‘Click Interview’ with Dandelion Wine: ‘There Is Something Really Special About The Relationship Between A Musician And Their Instrument’

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Australian formation DANDELION WINE is now active for more than twenty years. The Ethereal-Folk formation based in Melbourne released several successful albums during the early Millennium years, but nothing really new got released since 2010. The newest opus “Le Coeur” was originally released as a limited CD edition in 2018 on the Lithuanian label Dangus. Since this year the work is available in a digital format featuring nine songs mixing Ethereal, Folk and Electronic influences. The current line-up of the band consists of core members Naomi Henderson (voice, wind, electronics) and Nicholas Albanis (strings and electronics) plus Francesca Mountfort (cello and voice) while “Le Coeur” also featured a fine selection of guest musicians.

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: DANDELION WINE has been set up more than twenty years ago now and yet, it seems that less happened since your previous album “All Becompassed By Stars” (2010). Can we speak about a ‘resurrection’ or a ‘second life’? What does the band stands for today (I also refer to the new line-up)?

Nicholas: It really was a longer gap than we had anticipated! Between 2006 and 2010 we were really busy writing, recording and touring -we released three albums on the German label Ars Musica Diffundére / Black Rain and were going back and forth between Australia, Japan and Europe so often that we ended up moving to Germany. It was all quite manic (and incredible!), but in 2010 we moved back to Australia and set to work on a new album. Along the way a bunch of other things happened with children being born and stuff like that.

We weren’t completely inactive and we still managed to do a couple of European tours and play at some festivals in that time, but it was a much slower pace. We ended up throwing out about 80% of what we had recorded and starting again, which is not something we had ever done before, but was the best thing we could have done.

The other big important change was that we went from a duo to a trio -cellist Francesca Mountfort did a guest spot with us at a concert at a castle in Estonia and it went so well she ended up joining the band. The addition of Francesca has really been incredible both in the studio and live. Naomi often layers multiple vocal parts in the studio and Francesca also sings those parts live, as well playing hammered dulcimer. She also takes quite an electronic approach to her cello with various effects and loopers, which is perfect for Dandelion Wine.

Q: Your new album “Le Coeur” was originally released in 2018 as CD format on the Lithuanian label Dangus while you now re-released it as digital album. Tell us a bit more about the original release and the re-edition?

Nicholas: Well we actually anticipated that the digital release would happen soon after the Dangus CD-edition, but it didn’t quite work out that way. It was anticipated that the digital release would happen in late 2018, but we wanted to have a CD edition for our 2018 European tour so people at our shows could buy it before anyone else.

We were going to have it manufactured in Europe, but the people from Dangus offered to handle the release for us -we have known them for many years from the festivals Menuo Juodaragis and Kunigunda Lunaria and we have become friends over the years so we thought it would be a great idea. Dangus have released some really interesting bands such as Spanxti and Undan too. The Dangus edition had a slightly different track listing -it featured a folkier song called “Prelude To Sleep” which was a rare track that was originally on a French Prikosnovenie compilation, but the full digital edition includes “Persistence Of Vision”, a cover of the Australian band Clowns Smiling Backwards, which was always intended to be on the album.

Q: What does the album “Le Coeur” stand for? What kind of album did you want to achieve and how did the collaborations with the numerous guest musicians took shape?

Nicholas: We had always intended that this album would be quieter and darker than previous albums. When we wrote and recorded “Selected Anachronism” and “All Becompassed By Stars” we were touring a lot, playing at outdoor festivals and noisy clubs and very much in the mindset of our live show. Sure there were more ambient pieces and acoustic songs on those albums, but there was more of a focus on what we were playing live.

With this one we wanted to slow things down a bit, have some space, focus on the atmospheres even more and also to be a bit more focused and consistent. Rather than mixing big danceable tracks with more introspective elements, we wanted to keep the mood a bit more consistent.

Having the guest musicians was great and was really about trying to make each track the best it could be. Sure, I can play bass but I’d much prefer to have Denni from Brillig or Pete McKeown add their genius to it instead. It’s funny, Denni actually came around to meet up and have some beers in the backyard when we said ‘so we’ve got this song that needs a bassline…’ Haha! On “Hall Of Leaves” we kept thinking that end would be great with Rüdiger Maul playing percussion on it so we just asked him -we’d met when we’ve played with Faun and had a great time together at Festival Mediaval and luckily he was up for it. I used to play with Phil Coyle in a Psych-Folk band called Trappist Afterland and we knew his frame drum style would be ideal for “Pilgrimage”. Having HakGwai from Hong Kong play erhu (two string Chinese fiddle) was more experimental -he’s a good friend and we loved his playing so we actually got him to improvise over “One Of My Friendly Days” without really knowing where it was going to lead and the result was incredible.

Q: A word about the great, artistic artwork of “Le Coeur” and especially its front cover. What do the pregnant women stand for and what’s the link between the artwork and the lyrical themes of the album?

Naomi: We were so happy with how the artwork photographs turned out! The original idea began with Salvadore Dali’s “In Voluptas Mors” or “Desirable Death”. It’s a photograph of several naked women forming the shape of a skull with Dali in the foreground. I was pregnant at the time, so the idea of life and death was quite apparent and I thought what if you could do this with pregnant women? How strong would the idea’s of life and death be if we created a skull (a symbol of death) out of women about to give birth (a symbol of new life)? Of course that’s not exactly what we ended up with, apart from the fact that I could only find two other pregnant women to model with me, I wasn’t sure we could have formed a skull anyway… I mean, you’re not exactly the world best contortionist when you’re pregnant! So we had envisaged creating shapes to collage into a skull or maybe a heart, still with the life and death theme, but the images Colin Page produced were so beautiful and stunning in their own right, that we went with that for the “Le Cœur” cover art.

When trying to come up with a name for the album we realised that we already had a heart theme within the collection of songs. We’d used a heart image for the cover of the album’s first single “One Of My Friendly Days”which had already been released, we had used in-utero heart beat recordings for two of the tracks, our dear friend Robert ‘Bo’ Bohem had passed away from heart issues and we have a cover of one of his songs on the album (“Persistence Of Vision”), and much of the lyrical content was around affairs of the heart- the heart fearing or craving something, be it loss or fear of loss, missing people or yearning for something/someone that you haven’t meet yet. And it fitted beautifully with the artwork photos where each body has not one, but two hearts beating inside it! The heart being one of the main things that separates us from life and death. So we chose to name thealbum “Le Cœur” (the heart).

Q: An important aspect in your composition is the use of acoustic/traditional instruments. I get the feeling it reminds us what is a ‘musician’ while today more and more so-called ‘artists’ are losing this aspect, composing their music only with computers and software. I would like to get your perception about this difference?  

Nicholas: We’ve always loved acoustic, electric and electronic music and have been influenced by all of them, but the combination of the three is really what excites us the most. I guess that the three of us would consider ourselves instrumentalists first and electronic artists second. I think there is something really special about the relationship between a musician and their instrument… I would put it this way – I enjoying working with synths, samplers and computers but I really NEED to play guitar, lute, dulcimer etc. I really start to lose my mind if I don’t. I often find that the electronic musicians that speak to me the most also have a background in playing more traditional instruments -quite often I find that someone who creates great purely electronic music is also a guitarist, drummer, classical pianist or something and it really shows.

For us it has always been a matter of going with what works sonically, emotionally and in terms of atmosphere -usually the initial idea from a song will spring from a particular instrument or a particular beat. From there, it’s a matter of going through and adding different textures to achieve the atmosphere and emotion we’re trying to convey. For example, a renaissance lute says very a different thing to a distorted analogue synth, but sometimes the marriage of the two of them is absolutely what is needed.

Q: Like all artists you must be frustrated and impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you experience this situation when you’ve a new album out and live performances are no longer possible? How do you see things evolving and what comes next for DANDELION WINE?

Naomi: Yes it’s been a completely weird and strange time to be an artist! We had an Australian tour booked which had to be cancelled, which was disappointing and a European festival postponed to 2022, we stopped planning for our 2021 European tour. We initially delayed the release when Covid-19 broke out, I think we kind of hoped it would blow over! But I went for a walk one day (in my allowed one hour of exercise during lockdown) and listened to the album. I realised that so many of the themes were quite relevant to the situation – “Persistence of Vision is all about the things you should have already done but haven’t, “Pilgrimage is about isolation and making a journey to be with the ones you love, “Too Late She Criedis about missing opportunities and so on. So we decided perhaps it was actually quite timely to release it during the pandemic. And in a way it was a very positive thing to do for us personally, it gave us purpose and aim to be doing the publicity and making a little iso film clip and a live (no audience) video while we couldn’t play proper concerts and the world had gone topsy turvy!

So in Australia we hope to re-book a national tour, our city has had zero cases quite a few times in the last few weeks and most of Australia have had no cases for quite a while, so we expect that things will open up here again in the near future. But we have been entertaining the idea of writing/recording our next release by sending files back and forth to each other. And I think we (along with everyone one else) are crossing our fingers for a good vaccine to get back to Europe in late 2022!

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