Dan Deacon teams with Domino to gain worldwide support for 'America'
Dan Deacon is many things: an electronic music experimentalist, a contemporary classical composer (with a Carnegie Hall performance under his belt), a film scorer (for Francis Ford Coppola) and an activist. But all his worlds intersect on "America", his third full-length and first for new label Domino due Aug. 28.
The collection uses instruments, both real and synthetic, to create a sonic world as kinetic and varied as a cross-country landscape zooming past a tour bus window, with Deacon providing the commentary. Take first single "True Thrush," a dizzy, indie-pop carnival ride with somber lyrics: "Live the lies you've been sold/As a nightmare unfolds."
"The music is to represent those aspects of America that I love and that I wish would propagate. The lyrics are the parts I hate -- cultural consumerism, rampant exploitation, corporate oligarchies," Deacon says. "Often that pairing creates a juxtaposition that isn't immediately heard in the music-lyrics of frustration over joyous music. The message has to be sought after rather than force-fed to you, which is what I wanted."
It's a duality Deacon replicates in his own career, showing up at an Occupy Wall Street protest on the day of his Carnegie Hall debut (as part of a John Cage tribute), or accepting commissions to write music for certain product commercials, but not others. "He's conscious of his moves and what he chooses to do," Domino's Morgan Lebus says, "but he's not freedom-fighting every time we get on the phone."
Another example: Deacon is his own manager, but while other, less socially conscious artists are going the self-release route, he's comfortable within a traditional label structure.
"I started working with a label back in 2004 [New York-based indie Psychopath]. Even though I could make CD-Rs, they were different from actual jewel-boxed, shrink-wrapped CDs. It was like, 'Whoa, someone thought this was worth $3 to make!'" he says. "I don't know if I was looking at it from a weird, overanalyzing nerd perspective, but it changed things. At some point an investment was made, and I had no capital to make that investment, so it was a risk someone else had to take."
He released the well-received "Spiderman of the Rings" (2007) and "Bromst" (2009) on Washington, D.C.-based Carpark, while starting a relationship with Domino for publishing. He was in such demand for scores, commercials and synchs that, Lebus says, "we worked together a lot."
Finally, in 2011, Deacon made the full move to Domino, mostly "to gain a wider exposure worldwide," he says. "I felt it was time for me to move to a label that could take me outside North America. It was a very hard decision, but I loved the idea of more people hearing my music."
For "America", Domino coordinated an overseas effort incorporating its U.K. and other international offices, including promotional trips and radio and video campaigns. It's already born fruit: "True Thrush" is getting airplay on the BBC's influential Radio 1. "This can certainly be attributed to the song being great, as well as the fact that no one ever pitched Dan's music to Radio 1 previously," Lebus says.
Deacon will further support those markets on his 54-date international tour, which began Aug. 16 in Missoula, Mont., and includes 10 European dates in September, before ending Nov. 17 at 9:30 Club in D.C. According to the dichotomous Deacon, even the brutal schedule is a beautiful thing.
"Just about every aspect of my career has been surreal and insane and fairytale-like," he says. "It's not like I'm eating grapes on a bed of feathers, but I thought I'd be eating grapes out of the dumpster-and I was for a period of time. I don't make the most insane music, but not the most mainstream either. So all of these opportunities are great."