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Issue 61 Extended Interview: Feathers

Slick, eerie, electro-pop that doesn’t have its feet firmly planted in the northern hemisphere?! Yep, sounded like a myth to us too before we stumbled upon Anastasia Dimou’s Austin based creation Feathers. Having up-rooted from New York to the sweltering Texas deserts last year before capturing the ever lasting adoration of anyone who witnessed their spring time ATP set, Dimou and co are just about ready to unleash their effortlessly enticing debut full length upon the world. We caught up with the young artist to discuss creative motivations, calculus and the importance of production for Issue 61. Here’s the interview in full.

How long have you been a musician?
It depends on what is considered being a musician. I started playing instruments in elementary school, but I was always interested in music and performing at an even younger age.

Do you remember your first forays into that world?
The first instrument I played was a violin, then piano, guitar and bass in that order.  Though, now I program so much, I feel like I am mostly a programmer.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?
Not in the sense that I was surrounded by family members doing it – my sister played the bassoon, does that count?! – but it was encouraged. I remember very distinctly my mother telling me how important it was to have music in one’s life, almost as therapy. As far as what played in my house, it was always Greek music (my father is Greek), so I grew up listening to very thick, sonorous female vocals that had a tremendous amount of flexibility and a lot of emotion. I recently saw Dead Can Dance live and read how Lisa Gerrard was influenced by the Greek/Turkish/Irish music that came from the homes of immigrants in her neighbourhood. I realized what a gift it was that I had something like that too in my psyche.

What did you do before you got into music?
I’ve had many jobs while working on music, but in terms of careers, none.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Almost always a doctor, actually, because I thought I had a natural interest and knack for healing. I had a Calculus II instructor who I barely understood in college who turned my love of math (a requirement) around, however! I’m half kidding. I always knew I needed music and art to take a central place in my life, but I never thought of making a career out of music. I more-so fell into it all and got absorbed by it. I haven’t given up on the medical profession though, maybe I’ll be that 60 year old who gets her medical degree. I’m a little more interested in alternative forms of healing though these days.

What drove you to make the move from New York to Austin?
I needed a change, and having spent most of my life in NY, Austin seemed like a very big one. Change is required for creativity. I often set scenes in my mind for songs in the desert, finally I wanted to actually be next to one.

When did you start working on Feathers?
Feathers began in NY as a place for me to put my own songs, without anyone else’s input. My previous band definitely had it’s own sound figured out, and I had a lot of other ideas I wanted to realise.

Why did you move on from Cruel Black Dove?
I think we all hit a creative wall before things even got started because we were together for a while, and we were all in different places in our personal lives. Two of us were ready to tour and sleep on floors, and the other members had real lives more tethered to the city. We’re all still very good friends. Shirley and Alan are like siblings to me.

How do your previous musical projects inform what you do now?
Well, they definitely gave me an appreciation for polish and production. I’ve never been a fan of on-purpose lo-fi sounds. I always wanted to make music that would sound great on big speakers. Also with vocals that are audible and have presence, because for me, if the vocals are low or muddled in the mix then I have to do half the work imagining what you’re singing and I feel like I will come up with something better in my mind. I feel like you’ve somehow cheated me and the process, and that you’re just hiding. It’s crazy how many bands do that though. I know there are a lot who do it just because they don’t have access to decent recording equipment, but there are many more that do it by choice.

What or who inspires you creatively?
Definitely cinematography. Wong Kar Wai. Alien landscapes. Beautiful faces. Borges. Anthemic songs. New wave. The Virgin Mary figure. Pop music.

Who are you working with on the record? Is it finished?
Brian Foote (Zola Jesus, Lotus Plaza) helped produce two songs, Steve DePalo (Cold Cave, Voxtrot) mixed the record, and Howie Weinberg (Muse, U2, many more) mastered it. It is finished and will be ready for next year.

How do your songs come together?
I usually start with a very basic framework, then work on the vocal melody, and eventually find words to fit the melody.

What kind of importance to you place on your lyrics? What do you draw on for them?
The lyrics are definitely important, though I don’t like to start with them. For me, what’s most important is that they are pure, and not wordy or academic. I like to play with words and meanings for sure, but they have to be clean and not weigh everything else down.

How does your live set-up work?
At first we had a 4-5 person line up, and members rotated, mostly for the fun of it. But now Courtney and Kathleen usually play bass and synth, respectively, and we’ve started to work with a great drummer named Jordan. Alex and Destiny join on guitar depending on where we’re playing and schedules.

You’ve played with the likes of Robyn in the US, have you any plans to make it back over to the UK?
We’ve made it over once this year, we really had the best time and would like to get there again early next year. We love it.

How did your Maya Postepski remix come about?
I was a huge Austra and Katie Stelmanis fan early on. I think that band is truly special. Katie has an incredible voice and and Maya’s production contributions are evident, especially after hearing Trust. We have a mutual friend, and I was able to connect with her through him.

Is there anyone else you’re collaborating with? Or would love to collaborate/remix?
Not at the moment. I think Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) is a great newer writer/producer. I’ve always admired Rich Costey, James Ford, Will Gregory, David Kosten, Dave Sitek… and of course Alan Wilder or Martin Gore. I’d love to swap remixes with HTRK and see what happens. Maybe work on my very own dance-floor anthem with David Guetta or Calvin Harris!

What does the rest of this year and the new year have in store for you?
Releases, touring and working on the next record.

-Lauren Down

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