne Alexander, so many things put out by Merkin Records, Curse. . . I love Liz Downing’s projects, Greg Hatem’s work. This really isn’t fair because there are too many great local friends and musicians I’m not mentioning. . . just Google them all!
E&D: What are the most influential psychedelic bands and albums for you personally?
Brian: Some of my favourite psychedelic bands would be Butthole Surfers (favourite album Rembrandt Pussyhorse), King Crimson, Pink Floyd (specifically ANY pre-The Wall), Hendrix, early Rush, Magma, The Beatles’ psychedelic era. People could argue whether some of these bands are actually psychedelic, but they are to me.
Ann: First exposure: Anthem of the Sun by the Grateful Dead—thanks, Dad! Then, in real quick succession, in my teenage years: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones (yes, I know, not quite psych—but I adore the stuff from the seventies, and you can’t front on Their Satanic Majesties Request), The Beatles (first exposure was earlier, but they never really went bad for me, especially as a teenager), Pink Floyd (especially Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon, naturally), Led Zeppelin. . . My early twenties were a time of discovery of the joys of prog, à la Rush, Yes, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. . .when I got to Magma in my thirties I sat there for a long time. And now. . . anything, really anything, by the Butthole Surfers, even their latter day work. Oh! And latter day Black Flag if you wanna be flexible with the term “psychedelic”. Of course there are a million more obscure and/or not-truly-psych bands along the way (I was a huge hip-hop head in my late teens and early twenties—really into writing graffiti at that age, a true city-child and loving it, so late-seventies to early-nineties rap was a great soundtrack to my life), but that’s just a taste of my psych buddies.
E&D: Did you always want the music of Darsombra to be so hallucinatory?
Brian: I always want the music to be evocative, whether hallucinatory or otherwise. It should have depth and emotion. But that’s any good music, hallucinatory or not.
Ann: It’s less of a “wanting” and more of a “calling”. We have an obligation to the universe to trip you out!
E&D: What have been some of the most hallucinatory experiences you have ever had?
Brian: My first hallucinatory experiences were when I was very young and I would occasionally get sick with a fever. I would lay in bed and my head would be sort of spinning, and my thoughts would get very dissociative. Sometimes it would seem as if the room was really big and I was really small, or vice versa. It was very Alice In Wonderland. It wasn’t very pleasant.
I remember the first hallucination I ever experienced during my first entheogen adventure. I was lying on the top bunk at my friends college dorm and became enthralled at this very elaborate, ornate iridescent chartreuse arabesque pattern on the ceiling before I realised that I was actually just looking at a plain white ceiling.
Ann: Hard to answer—not all hallucinatory experiences are positive or beautiful. Getting arrested and going to jail for graffiti was pretty trippy. Being in a hospital for a few days was like a trip. Visiting my ancestral homeland, visiting a haunted manor owned by my ancestors (as well as eventually Aleister Crowley, and later, Jimmy Page)—that was unreal, quite hallucinatory. But so is swimming in any natural body of water, bathing in a hot spring deep in an old-growth forest, or getting into a yoga practice or repetitive action—like playing music. . . those all trigger that state for me too. Or even just seeing a really great film, some brilliant art, or listening to a nuanced and well-crafted album. It’s always available, all the time, that mind-state: you just gotta know when, and how—and why—to tap in. And you probably do! Thank you Echoes and Dust.