Before I get into my latest single, “Don’t Call Me, Diana,” I’d like to let you know that I’ll be releasing the first four singles from my 2018 single series as an EP called “Escapades.” It’ll be available on CD and online. There’s more of a structure to this single series developing. The first four singles were actually written together, as are “Don’t Call Me, Diana” and the next three, the last four, etc. I’ve been trying to think about how I want to release the singles as bigger collections, and I know some prefer to listen to music in a larger format than stand alone songs. Because of the way the songs were written and how they play thematically, splitting them up into three EP’s makes sense.
I’ll get more into the first EP next week, but this week I want to write about my latest single, “Don’t Call Me, Diana.”
"Don't Call Me, Diana" and the next three singles were written when I got off the road in early 2017. I holed up in Mike Landolt’s Columbus studio that Winter to try and make something of all the ideas jotted down in my notebook, on my voice memos, etc. By the end of that time, I had some solid sketches for songs that I wanted to record. Things shifted wildly in my life after that. I moved across the country and I seemed to be perpetually on tour. These demo’s never made much progress. After committing to this single series, I’ve been revisiting them with a different frame of mind and their production has taken place in numerous locations and places as I’ve been on the road. It’s a newer more decentralized way of making music that I’ve had to adapt to.
“Don’t Call Me, Diana” started with the airy synth line that kicks off the song. I was messing around with Massive Synth and just stumbled on the melody. I recorded it, duplicated it a ton of times, and tried to hone in the vibe of the sound. Something a bit more psychedelic and chilled out, a la Washed Out and Tame Impala. Next, I looped a drum break in and I had the basis of a song. When I took it to Mike’s studio in early 2017, I laid down some bass, some more synths, and recorded the first verse and vocal ideas. The lyric “Don’t Call Me, Diana” came pretty abruptly, but I couldn’t really tell you how. I knew this song was about something to do with a lost love. I’d had a dream the night before where someone had mentioned Princess Diana. So with that name fresh in my mind, it just stuck.
I didn’t revisit this song till December of 2017. I was crashing with Ben Rohletter, (my main synth dude), in Brooklyn and we played around with it for a bit. What Ben does so well is add atmosphere to songs and fill in the space. All that mystical arpeggiation you hear in the intro comes directly from his Prophet 5. We did multiple passes on the song recording a bunch of sounds that I could chop up and arrange later.
When I got to LA in January, my life was up-ended. A three year relationship ended and I had to figure out a living situation in a new city where I didn’t know many people. I'll reflect a lot on that with some songs down the line, but what I can tell you now is that there was sort of a rededication to music in my life during this time. Something I started thinking a lot about was how love and the building of a domesticated lifestyle might have interfered with me really pushing myself as a musician. So as I was revisiting this song and the line, “Don’t Call Me, Diana,” I wrote around the subject of dismissing love in the pursuit of passion. Here’s the first verse and chorus:
“Welcoming my solitude, I can do this on my own.
But your lips kiss my cheek as I trade my lover for a microphone.
You’re holding out for love.
You’re holding out for me.
You’re getting in the way.
Don’t Call Me, Diana.
You gotta let me go.
You’re coming in too close,
You’re standing in the way.
Don’t Call Me, Diana.”
It’s probably appropriate at this time to point out that this is not how things ended in my last relationship. But this time in my life inspired a lot for the character of this song as I looked at the benefits of my new found solitude and the journey it could lead me on.
Production wise, we had to get a lot more creative with how things got recorded. I live in LA, for the most part, now. Landolt, my co-producer and mixer, lives around Seattle. A bunch of the musicians I normally record with are scattered across Ohio, New York, Vegas, and god knows where else. I sent the song to Jeff Martin who laid down some drums/percussion at his home studio in Ohio. When I was on tour in March, I stopped by Landolt’s for a few days to put the recordings together so he could mix everything. After listening a few times, we decided there were still some elements missing in the song and we brainstormed some ideas for other instruments to be introduced.
I met Alexander Young while I was living in Philly in 2017. We happened to get seats next to each other at the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. After a brief chat, it was revealed that we were both musicians and he had just finished up school for saxophone. Alex and I never were able to collaborate on anything in Philly. I was out on the road with Digisaurus, and when I was back he had hit the road with Durand Jones and the Indicators. But I always hoped our paths would cross again. At the time of recording Diana, Alex had just moved to LA. I was getting very into Clarence Clemons style rock n’ roll sax, so I already hit him up to record on the b-side, “You’re Quite Unremarkable.” But I was also listening to this song called "Bones" by a band named Crumb that had a more psychedelic sax with tons of delay. I thought that maybe that could work well on Diana.
I was back living in a garage in Venice Beach when I got off the road this past April, and I decided to record in there for a couple weeks. I invited Alex over, and I think his sax was the first stuff I had to record live through a microphone in there. It became pretty apparent to me the drawbacks of recording in that space as the neighbor frequently cranked up his table saw and possums scampered over the roof to jump on a nearby orange tree. But we found our moments between the huff and puff of the environment. Some great moments. He knocked everything out in just a few takes as I sat in awe of his musicality. For this song, he opted to use his alto which played well to it’s delicateness.
Landolt mixed everything down at his spot in Washington, and voila. It was done after many phone/e-mail exchanges of notes. This song was formulated with so many forms of communications, in so many spaces, and with so many different people. As i said, this is how the next three songs have been/will be put together too. “Don’t Call Me, Diana” is a different vibe from the previous stuff Digisaurus has released. It’s an evolution. But, despite it’s de-centralized approach, I think it’s got more soul than anything we’ve put out before. Enjoy, and I can’t wait to share the next one with you in a couple of weeks.