So tonight, another band from Columbus is out and about playing CMJ Music Marathon – Digisaurus at Fat Baby, in the Lower East Side. Show info here. Digisaurus and St. Lenox have never played a show together, but actually James Allison, of Digisaurus, recorded some early St. Lenox demos a number of years ago (back then under the odd title Columbus Priority Mail). So it was nice to catch up with James again, here in NYC. The music is very dance-able and groove-forward – something that you don’t see that much of in terms of Columbus exports, so it was a nice change of pace hearing their stuff.
st. lenox: So, one phrase you use to describe Digisaurus is “future pop.” It struck me, because maybe about ten years ago, I think musicians were a lot more interested in writing “the new music” and experimenting with trying to create something forward-looking like that. There has been a substantial trend towards putting retro tinges on everything, which I don’t love. What does writing future pop mean to you, in terms of what you are doing with DIgisaurus?
James: I think to me it’s almost intentionally vague. The idea of “future pop” is that it hasn’t been created yet and it’s just one person’s vision of what he or she hopes popular music in the future might sound like. It’s hard to pinpoint what the sound is, but it’s easy to imagine the culture, use of technology, modern techniques and collaboration that goes into that and come up with a vision for the sound. I think any one of our songs could be classified as “pop,” “funk” or “rock” or something more straight-forward. I just think there’s a lot more to them than that and it’s more embedded in the feeling and culture around their creation than the sound.
st. lenox: We worked together, recording some of my initial demos, a number of years ago, if you remember. I imagine you probably have had a lot of musicians come through to record. Does that experience inform the way that you write? Do you write your music with that producer’s ear in your head? Or is writing sort of your opportunity to kind of free yourself from that perspective?
James: Yeah, I remember the experience. I was quite shocked by the power of your voice. I focus so much on how to bring certain talents together to make the sum of them better than just each individual. But it’s always nice when you come across someone who can really hold it down with their own natural ability as a singular entity.
I definitely consider my role in Digisaurus more of a producer. The song-writing is actually a very collaborative experience with a lot of different people and everything just starts with a small idea. A hook, a riff, or something like that. My main responsibility is guiding the ideas through a process and figuring out who should touch it so it turn into the best song it can be. That’s what song-writing is to me now, and I don’t think I could ever approach it in a way where I’d just want one perspective on a song.
st. lenox: It’s apparent that you’ve put a lot of thought into how you present yourself visually. Was that something that was part of the concept of Digisaurus when you started out? Or is that something that developed afterwards?
James: Yeah, it’s been very important to me that the visual aspects of Digisaurus are treated as seriously as the music. Music by itself isn’t as amazing as it was even 10 years ago anymore. There’s just so much of it. But the curation and combination of so many art forms is, and I find that’s what stimulates me. I think the interaction of all these different art forms is 100% necessary for Digisaurus’ music to be consumed with full sincerity.
st. lenox: So, I ask this to every Columbus band that comes into town. What do you think is going on with Columbus music? Where is it headed? What are some of your favorite bands in Columbus now? Is there something that needs to happen to make Columbus a music city? Or do you think that’s not really the right thing to aim at?
James: My opinion of Columbus is there’s amazing talent and there’s good resources to make a record or put on a production. It’s a great home too, but no city is a sustainable environment for an artist by itself. No one’s entitled to anything, but I think for the level of talent in Columbus, it’s under-represented in the national market. There’s just not a whole lot of investment or resources to help get distribution, marketing, publishing, or a tour off the ground like in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville or arguably Austin. That means you have to bust ass and really just get on the road to build it yourself. I think some people have proven to do that very well, but I think for others it’s been a challenge to meet the level of sacrifice required.
It’s not for me to figure out though. I find once I start focusing on these macro economic problems, I get caught up in it and forget about what I’m supposed to be doing. Being a fucking artist and making art. I’m just adding to the problem if I’m not doing that. I know the situation and I just need to get out there if I’m going to live in Columbus and make this work. Bands like Lydia Loveless, Twenty One Pilots, Saintseneca, Saturday Giant, Walk the Moon, etc. are all nailing that right now, and you know what…they’re getting better and better every day too which is the most important thing you can do as an artist.
st. lenox: haha, okay, yes that makes sense.
So, your music has some very deliberate dance elements to it. Is that something you take to be an essential feature of Digisaurus? Is it future dance music? Is that part of the intention behind your music – you want people to dance to it?
James: Yes. I want shows and songs to connect with the audience enough for them to move their bodies. For some reason, that’s always been this ultimate human connection that I want to achieve. It’s a physical response to the music that can be hard to engage, but when it happens it’s cool as fuck.
st. lenox: Are you excited for CMJ? What do you hope to get out of the experience?
James: I am. I grew up around New York and it’s a different animal than any other city. There’s a degree of uncomfortableness that if you can overcome, you know you’re pretty much prepared for anything. This is our 7th show, and 3rd on the road, so I don’t have any wild expectations. But I’m excited to play for a new crowd, see some old friends, and also see some cool ass bands.
st. lenox: What’s next for Digisaurus? Is there an album in the works? Another EP?
James: We’re gearing up to record another batch of songs. I think it’ll end up as an EP. I think it’s still too early for an album, and almost arrogant to expect people to listen to our music for 30+ minutes in a non live setting. We’re still introducing ourselves to people, and I think in the modern era it makes sense to just focus on great singles, and maybe a couple extra songs for really passionate people to check out. I want to prioritize taking a few months to just focus on song-writing right now too. Winter’s coming and that’s a great creative period for me.
st. lenox: sounds good, look forward to it.