Felicia Douglass's Self Design
Chatting with the Dirty Projectors vocalist about the band's latest EP, "Flight Tower."
"There was a point a few years ago where I was like, 'Okay, I feel like I'm in too many bands,'" the musician Felicia Douglass tells GARAGE over a Zoom call in July, laughing. She got her start as a vocalist in the experimental pop act Ava Luna, fronts the rock band Gemma as a vocalist and songwriter, and also performs decadently experimental R&B under her own name. Most recently, she joined the Dirty Projectors as a new vocalist, following the reconfiguration of the band after Amber Coffman left in 2017.
Not long before the pandemic, Felicia entered the studio with the Dirty Projectors to record their new project: a five EP box set to be released this year, each featuring a different member of the band on vocals. The first EP Windows Open featured touring guitarist Maia Friedman on vocals, and on its follow-up, Flight Tower, Douglass takes the lead, with vocals that are smooth, expressive, and searching. GARAGE spoke with Douglass about what it's like to be in so many bands, what she's been listening to during quarantine, and her favorite music streaming platform.
You’re in so many different projects, what is it like writing music with new people right now? What does writing a song look like for you?
Right now, it's all just remote experiments. Every musician, during quarantine, all of a sudden has to be the sound person, crew, set up, and tech. I joke that I've learned how to be a really good sound person, you're like, "Well, now I know what goes into it!" Working with other collaborators is not that different from how I usually write music: people send me instrumentals, I write, and I send something back. With the The Dirty Projectors EPs, we recorded in LA at different times [before quarantine], but working on Flight Tower was cool because it's rare [that the band gets to] write lyrics together in the same room. Usually you jam and make the instrumental, and you're like, "Okay, now I'm going to sit in a room and figure out what I'm going to talk about." It's a solitary thing. [For] the single, “Lose Your Love,” Dave and I sat down like, “I guess we'll just brainstorm and write things down, and then you'll tell me what you wrote and I'll tell you what I wrote. We'll go from there." There's definitely an excitement about that.
What kind of records have you been listening to during quarantine?
I love NNAMDÏ. I don't know how he's making all of this music right now, but I'm not questioning it. He's put out three different units of music, albums, EPs, and they're all so different and so incredible, so he's great. I’ve been listening to Rina Sawayama as well. I heard one of her songs I was like, "Who is this? I need to know everything. This is incredible." I still listen to that album when I'm working out. I'm trying to think of other artists that recently have completely blown me away. The Haim record, I'm a brand new Haim fan. It took me long enough, and I honestly had never checked out any of their music, but the new album is just so well produced and the songs are really solid. I have a tendency when I see music with a lot of buzz, I'm like, "I'll get around to listening to it."
I feel like there was a lull right at the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, with good reason, but I'm happy that people are putting things out again.
Also I feel like music is a form of care in so many ways. Having good music to listen to in extraordinary times feels very essential to me.
Yeah, I feel like it's more important than people realize. I'm really glad that Bandcamp has been stepping up and supporting musicians, and supporting good causes, it's had such a positive reaction, even from non-musicians. I feel like for the first time my non-music friends were like, "What's Bandcamp like? I'm supposed to buy it on there? What do I do?" A lot of people don't think about how musicians make money. They're like, "Yeah, I love your music. I listen to, I have your album saved on Spotify." You're like, "That gives me pennies. Are you kidding?" It's nice that it's had such a wave of those Bandcamp days, it's like Christmas for musicians. You're just like, "Oh my God, tomorrow people are actually going to shop on Bandcamp and it's actually going to make a difference to me."