It’s great being among the first to write about an artist. You get to sound like you’re cool and down with the scene, whether or not this is actually true. You get to interview them in person, and maybe even hang out. But most of all, you can make obvious puns with the band name before everyone else does. Such is the case with 2004 Shindig winners Dandi Wind. Hot on the heels of releasing their new EP Bait the Traps, I was able to indulge in all of the aforementioned perks. Dear reader, bear with me as together we ride the torrential force of… Dandi Wind! (Ahem.)
A Dandi Wind performance is an unforgettable event. Szam Findlay is dapper and reserved in a dark suit, competently manipulating his Korg and sequencer while contributing occasional back-up vocals. Physically and stylistically somewhere between Bjork, PJ Harvey and Peaches, enrapturing vocalist Dandilion Schlase dances, shrieks and flails, each performance an impassioned, cathartic labor of love. Both band members come with a history in theatre, and it shows.
On record, the music holds its own even without the consummate show. Made “with a few unpopular decade old synths, a single mic and a monophonic Pentium 2 soundcard,” Bait the Traps fuses industrial, IDM and rock, striking a satisfying balance between unpredictable rhythms and delicious melodies. Dandi’s vocal style flies above it all, reminiscent of ‘80s new wave greats like Lene Lovich, Kath Bush or Lora Logic.
At this point in their career, Szam and Dandi are still obliging enough to invite a humble local writer into their private digs in the north-east of Vancouver. Dressed in a one-piece ‘80s short-suit number, Dandi ushered me graciously into a spacious studio. I was impressed to note that her wild on-stage steez is not a stretch from her everyday loungewear. The live/work space was stuffed with their tools of one of their many trades: selling clothing on the internet. While we chatted they jumped up more than once to show me items of interest, ranging from a set of buttons about eating meat (Szam: “Here’s a really cool one: It’s two people with aerobics outfits on, and the guy’s holding a tray. He’s putting a fork of meat in her mouth! Its totally new wave.”), to Dandi’s current sculptures (gleefully ghoulish heads, self-contained in glass-topped wooden boxes), to Lene Lovich’s 1978 record Stateless.
As we talked, Dandi Wind revealed an industrial aesthetic. Vancouver electronic-rock greats Skinny Puppy came up more than once, as did plans for a “Ministry-inspired” record after their upcoming full-length release. While their music strikes a balance between heavy and dance, Dandi Wind’s lyrics reveal an underlying darkness. Szam told me that, “We have some songs that are political, but only in the sense of day to day life inspiring us to feel something politically.” Of course, the sights and sounds of life in Vancouver’s eastern harbor can be depressing. From their new EP, “O Todo o Dia,” depicts the suffering of low-wage laborers, and “Ms. 45” describes a sex worker killing her clients (“Thanks for letting me fulfill a dream / Watching you beg is such a scream / I’ve always wanted to use my crossbow / To kill a john like you driving by real slow.”)
While Dandi Wind may be newcomers to the local live scene, they are old hands in the world of art and creativity. Szam has been playing piano and writing music since childhood. As he told me, “I’ve always been creative, but it’s not hereditary. My parents don’t even like music. They put me in piano lessons. I did ice-skating, I did swimming, and none of them had any influence on me, but I liked piano. I hated the lessons, I hate playing transcribed music, but I enjoyed making noise.”
According to Dandi, “I had an alternative childhood, and worked on lots of stuff with my dad.” Like her father, Dandi’s first and eternal love is sculpture. While she studied at Emily Carr, Dandi created a series of elaborate sculptures to accompany Szam’s music. They were photographed and included as the artwork for his 2001 release, Die Hautfabrik, (translation: “Skin Factory”) released on UK-based Resonant Recordings.
Following the record’s UK release, the BBC’s Colin Buttimer wrote a lengthy and poetic review: “Melodies appear to be always on the edge of nightmare: as the Golem escapes the rabbi’s servitude to spread fear and chaos, so does Szam Findlay’s music threaten to run amok into dischord. The photographs on the CD booklet appear to capture inbred plantlife, effigies erected by superstitious peasants far from big city ‘civilization’, folk memories of the victims of natural but inexplicable disasters.” The album received attention from The Wire, All Music Guide and Muzik, but not much local coverage. While the response may have been disappointing, Die Hautfabrik firmly established Szam’s solid musicianship.
The current EP is a teaser for the upcoming full-length, which will contain other songs recorded at the same time, as well as several videos. The film for “Another Side Effect” on Bait the Traps features Dandi in one of her trademark leotards stumbling through an alleyway, eventually collapsing, vomiting blood. We can only imagine what the future will hold! Other long-term plans include “an album of synth covers of Canadian pop songs, from Skinny Puppy and then more and more obscure from there.” Dandi mentioned an album made with all hand-made instruments, and more collaboration with other musicians.
In the very near future, I predict tours, record sales, and many more articles about this fledgling band. I also predict that they will get very tired of articles titled with lame-ass puns (“The Dandi is Blowin’ in the Wind,” etc.). D
Do yourself a favor and check out their website, www.dandiwind.com, for glorious photos of Dandi and snippets of their music.