Switching on Lamp Lit Prose, with the help of featured guests, Syd, Amber Mark, Haim, Rostam, Robin Pecknold, and Dear Nora; Dave Longstreth brings light and colour back into Dirty Projectors. Released last week, it is a chaotic conversation, an explosion of energy following 2017’s self-titled, lonesome release. He explains the flow on process of composing the album, attempting to capture the polarities of human experience, the joy of being back on stage, the repetition of Dirty Projectors cover artwork, and the honour of working with so many esteemed musicians. EMMA STOKES reports.

Congratulations. Your album Lamp Lit Prose is out now, how are you feeling about it?

I’m feeling good about it. I’ve been working super hard on it, and having a bunch of fun with these ideas, bringing them into reality. We’ve been out on the road for about a month now, and it’s been amazing. It’s going super well. I think I forgot how fun it was to play live. It’s really nice to be back out there playing shows.

I really like this album, it’s very chaotic, it seems restless. Can you explain that manic energy? What kind of a moment in time has this come from for you?

Yeah, it’s funny that you hear that. That’s sort of been the headspace I’ve been in. I built the studio in L.A. after moving there a little over three years ago, and I’ve just been writing tons of music and recording and arranging, and kind of exploding ideas and energy. I think this is the music that’s coming out of that.

I think it’s great, it is especially energetic…

That’s a big compliment, thank you…

You’ve got a lot of features on Lamp Lit Prose. You’re the kind of artist I think who seems to enjoy bouncing off other people. That could account for the energetic nature of this. Why’d you choose to have so many people involved in this album in particular?

I started making this album right on the heel of finishing the self-titled Dirty Projectors album that came out last year. I never wanted to tour on the end of that record, so I just kept on going in the studio. The first part of writing this album was pretty similar to making that one. Working with my drummer, Mike Johnson, and my favourite percussionist in the world, Nat Baldwin in the rhythm section with the beats and what-not, and as I was starting to put down the vocals it was just me in the studio. I was looking back and realising these songs felt like they wanted to be more of a conversation, not a monologue. That’s when I was like, well I should reach out to people whose music I love and whose voices I love and that ended up being a combination of really old friends and newer artists who I didn’t know personally but whose music has been really inspiring to me lately.

That’s amazing that you can just reach out to people and say, “hey, be in my song!” …

I know, I was just gonna say it’s really cool to have Robin from Fleet Foxes and Rostam (formally of Vampire Weekend) sing with me on You’re The One, you know, it’s such a privilege and an honour to have Syd, and Amber Mark, and Empress Of, and others, on this album, because theirs is the music that I’ve been the most inspired by in the last year or two. That they would be down to just jump onto these tracks is… I feel honoured.

Were there any unexpected challenges with having so many different creative minds coming together on one cohesive thing?

Umm, to be honest it was pretty effortless. I know what you mean but it kinda worked out.

I’m really interested to hear about the artwork. Who did it and why did you choose them?

Well I’ve used these shapes with red and blue on a bunch of prior albums. Actually the cover of the self-titled album is a riff on that as well, but it’s just drained of colour and made of a black plexi-glass mirror. This time I just wanted to do it in glass, and have it really vibrant and dimensional, and beautiful and colourful, so I found this glass blower in L.A. named Joe Cariarti, and we worked together on the different styles that you can use to blow glass to find our way towards this method. He blew those, and then my good friend Jason Rothenberg who is an incredible photographer did the photograph. He and I and some friends worked out a way of shooting it on linen with the flowers and everything, so it came together well.

I really like it, I’m interested in the linking all the artworks together. Is there a particular symbolism in the blue and red formation?

I think what appeals to me about it is that it seems to change for me over time, it’s a little bit elusive. At one time in my life it seems to mean one thing, and then at a different time it means something different altogether. I think that’s why I’m continually drawn to working with it.

What do you think it means at the moment for you?

I think something about balance maybe, or symmetry, or a sense of flow. That sounds pretty vague but I almost relate it to the last song on the album I Wanna Feel It All, almost like trying to get the whole range of a life. The whole range of human experience – hope and despair, optimism and pessimism, failure, success, regarding it all as a circle.

How are you feeling about this as a follow up to your last release? Was it daunting in any way to write something to follow a self-titled release? Or is it more like as you said before that this is more a continuation of Dirty Projectors (2017).

Yeah it just feels like a flow right now. I took a little bit of a break from thinking about Dirty Projectors after the touring on Swing Lo Magellan. I was ready to get some different life experience and approach music in a different way. A lot of the collaborations that I had the chance to be a part of in that period like with Solange and Kanye and Bombino – the West African guitarist – that was a great, necessary experience for me to wear a different hat in the room. I think I came away from those collaborations with a vague sense that the next thing I was going to do could outline the poles of a very wide spectrum of experience. I had one thing that’s very despairing, [about] struggling to find the light, and then another collection that was brighter, sort of the opposite. I think I had that vague structure in my mind of two different records. It felt natural.

So Lamp Lit Prose is kind of like the other side of the Dirty Projectors album, the flip side, or the bright side?

I guess you could kind of see it that way yeah. It’s also its own thing too.