Dessa – “Doomtree - Little Mercy (Live on KEXP)”
Pairs Well With… Heiruspecs, Pete Philly and Perquisite, Astronautalis
We’ve been huge fans of Dessa at OEB for a few years now, both as a solo artist and as an integral element of the group Doomtree. She was one of our The 12 artists we chose to follow for six months after SXSW 2011. Few artists engage their fan base as well as Dessa and the rest of the Doomtree crew do and it makes the music approachable and forms strong admiration in the hearts of their fans. Dessa separates herself from generic bar filling rappers by approaching her songs as a songwriter and storyteller. Her songs touch on life’s hardships over production from the Doomtree producers or a live band, as heard on her newest solo release, “Castor, The Twin.” Since we’ve posted pretty much every solo video Dessa has released over the last few years, check out a KEXP live performance of “Little Mercy” off of last year’s Doomtree album “No Kings.” Dessa is as powerful a performer live as she is on record, check her out if you’re a fan of the more musical side of hip hop.
2012 review: Dessa is a rapper from Doomtree, who has had success recently touring with a live band made up of Minneapolis musicians playing reworked songs from her last release. She released these reworked tracks with one new track “The Beekeeper” from her follow up to her poetic first album, A Badly Broken Code.
We’ve reached out to the artists we followed as part of “The 12” to have the last word on our project. We asked for words, a video or something out of left field. Dessa shared the note below on the exciting last six months and life on the road.
The Last 6.
Six months ago, I went on my first headlining tour. I brought along a trio of live musicians to serve as my backing band—also a first. I served as tour manager, spending most of our drives in the passenger seat calling promoters to advance the shows, Pricelining hotel rooms, devising a slapdash schedule, and trying to maintain some precarious semblance of professionalism.
On the whole, the band (Sean McPherson, Dustin Kiel, and Joey Van Phillips) was very well received. Critics and show-goers liked the big dynamic changes, from the moments pin-drop moments when Sean soloed on his stand-up bass to the big crescendoes when Joey beat the shit out of his drum kit. And I scored double: I got the brilliant arrangements of the Doomtree producers and the brilliant musicianship of a live group, capable of reading and engaging the crowd.
I’m writing now from the passenger seat of the same van, on my second headlining tour. This time we’re headed east. Materially, not much has changed: the five of us in the touring party spent last night in a shared hotel room, air beds occupying much of the floor space. We’re playing small rooms, and I’m still calling the promoters before the shows to figure out where we can park and how I can get us all fed. But it feels different. On our last run, we proved that the band format could work—and there were a lot of skeptics. The folks who book shows, who have real skin in the game, were concerned that we couldn’t draw as a live group playing in rooms that could accommodate our set up. But listeners from around the country came, gave us our audition, and helped us prove that we could succeed in a new arena. This wouldn’t have been impossible without grassroots support from fans, bloggers, and friends calling far-away friends to help spread news of the tour. In this industry there’s a lot of pressure for artists to stay the course or to make distinct transitions. But for an artist who wants to try and expand, it can feel like a tough sell. The support of the listeners who come to our shows, who buy instead of download, who play our music in their dorm rooms, cubicles, and cars—it’s their support that allows us to take risks as artists, beholden to one, and answering only to our own standards of excellence. Thank you. Looking forward the next 6.
Dessa is on tour now, dates below.
November 11. Philadelphia. Tin Angel. Tickets.
November 12. NYC. Joe’s Pub. Tickets.
November 14. Cambridge, MA. Middle East. Tickets.
November 16. Cleveland. Beachland Tavern. Tickets.
November 17. Detroit. Magic Stick Lounge. Tickets
November 18. Chicago. Apple Store Lincoln Park. Free
November 20. Mankato, MN. Verizon Wireless Center Ballroom. Tickets.
The six months since we began The 12 project has been a great time to capture Dessa’s rise as a solo artist. Her first tour, as you’ll see from her letter, was so successful the band is hitting the road again, now in support of the album Castor, The Twin. Castor is made up of a reworking of existing songs and has one new offering, The Beekeeper. The risk in reworking songs is not bringing anything new and having fans feel cheated; this is not the case with Castor. The band breathes new life into the older songs and makes each a new experience. The growth of solo acts enlisting bands as they mature and prosper is an exciting trend in the evolution of hip hop. While the Roots set the standard, it is exciting to see independent artists like Dessa and others expand their sound to include instruments not usually found on stage at a hip hop show.
On a personal note Dessa’s music and career are an inspiration, her focus and development is evident in every new offering. The writing of her potential has been on the wall since the False Hopes EP but the last two years have really been a watershed moment for the lone female member of Doomtree. Coming off of the proper freshman album A Badly Broken Code and with the release of Castor, The Twin fans have had the opportunity to see a transformation from wordsmith rapper into a legitimate musical force. While Dessa’s recorded work is great, her presence on stage and heartfelt delivery show that she is improving as a performer as much as she is as a musician. Her sets at last year’s SXSW, both solo and with the Doomtree collective, at Flamingo Cantina made for an amazing night.
I was certainly a fan prior to SXSW and watching her progress over the last year has made Dessa one of my favorite musicians working today. Her success and the success of Doomtree is no fluke, these guys are one of the best independent labels out there. They seem to have perfected being both a business and artists. Their work on reaching out online is evident, and they make it very easy to become an informed fan. Doomtree has absolutely embraced available technologies for getting their music out there, be it bandcamp, Soundcloud, through Doomtree.net, and through more traditional channels. “No Kings” out November 22, 2011, is already generating buzz and by all indications appears to be one of the top hip hop releases of 2011. It’s rare to see such talented artists be such a tight unit, especially in hip hop.
As we prepare for this year’s SXSW I can only hope to find another artist whose music and passion push me to share their work with Operation Every Band’s readers the way Dessa’s has. Thank you to her and to the readers who have followed Operation Every Band’s The 12.
Note: Castor, the Twin is a re-instrumentation of songs from “False Hopes” and “A Badly Broken Code.” “The Beekeeper” is the only new song and is the first song from Dessa’s upcoming album, due out in 2012. (thanks Matt)
Stream the album:
As of this morning, two of the top three sessions on Daytrotter are held down by artists we’re following as part of “The 12”. The Civil Wars and James Vincent McMorrow’s sets were both added to the site in the last two weeks and have been popular downloads ever since. The takes are intimate and raw from both acts, a trend among bands that record in Sean Moeller’s Rock Island, Illinois barn/studio. The sets feature some nice unreleased tracks as well, capturing The Civil Wars’ “Disarm” cover and “Oh Henry” as well as McMorrow B-Sides “Red Dust” and “We Are Ghosts”. Daytrotter has recorded hundreds of sessions over the last five years, now posting at least one new session everyday. The site’s focus on new and unique musical content to the online listening landscape has set the benchmark for any new music blog or service. Not only that, but they also provide a great forum for independent artists to display their songs to a wider international audience. To prove their reach, Daytrotter has recorded sessions with an astonishing nine of the artists in “The 12”, from hip hop artist Dessa to the fuzz-rockers Yuck to the orchestral folk of Lost in the Trees. We’ve compiled all of “The 12” Daytrotter sessions below (see more by click on the “Read More” button), which are freely downloadable directly from Daytrotter’s website.
Birds of a Feather, Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins), C’est La Mort, Oh Henry
This Old Dark Machine, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree, Red Dust, We Are Ghosts
So Dessa sent out a ‘secret’ announcement Monday to the Doomtree mailing list and we’ve been itching to share it here on Operationeveryband.com but waited until the information went public on Doomtree.net. Why? Because we are part of the “airtight superforce of true believers, who would resort to the cyanide capsules in the linings of their jackets rather than share exclusive content.”* You can join this superforce by visiting http://www.doomtree.net and going to the bottom right corner of the site.
The announcement below posted today on Doomtree.net…
TUESDAYS WITH DESSA.
POSTED BY DESSA ON AUGUST 16, 2011
Well helloooo there! This is Dessa writing to bid you a very Good Morning!
Okay, first things first: Lazerbeak is just fine. He is safe and he is comfortable and he is breathing easily through the tape. And now I am here. To hijack his blog.
Welcome to Tuesdays with
Today I am announcing the details of my new project, Castor, The Twin. Those of you who subscribe to the Doomtree mailing list received this news yesterday. (And, on the whole, you were pretty good keepers of secrets. #cyanide.) From here on out, Doomtree will be sharing news and music with the mailing list before we take it to the wider world. If you’re inclined, you can sign up at the bottom right-hand corner of the (Doomtree.net) page.
Now, without further ado:
Castor, The Twin drops on October 4th, with a release show on October 28th. There are 11 tracks: 10 are ambitious rearrangements of previously released songs, the other is an advance single from my next full-length project.
Those of you who’ve attended a live show in the past year know that I’ve been performing with a pretty killer live trio. Sean McPherson plays bass, Dustin Kiel plays keys and guitar, and Joey Van Phillips plays drums. Whenever we can, we corral Aby Wolf to sing too. The album owes a lot to the musicianship and imaginations of these performers. We recorded the project exclusively with live players–no programmed stuff this time around–and it leans towards a classical sound. The instrumentation involves stand-up bass, grand piano, timpani, vibraphone, mandolin, and viola.
The album title references the twin brothers Castor and Pollux of Roman mythology (the pair of bright stars in the Gemini constellation). Pollux was part god, a fighter with metal hands. Castor was the mortal of the pair, but the two were inseparable. I was drawn to Castor and Pollux because I liked the idea that each song on the album was the human twin of the more aggressive compositions that had been released on other projects.
Every Doomtree album is something of a collaborative effort, but special thanks are owed this time around to the producers who allowed me to reinterpret their arrangements: Paper Tiger, Marshall Larada, Lazerbeak and Cecil Otter.
You can listen to the Castor version of “Palace,” originally produced by Paper Tiger, HERE.
We’ll be announcing the pre-order for record soon. If you invest $13 in a ROTH account now, you should have the $10 you need by next week.
In the meantime, I’ll be performing my last show of the summer this Saturday at the West Bank Music Festival. It’s an outdoor street fair on Cedar Avenue–reminiscent of the Cedarfest from the days of yore. You can check out the full line up HERE, though I think I’ll take stage at 8:30 as opposed to the 9 pm listed.
Many thanks for your for your time and attention.
Be assured that Lazerbeak will return in his full glory next Tuesday.
This album sounds like it will be a cool release and we at OEB are looking forward to it as well as the full length of all new material set to drop next year. The album art is above and the tracklist is:
4. The Chaconne
5. Into The Spin
6. Dixon’s Girl
7. The Crow
10. Mineshaft 2
11. The Beekeeper
“The Beekeeper” will be the first single off of Dessa’s 2012 full length album.
*Join the mailing list…