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Last fall, Berlin-based neo-folk artist Rowan Coupland released Circuit, an album that caught our attention from across the big pond. Leo Yamanaka-Leclerc reviewed it for Discorder’s Winter Issue, remarking, “Rowan’s lyricism often captures beautiful portraits of the minutiae of life.” As it turns out, this statement wasn’t just metaphor.

Circuit comes with a limited-edition art book of 11 original illustrations by Vancouver artist, Eva Dominelli. She, quite literally, drew the portraits of the minutiae of life which Rowan so beautifully sings about. The booklet is the result of an intensive year of long-distance collaboration between Eva and Rowan, who met in 2011 through an artist/writer collective in Vancouver.

The book was printed with risograph, a process in which layers of ink actually sit on top of the paper to create texture in the drawings. The object itself — soft pages with rigid creases of ink, whimsical drawings in Eva’s signature style, and messy and scribbled song lyrics — could be seen as a manifestation of the layers of collaboration between Eva and Rowan. Every song was developed visually through the sharing of emails, Skype conversations, creativity and trust.

Discorder recently borrowed some of Eva’s time to discuss this process of collaboration, and the art book that resulted.

With you in Vancouver and Rowan in Berlin, what was it like collaborating long-distance?

It was tricky because of the time difference. We did mostly Skype and some email. I would write these big emails for Rowan with all the sketches, and then wait to get his feedback and he would have to reply and wait for my response. And then, we would do chats where it would be early in the day for me and very late for him. The whole process took a little over one year because of that. It was a very prolonged, almost broken process. At times, it felt like I was chatting with an abstraction.

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That sounds creatively exhausting.

It’s hard to riff off someone when they’re not in the room. So, yeah, it was a bit creatively exhausting. When I would be excited, Rowan would be sleeping or at work or busy, and then when he was excited or motivated, I would be busy. It was a little exhausting, but it wasn’t hard; it was easy when we were talking about things.

I find it interesting, that idea of completing a commission between two competing worlds: the Skype conversations with Rowan, versus the music itself. Did you ever feel like you were working with multiple people?

I didn’t really think about it that way at the time. […] I got to interact with [the songs] on my own and interpret them myself, and then I would talk to Rowan — both in writing and through Skype — and he would have a different interpretation. In a way, it was like talking with myself, his music, and then Rowan as a person, which is the exciting and confusing part about collaboration.

I sometimes envy musicians, because they get to create and perform in a space with multiple people. As a visual artist, as someone quite introverted, I spend a lot of time alone — which I like — but sometimes I crave other people. So, working with music and working with someone on a project, that was really exciting for me. I pulled out of myself a bit, to interact [with Rowan] on that level.

Some of your visuals are really precise. I am thinking of the drawing for “Riding,” with the horse [above], that seems as if it is passing through or frozen between walls, and lamp posts in the distance. Using that image as an example, what was your process for collaborating with Rowan on specific imagery?

Some of them were more of Rowan’s creations, some were more mine. A lot of them were both of us, bouncing ideas back and forth. [For the illustration with the horse,] I remember Rowan specifically spoke of lamp posts that were in the Belleville area of Paris, if I’m not mistaken. So I drew those lamp posts, but they didn’t seem quite right; they felt too ornate. And then I had to go back and say: “I like to draw lamp posts this way,” and he said, “Yeah, that’s great.” But aside from the lamp post, I think I remember having a clear visual of that one in my head, in response to his conceptualisation of the song, and just bringing it to him.

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Many musicians don’t want their songs to have clear interpretations and meanings. But through illustrating Circuit, you are obviously in a position to insert imagery into the listener’s mind. Did you feel that pressure while creating the booklet?

I felt really honoured when Rowan asked me to work on this book with him. I felt an immense amount of trust from him to ask me to do that. It was a lot of pressure. I felt a responsibility to render it in a way that Rowan felt spoke to what was going on internally for him, and what those songs were about. Then, at the same time, you have to sort of let that go a bit, and understand that illustrations will demand their own life and voice.

Rowan has one song that’s very personal for him, about his Canadian uncle. That song was the hardest for us to find visuals for. We ended up just drawing a few vegetables, and not trying to represent the idea or the concept or the feeling of the song through any kind of metaphor or complex visual, so that the song can speak for itself.

As an artist responding to Circuit, you’ve spent a lot of time with this album, and I’m sure you’ve developed an intimate connection with the material. In your opinion, from your own perspective and not Rowan’s, what is this album about?

For me, Circuit is largely about the nature of the collaboration, and making an album into a visceral experience. With the rise of digital downloads, we still have album covers, we still relate images to albums, but I feel like that tactile interaction that people used to have with buying a record and CD, and flipping through the booklet, has been lost a bit. And so for me, it was about interacting with the songs in a physical, visual way. That was stronger for me than the concept of the album. In the same way that the album’s concept and songs were Rowan’s responsibility, the visuals felt like mine.

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To browse more images from the Circuit booklet and purchase your own, limited edition copy, visit etsy.com/ca/shop/EvaDominelli. Additional illustrations by Eva Dominelli can be found at evadominelli.com. You can listen to Circuit and other albums by Rowan Coupland at rowancoupland.bandcamp.com.

LindaFox1
Late last year, Linda Fox unleashed debut album Leopards Break Into My Heart. Today, we’re excited to premiere the first music video. If you can’t wait, scroll straight down – otherwise, stay and take the long route via a reality-distorting Q&A with collaborator Dave Biddle. 
 
Q: What can you share with us about the making of this video?
 
A: The video started out as documentation for a guided meditation through Stanley Park. Clients were taken on individual motorcycle rides through the park at night in order to be cured of sleeplessness. At the end of each Journey a figure would emerge from out of the trees, transforming the space. The transformation was from a Real_Space to a Virtual_Space. The documentation that we set out to make quickly took on a life of its own. No sooner than we realised that there is a huge market for those in need of MotionActivatedSleepTherapy™ did we come into contact with Linda Fox, who was working on a song utilising sonic subliminal technologies to evoke restorative dreams. From there, we ended up with the most exciting infomercial this side of Y2K.
 
So – big cats, huh?! The flashy leopard motorcycle from your album cover makes an appearance here… is there any continuity between the leopards and the cougar? Do the leopards (that break into your heart) have a place in this story? 
 
YES. Big cats represent the UNIQUE-ABILITY© for chaotic elements of reality to find their way into self-organised, contained systems of order. In other words, anything that makes sense (order) will be corrupted by nonsense (chaos), and there are two ways to handle this fact. One way is to boost security. Ensure that the boundaries around the sensible are impenetrable so that the non-sensible can’t get in, and if it does… it must be killed. The other way is to adapt to the non-sensible, to make it fit within the ordered system into which it’s found its way.
 
Still from “The Divine Invasion”
 
In Kafka’s ‘Leopards Aphorism’ [recited at the start of the video], the leopards, who continually break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels, are eventually incorporated into the ritual. This represents the second of the two approaches above: instead of boosting security to keep the leopards out, the leopards are given meaning within the temple walls.
 
In Stanley Park’s ‘Cougar Story,’ the cougar, who continually breaks into the zoo to drink the blood of goats, is eventually hunted, killed, and put on display in the Stanley Park pavilion. This represents the first approach. Instead of allowing the cougar a place within the boundaries of the park, security measures are taken to maintain its established order.
 
The leopard print motorcycle is a means of transporting chaos through the boundaries of order, it brings forth change when stasis prevails.
 
When did you find out the story of Stanley Park’s last cougar?
 
I discovered this story after reading The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick, wherein two characters travel to an illusory universe (which is the exact one we are in now) and they go to Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. – “the most beautiful place on earth.” While there, they are so inspired by its beauty they attempt to release all the animals from the zoo. The first animal they release is a goat who turns out to be the Devil. After reading that I looked into the history of the park’s zoo, which brought me to the story of the cougar which haunted the caged animals of Stanley Park in 1911. I’d already been applying the leopards aphorism to all aspects of life as a way of examining the relationship between chaos and order, and so when I discovered the story of Stanley Park’s cougar it immediately revealed itself to be the alternative extreme in ChaosManagement™.
 
Still from “The Divine Invasion”
Your music always feels like something of a journey, to me, and this video really takes us on one. Is the experience here the one which you imagine/wish for folk listening to your music?
 
This album is absolute and perfect for so many reasons. One reason is that it corresponds exactly to the dynamic virtual landscape that was created by Lep-E Alternatives™. This virtual landscape is a place of harmony and surrender, where motion is constant and new obstacles arise to meet the precise needs of users in RealTime™. Essentially, what the music of Linda Fox attempts to achieve is an e-scape from the usual sleeplessness that plagues so many of us on a nightly basis; so this album mimics the sub-liminal structure of guided meditations in order to provide a sonic journey away from TheReal. The music of Linda Fox is a journey into TheVirtual.
 
What will happen if I actually email your booking address [given in the video description] for one of these journeys?
 
You will quickly find yourself immersed in a process of SelfTransformation™ that will free you from the shackles of TheReal. In other words, “you will be virtually content.”

The video was directed by David Biddle and David Ehrenreich, with cinematography by David Ehrenreich. Check out more of Ehrenreich’s work via Vimeo or Instagram. Choreography and dance by collaborator Olivia Shaffer. Dana Zamzul is the participant.

“When Leopards Break Into My Heart ®™ they introduce chaos where there was once only peace, and so I’m forced to adapt to their presence and find a place for them in my spirit” – Linda Fox