Top image: photography by Jorge Gonzalez.
Our society gets off on labelling every product, brand, relationship and band. To be typecast and pigeonholed into a narrative created by someone else is something musician Haley Dahl is consciously avoiding, having formed Sloppy Jane in 2014 as a multi-layered music project between friends who wanted to manipulate boundaries and crush preconceptions.
Now, 2018 is bringing in a new horizon following Dahl’s decision to pack up and move from LA to New York. With new sights in tow and a constantly fluctuating band that includes everything from choir vocals to xylophone, saxophone kazoo, television sets, slide whistle and many more, Dahl is ready to push sonic walls to the point of collapse.
And the proof is in the debut record, Willow. A brilliantly ambitious and visceral piece of work, the ten-track LP tells the story of a girl named Willow who existed in a strip club in Inglewood and ran away to the Mojave desert to hustle pool with a lion only to ultimately be burned alive for her sins and buried at sea alongside her best friend. “[It’s a] work of nonfiction, and if consumed correctly will take the listener through a journey,” Dahl tells us below.
Lucy Pogoriler: Tell me a little bit about the record and the video for Kitchen Store.
Hayley Dahl: Our record tells the story of a girl named Willow who existed in a strip club in Inglewood, ran away to the Mojave desert to hustle pool with a lion, and ultimately burned alive for her sins and buried at sea alongside her best friend. This video is a part of a four-part (or ten-part, or infinitely long) series of videos done by Mika Lungulov-Klotz. It is the most literal representation of the story that I am telling with the record. Both the song and the video carry an intentional sense of heavy nothingness that requires more attention to absorb than something extraordinarily stimulating. To get the full effect, listen to the record in order up until this song, and watch without blinking or changing the channel, even if you feel that it is beginning to drag. That feeling, of continuing to sit and watch and listen, is part of the whole thing.
LP: Your new album is based on the fictitious character of Willow. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
HD: I explore a lot of different themes that I feel can apply to everyone, from entering the workplace to coming-of-age. This record leaves you with an intimate impression which is sort of a timeline of my life.
LP: The song Potassium covers the blurry line of exploitation.
HD: It’s something that I think everyone deals with, to a certain degree, giving or receiving any kind of physical contact – even just eye contact or whatever – that implies intimacy, but everybody who’s there knows that it’s obligated. Take the line: “She loved me/It was written on her face or maybe her lips were smiling that way”. So that applies to shows, clubs, advertising… so many things.
LP: There’s an experimental element to some of the tracks where there’s laughing, screaming and monologues, what made you include these sounds?
HD: It’s this feeling that I’m trying to induce in people that is indescribable really… that’s why I wrote a record, you know. If I could just describe what the record was about or what I wanted people to understand then I wouldn’t have had to write it. It’s like when you have a really terrible stomachache, and everyone has stomachaches, but when you have one yours is the worst and you need somebody to feel it. Similar to when you’re a little kid and you’re trying to convince your parents to let you stay home and that you’re sick and you wish for just two seconds you could transfer your stomach to them so they could know how much pain you’re in. But of course that’s impossible. That’s why making music is great because your trying over and over again. Creating the perfect combination of sounds or visuals or movements that’ll make someone who is consuming it seal the stomach and we’ll get to go home. And then you can go home.
“To get the full effect, listen to the record in order up until this song, and watch without blinking or changing the channel, even if you feel that it is beginning to drag.”
LP: You styled and choreographed the video for La Cluster tell me the idea behind it.
HD: Yeah, it was my first time doing choreography. It was a lot of fun. On the record La cluster falls between the songs, Where’s my wife and Peroxide Beach. It’s in the second half of the record and it’s sort of a breath after a lot of heaviness. I think that the heaviest part of the record is sort of the centre of it. La Cluster is supposed to be some kind of technicolor dream sequence. The idea came from a couple of places, there’s one scene in my favourite movie The 5000 fingers of Dr. T, a crazy live action film from the 50s, which has a ten minute dance orchestra sequence. I won’t give it away because I think everyone should watch it but the costumes and settings are impeccable. I was standing on the train and I saw this decked out woman who had headphones in and was doing this contained cha-cha dance like she was obviously going over something very intricate in her head. I actually didn’t want to be in the video, I got her number on the train and was like I want you to star in my video and she was into it and then she blocked me! [Laughs]
LP: Being that this song is ‘a breathe’ it allows many vulnerabilities to arise.
HD: This song is a song that I essentially wanted to write for someone and finally could. I was trying to write this big schmaltzy song that was explaining and apologising to somebody and explaining that even though things had gone wrong, it didn’t ruin the image that somebody once had. There was this whole song I was trying to write but I wasn’t able to comfortably find the vulnerabilities to write a song like that. So instead it’s a beautiful instrumental that tears itself apart. It takes going through enough stuff to exhaust yourself in order to be able to just say one honest thing comfortably. So that is what is demonstrated through the story and choreography.
“I got her number on the train and was like I want you to star in my video and she was into it and then she blocked me! [Laughs]”
LP: How do you feel about your current status in the DIY scene?
HD: I’ve been a big champion of DIY for a long time, but with the direction the band is going I think it’s over for us. I don’t like not being taken seriously by people who are running spaces when I tell them the sound qualifications this project needs. There are some great spaces that I am spoiled with that have great sound like The Glove in New York, but there’s a major difference in sound when you have a four-piece punk band and a nine-piece band with violins, flutes, horns, and a bunch of DIs with seven microphones. It tends to sound like mud. All my time and money is going into making this sound stellar, we practice everyday and don’t want to be known just for screaming and jumping around naked.
LP: Your band tends to get put into the performance art category because of your act on stage.
HD: I think it’s wild. We have a performative element or whatever but I think that we abandon ourselves before we get on stage. All of a sudden it’s super crazy that I would have a thing on stage, but historically everyone has a thing. It just feels like I’m doing my job. I think as artists and musicians our job is to try to force the world to grow and that there’s room for people to be doing bigger stuff. It’s easy to get lost in the stream, you know. Maybe it’s not quite happening, but it’s more about what you are doing to make it happen that creates this continuous movement. You’ve just got to keep going and going and going and going and going and going!
The band will play at Queen of the Scene Northside Showcase in Sunnyvale on 7th June.