DIANA – The WL14 Interview

Purveyors of: Synthetic seduction
File next to: Roxy Music, Austra, Vangelis, Braids, John Hughes movie soundtracks
Playing next: Night two of WL14 Friday, February 14th @ Adelaide Hall (250 Adelaide St. W.)

DIANA are a Toronto-based four-piece synth-pop supergroup of sorts, whose membership includes Kieran Adams of Bonjay, Joseph Shabason of Destroyer, Carmen Elle of Army Girls and Spiral Beach (!), and Paul Mathew of the Hidden Cameras. Dean Williams caught up with vocalist Carmen Elle to discuss jean shorts, saxophones, acrostic poetry, Bruce Willis, and of course, her band.

Are you seated comfortably? That’s the first question.

No, I am not. I am currently sautéing onions. I’m making breakfast. Comfortably.

Who are DIANA and why do they exist?

DIANA are an electronic pop band, and they exist because four souls combined to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

So, how have the last few weeks been?

They have been blissfully inactive. I am a new woman. I’m wearing jean shorts rights right now. I’ve never felt better in my life.

Would you consider them jorts?

I can only consider them in the context of “never nude” underpants.

Is DIANA an acronym?

Ooh, that’s never been asked. It is not an acronym.

But… could it be?

Umm… Dames In Awesome New Anoraks.

You’re obviously pretty good at working off the cuff. Is that the case with your lyric writing process?

Sometimes. But when it’s a collaborative affair, like with Kieran and Joseph and Paul, generally I’ll just ask them to tell me what the song is about, from their perspective, and I’ll try and create something that falls in line with that. Then when we’re recording it, they’ll tell me things like, “Okay, you’re Bruce Willis. And you’re trapped in an air duct.”

Has that actually happened?

Verbatim. That was something they told me while recording, I think it was… the chorus of “Strange Attraction.” … “You’ve got to get this emotion across.”

Speaking of movies – there are a few tracks on Perpetual Surrender that gave off a bit of a Vangelis / Blade Runner soundtrack vibe. I was curious if that was conscious – or perhaps even a sort of a hat-tip to the mighty Vangelis and his body of work.

I can’t speak for the guys, but for me definitely not, because I’ve never seen Blade Runner.

You’ve never seen Blade Runner?!

I know. It’s something that my father has nearly disowned me over.

Well, this question isn’t going to make a ton of sense. But please answer to the best of your ability. You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise.

Sure I do.

It’s crawling toward you. You reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back, Carmen. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Carmen?

Wait, I flipped the tortoise over? And now I’m not helping it right itself?

Right. Why is that?

Because I just wanted to see it burn.

The saxophone is an often-maligned instrument for being corny, used in love scenes in the ‘80s, etc. First off, is this unfair? Secondly, what are your thoughts on love scenes in the ‘80s? I’m asking for a friend.

I think it’s an unfortunate stigma the saxophone has attached to it. But at the same time, anything done well defies a stereotype. Sometimes I see Joseph playing, and I’m like ‘whhhhaaaaaat?!’ That guy can wail. Regarding ‘80s love scenes… oh my god. Body Heat. Have you seen that?

I haven’t. We’re 0 for 2 here on movies.

It’s great. It’s set in the middle of this heat wave, and this restless young buck meets this married ice-queen woman, and they begin this torrid affair. I mean, the entire movie is basically this one gigantic sex scene, and they get so sweaty, and there’s so much saxophone, and his mustache is so perfect… [trails off]

To some, it seems DIANA emerged fully formed — does that rub you the wrong way? I mean you guys have been putting in your time before this project.

I don’t really care, because I’m so painfully aware that even if we “emerged” fully formed, I know that we didn’t begin fully formed, if that makes sense. Before anybody knew who we were, we had already been working on the record for eight months. Before we played a show we rehearsed in a steambox of a garage for three or four months. Like, crazy, intense rehearsals. We really went deep into the shit for this project. Anything people view as cohesive or polished is really a huge compliment, I think, because we waited until we were ready.

What has been your personal connection with Wavelength?

Oh, when I was 13 or 14, I would go and get the ‘zine from Soundscapes or Sonic Boom, and I would read about all the bands. I had this deep desire to be one of the bands that was featured on a Wavelength show. When we finally played Wavelength with Katie Stelmanis [Austra], I think it was Diamond Rings’ first show ever.There have been some really big moments I’ve witnessed at Wavelength events. We even hooked up with P.S. I Love You for a tour which we never would have done without Wavelength. I love it. I’m really, really excited to play it again.

So what the heck is in the hopper for DIANA? I’m looking for a scoop here.

Well, we’re playing Lawnya Vawnya, a music festival in St. John’s this April, which we just confirmed. I’ve never been to Newfoundland, but Kieran’s from there, so I think we might hang out with his family for a couple of days. We want to get screeched in really badly.

You heard it here first folks: DIANA are rum-crazed cod-kissers. Well, I hope breakfast is an unmitigated success, Carmen. We’ll look forward to seeing you at the festival!

Thanks very much, it was really nice speaking with you.

DIANA plays night two of Wavelength FOURTEEN, Friday February 14 @ Adelaide Hall (250 Adelaide St. W.).

Perpetual Surrender is out now on Paper Bag Records.