PREMIERE: Year of the Dogfish LP and Q&A with Chiara Angelicol of Birdcall
Since its inception in 2009, Chiara Angelicola’s most well-known project Bird Call has lured fans and perked ears from music critics like Under the Radar, who describe Bird Call as "dangerous and romantic, emoting over a bed of cinema-worthy synths like Grimes on downers." Because of the artist’s known propensity towards having a mercurial presence and sound, she is always evolving, yet rooted in a foundation of vulnerable lyrics and a voice that WNYC describes as “direct and impassioned”. Since her 2011 International Songwriting Competition win for “Best Performer” beside pop artist, Kimbra, Angelicola has gone on to share the stage with artists such as Angel Olsen, Empress Of, Kyp Malone’s Rain Machine, Ice Balloons, Donna Lewis and Reptar. In the last decade, Angelicola has released seven EPs and two LPs. Bird Call’s music has been licensed for widespread use and heard on several television networks including Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Fox, and Lifetime.
Bird Call's forthcoming LP, Year of the Dogfish, set to be released November 8th, 2019 is Angelicola's first full-length release since her Will We Get to Mars LP (Zap Records, 2013).
Year of the Dogfish is a collection of songs written by Angelicola between 2016 and 2018, during which Chiara left the Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles after a turbulent break-up with her partner, the loss of her 15-year-old dog, and a long struggle with depression and alcohol. Year of the Dogfish is Angelicola's representation of the complexities of solitude, isolation, loss, recovery, and, ultimately, transcendence. It is her most honest work to date and produced by the artist herself alongside longtime friend, engineer, and mixer Gabriel Galvin of Four Foot Studios in Brooklyn, NY. The album features contributions from former producer Bryan Senti (Mark Ronson, Rufus Wainwright, Feist), Lyenn (Mark Lanegan), and the Budapest Film Orchestra. Mastered by Patrick Brown at Different Fur Studios (San Francisco, CA). All songs are written by Chiara Angelicola. Album Art by Mario Santizo (Guatemala City, Guatemala). Album jacket layout and design by Olivia Hutto Lopez.
Year of the Dogfish - TRACKLISTING
01. Year of the Dogfish
02. False Alarms
03. Cobra Mama
04. Get Better
05. Kindness is a Muscle
07. Fuck It, I Don’t Know
09. Chroma Love
10. Walk in the Park
Chiara Angelicola - vocals, piano, synthesizers
Daniel Foose - upright bass & electric bass guitars
Chris Egan - drums & percussion
Frederic Lyenn Jacques - bouzouki
Bryan Senti - violin & string arrangements
Kirk Schoenherr - electric guitar
Adam Schatz - tenor saxophone
*Get Better features Budapest Film Orchestra
Would you mind introducing yourself and explaining a little about you and what you do?
What an overwhelming thing to answer! Well, I've reflected on my identity as an artist throughout my adult life, and I find that my answer is always evolving. Overall, I have a need for mercurial projects. I've never been one to make one particular type of music or work in one specific medium. During my early creative years, I had, of course, a very sophomoric expectation of myself that I had to stick to sounding a certain way and writing a specific genre of music. That's just not possible for me anymore. Mainly because I have an inherent need to use several mediums as conduits for self-expression. For a period I needed to play with more synthetic music, later I had a strong desire to explore more aggressive sounds in Motel Pools. Now, this latest record as Bird Call is more of a culmination of life experience and a conglomerate album of sorts that I feel best expresses the past few years of self-work and self-unveiling.
Your new LP, Year of the Dogfish is out on Friday, what are some goals you have for the release?
I don't have any expectations of listeners. I think it's the first time in my career that I can say that. Just the other day I posted on Instagram about not honestly knowing who this record was for: myself or you...I think what you'll hear regardless of what you get from it, is an honest story and sound that reflects on the human condition. In terms of promoting, we'll be curating a few shows in NY and LA at the top of the year to promote the release.
What was the recording process like and what challenges have you faced along the way?
The writing process is always an intuitive, slow, and natural experience. I have never forced myself to write a song. I’m grateful for that. I’ll record melodies and chord progressions on piano as they arrive, then revisit them, build on them, transpose them for arrangements, and begin programming the various instruments for demos. As natural as the demo writing process is, I like to have as much written for each song as possible, including potential mix treatments and arrangements before I go in to track the record.
I’ve worked with Gabriel Galvin, my engineer and mixer, since the early days of Bird Call in 2010. Our friendship makes the work we do that much more cohesive and dynamic. His mixing palette and taste is impeccable and we both love the same kinds of sonic textures. He understands who I am as an artist and can convey the story I’m trying to tell very intuitively. Working in his studio creates a really warm and familial experience. His rackmount gear is literally stacked in his kitchen.
What was the inspiration behind the title track Year of the Dogfish music video?
In 2015, I visited the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno in Guatemala City and saw Mario Santizo’s work for the first time. His lithographs captured an inescapability of male loneliness I had never seen before. I contacted Mario soon after in hopes of one day working together. The mask worn in the music video is designed by Mario and is the same mask he cast of his face and wore for his lithographs in 2015. I felt this mask captured an apathy and loneliness we see in American masculinity and the role men play in heteronormative romantic idealism.
I wrote the story for and co-directed the video with Guatemalan film director Renato Melini in Antigua, Guatemala, alongside a whole cast of local artists from Guatemala City. When I wrote the story, I was inspired by the sculptural and regal beauty of Luca Guadagnino's films and cinematography, the stylish nostalgia of Argentinian director Luis Ortega, and, personally, the formalities of familial structure and culture on both my Italian and Guatemalan sides of the family. I wanted to design a story that emphasized the performative, rote, and monotonous gestures partners can take on in intimate relationships. I was able to reflect on my previous longterm relationship and project some of my own performative roles as a heteronormative female partner in the character I play in the video. It seems like quite the age-old story, yet these scripts continue to be played out in interpersonal modernity no matter how progressive one thinks or says they are. It's a true testament to how embedded and deeply rooted these rote behaviors can be within us.
It's been over half a decade since we've seen a full length from Bird Call, how have you grown since then?
Logistically, I was busy writing and recording as Motel Pools from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, I opened up my own business, a small school for creativity in Silver Lake, which I currently run and operate. We did the bulk of tracking for Year of the Dogfish towards the end of 2018 and spent the first half of this year mixing and fine-tuning. Pepper in a little heartache, depression, and recovery from addiction and you have yourself a few years.
I couldn’t have fathomed writing any new Bird Call material between 2013-2017 because that’s not where my head was at. I had just left New York in ‘13 and had reached my industry threshold. I was emotionally exhausted from performing so much in NY and I felt like I needed to put Bird Call down for a while and live in the redwoods of my hometown, Mill Valley, CA. It seemed the most natural thing to work on Motel Pools for that interim period before I moved to LA because I had a lot of pent up energy and resentment towards the music industry. MP was the best conduit for expressing that.
I’ll always make music, just not on anyone’s timeline.
What do you hope for in the future, from yourself and Bird Call?
I only hope I continue to honor the myriad creative needs I have as an artist for the purpose of self-discovery and self-development.