Dally elucidates new album ‘Vagrant Vista’
By CJ Sommerfeld, Staff Writer
“It is not as if you really write ten songs in a day, rather it is as if you have been writing thousands of songs your whole life” – Paul Dally
Last week I wrote a piece about Paul Dally in an attempt to uncover the evolution of his sound. Endless adjectives can be used to describe such, as with new album—Vagrant Vista—which came out on November 13. The Other Press grasped an email interview with Dally to lay bare the content of the album.
Other Press: How did the title of your album, Vagrant Vista, come to be? What does its cover art represent?
Paul Dally: “I am attracted to different words and images from time to time and I take notes regularly. Storytelling is kind of like collecting. While driving, I lookout for roadside crosses. Sometimes they are expressly religious and other times they are like folk art installations, an homage in any case. The role of the cross in American ritual is vast and divergent. Theresa Escobedo illustrated the cover. I had seen some illustrations online that she had done in blue ballpoint pen on handkerchiefs. I like how her illustration on the cover functions as a simple, beautiful image without obvious semiotic intention. While relating to the song “Roadside Crosses,”one doesn’t really know what to make of the cover until they listen. In that respect, the cover represents a human question that is further explored on the album in song.”
OP: What adjectives would you use to describe this album’s sound?
PD: “Ultramarine, melancholy, pretty, greasy, lush, notched, gliding… ”
OP: What has contributed to the evolution of your sound from your earlier days till present?
OP: What is “hitting the jackpot” a metaphor for in the track “Jackpot”?
PD: “‘Jackpot’ is a song about a character who genuinely wants to be very wealthy without having to earn it, supposedly, just to experience what that feels like. Whether they determine this is a worthwhile pursuit or desire is up to the listener. So, in this sense, it is a satire of the seemingly ubiquitous pursuit of capital in the name of survival, when we all know that Joe Blow is more thrilled by decadence than homeostasis. Perhaps it is ultimately a query into sources of persuasion.”
OP: In your Vagrant Vista essay, you briefly touched on the passing of John Prine and how he had influenced two of the songs on your new album. Would you be able to elaborate on that?
PD: “The morning after John Prine died, I felt as if I was consumed by his spirit, not in a biblical sense, but rather a selfish distortion benefitting the generation of work. Sometimes songs will just come to you. It is not as if you really write ten songs in a day, rather it is as if you have been writing thousands of songs your whole life and sometimes there is a traffic jam when they arrive. John Prine’s songs are beautiful and smart. His linguistic diversity enriches the truth and impact of a given sensation or story. ‘Kimmy Rolla’ and ‘Rest & Relaxation’were both written, for the most part, on April 8.”
OP: Who are some of your musical inspirations? Who do you listen to on your own time?
PD: “I listen to a lot of old country and top 40 radio, otherwise it is Lucinda Williams and Nina Simone.”
OP: Lastly, I’m so interested in “Skin,” can you elaborate a bit about where the song came from?
PD: “‘Skin’ is an old song. The earliest I could find it in my emails was 2008, but I might have written it before then by hand. ‘Skin’ began with the image of blood brothers, a ritual in which two friends prick or cut themselves and mix their blood. I think there is something to be found in middle-of-the-road, gruesome innocence. From this beginning the song explores the fears related to innocence, or loss of innocence, and the gruesomeness of reality. Furthermore, how the experiences of our youth, the ways we’ve been cut, and the time we have shared, impact our experiences throughout life. At the time, I had recently moved to New York from an island in the Puget Sound and didn’t feel a sense of home. I later came to realize that I probably never would feel at home in that way again; I hadn’t lost a sense of home, rather a sense of youth.”
Dally’s above words add refinement to his already intricate new tunes. Why not give ear to how these thoughts have manifested into melodies by having a listen for yourself?