Q&A: DIANA and Their Unplanned Trip into “Perpetual Surrender”


Since the release of their outstanding debut album, Perpetual Surrender (2013), DIANA has been gradually gaining momentum across the diana-2-smallNorth American indie scene. The collective – Joseph Shabason (keyboards, saxophone), Kieran Adams (drums), Paul Matthew (guitar), and Carmen Elle (vocals) – explore a myriad of intriguing sounds, walking a multi-pronged tightrope that leads to destinations like electro-pop, jazz, ambient, and many others in between.

It’s been a fair amount of time since Perpetual Surrender became an album that Pitchfork reviewed kindly (they almost never do that!) and got indie kids who like to dance, excited.

Riffyou.com recently caught up with Shabason to reflect on what it took to make this album possible.

RY: It was pretty interesting that the full band wasn’t really in place as the recording sessions began for Perpetual Surrender. What do you remember most about that time?

Joseph: “They were great, in that we had never had the time to really experiment in a studio before…it had always been quite rushed. To get to meet Roger (Leavens, producer) and use his studio – without any time limit – we were able to figure what was fun, interesting and good, as well as what worked and what didn’t. It was an amazing experience. But, I also remember us banging our heads against the wall during some serious writing blocks. It was super fun, but also pretty challenging.”

RY: Is it tough to have that unlimited amount of time? I’d imagine that can lead to a lot of over-thinking.

Joseph: “To be honest, it was tough, because it allowed us to indulge in some of our lazier qualities like put things off [and say] ‘oh, we’ll just do that later.’ All of a sudden, Roger was like ‘alright guys, just finish this album.’ Later was soon immediately. When I listen back to the album, I hear those moments that were rushed and I wish that we had more focus at times.”

RY: When you guys found Carmen, obviously you had an idea in mind about who you wanted to translate these songs vocally. What was your first impression of her, and when did you know you wanted her to be a part of DIANA?

Joseph: “My knowledge of Carmen [at first] was very limited, but I’d seen her perform before and thought she had a great voice. She was much younger and always hung around with a different crew of people…even though we had lots of friends in common.

“At that point, we didn’t know what we wanted [in a singer]. We had a bunch of songs, but we didn’t have the right voice. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations before Carmen came into the studio. It was one of those things where you hope for the best. She came into the studio and sang. Instantly, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of ‘okay, we have found the person to make these songs really come alive.’”

RY: Was that a feeling of relief for you? Or was there a feeling that you could really let things fly now?

Joseph: “Both. I was definitely stressing out about not having a singer and having all of this studio time booked. I thought that there was only so far we could take these demos without a vocalist. There was a lot of relief.”

RY: The band sounds very influenced by jazz, pop, and a whole lot of sub genres out there to form this pretty unique sound. Have you been able to define it yet?

Joseph: “No, it’s hard to define what you sound like. I’d always say it is pop music, or electronic pop music. But, I think as soon as you start playing the classification game, you immediately run the risk of pigeonholing yourself…or people expect you to be, whatever. I don’t want to feel like we have to be any one type of sound. I think that’s why I’ve been hesitant to say we sound like this…that prevents us from sounding different.”

-Adam Grant

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