23 November 2007

Department of Eagles - EAR FARM talks with Daniel Rossen

Department of Eagles is a collaborative effort between Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus. Rossen, also a member of EF favorites Grizzly Bear, handles the singing and guitar while Nicolaus plays assorted instruments and also contributes to the songwriting. That much is clear. Ahh, now comes the difficult part. How to describe the duo? All over the goddamn map is the initial phrase that comes to mind.

Before I bought their 2003 album Whitey on the Moon UK - an album re-released this year and also found under the title The Cold Nose - I had a few reservations based on some prior disparate descriptions of DoE's sound. What's it gonna be music critics? Do they sound like Randy Newman or the Streets? Beck or Portishead? How can it be ALL of the above?

I'm admittedly more of a fan of cohesive statements by artists, or at the very least a cohesive sound, and so often times the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality leaves me a bit cold (nose). And yes, Whitey on the Moon UK (or The Cold Nose) is very schizophrenic in its stylistic choices. Somehow, though, it's crafted in a very seamless way, perhaps due to the consistently casual and playful tone and hazy lo-fidelity production that meanders throughout the album.

Now its probably not fair to make a Grizzly Bear comparison seeing as Rossen and Nicolaus started this band before joining forces with Ed Droste & co., but one thing I couldn't help but notice was how similarly Department of Eagles succeeds in establishing its own mood and environment. Like Yellow House and Horn of Plenty, DoE exists in its own worn-in sonic world, a feat all the more remarkable given that the songs range from barely contained punk romps ("Romo-Goth") to beautiful melancholy love songs ("Sailing By Night") to a hilarious Streets parody ("Forty Dollar Rug").

Why take my word though? Rossen was kind enough to correspond with us and fill in some of the blanks in DoE's semi-cryptic history. I was curious about the band's origins and the rationale behind The Cold Nose.

"If you don't count all the down time we've been some kind of a band for about 7 years," Rossen wrote via email. "Fred and I were roommates our first year of college. The band started as a joke, which accounts for a lot of the trip-hop sounding stuff on Cold Nose. We didn't initially play any instruments or sing, we just made really lo-fi sample collages and 'beats.' It was a geeky parody of west coast abstract hip hop, I think, mostly a game of coming up with the most ridiculous track title or idiotic band persona."

"Oddly, a friend that was starting a label in the spiritual home of obnoxiously abstract hip-hop, Berkeley CA, offered to put out some of our things and get us some free studio time. The few songs that appear on Cold Nose are my first attempts at singing on a recording, or putting any kind of song together in a studio environment. It was a good experience for sure, and though I'm sometimes horrified by the thought of friends or blogs hearing that stuff, it's definitely a fun document of the early early days."

Even more encouraging, Department of Eagles have previewed a few new songs over the past year - including the sublime "No One Does it Like You" - which have gained considerable coverage and acclaim by some of the usual suspects. Does this mean a new album is forthcoming?

"A record will will be done in the next few months I hope, and it may include those songs if they fit in with the rest of it," Rossen said. "We are working on all sorts of new material, a lot of it with Chris from Grizzly Bear. Now that all the touring is done with Yellow House we are kind of branching out a little and relaxing our obligations. There aren't any firm details for release yet, we haven't really decided about that yet."

Very promising. And for those who may have missed it the first time around, La Blogotheque even did a fantastic "Take Away Show" with the duo in Chinatown recently. It turns out that this was actually their first live performance.

"We've always been more about recording and never really played together like other bands do, if that makes sense. That takeaway show we did for Blogotheque is about the closest thing to a real live show we've ever done."

And also probably the closest live thing we'll get from them for now, though Rossen also mentioned to us that he'll be playing some live solo shows over the next year. He even hinted at some sort of Grizzly Bear/DoE joining of forces, stating that "maybe after this next record is done, there will be a great big Grizzly Bear Dept of Eagles orgy and we'll come up with some kind of a live band."

How awesome. Add that to your lists of things you forgot to give thanks for yesterday. In the meantime, enjoy the following goodness, as delicious as reheated stuffing and apple pie:

Video for "Romo-Goth"



La Blogotheque Chinatown "Take Away Show" Part 1




La Blogotheque Chinatown "Take Away" Show Part 2




Listen:
"No One Does it Like You"

Visit Department of Eagles on MySpace.

12 comments:

don said...

When did Grizzly Bear become part of "EF Favorites?"

Anonymous said...

#9...

http://earfarm.blogspot.com/2006/12/ear-farms-top-15-albums-of-2006-and.html

don said...

Oh. I'm sorry. I was projecting.

Anonymous said...

listen to the song Get Back, sounds like similar influences

http://myspace.com/thefling

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