File next to: Washed Out, Her Space Holiday, the Postal Service
Playing: WL 626, Sunday November 2nd at Magpie (831 Dundas Street West)
David Courtright hatched his Suno Deko moniker while taking up residence in India. However, it wasn’t until his feet were back on terra firma (well… technically, Atlanta) that he started writing and recording music to match up with the name. A series of introspective and occasionally cheerful electro-pop songs slipped out and David hit the road in support of his stellar Thrown Color EP. Expect to see both David and his emotional range on full display at Wavelength this Sunday. Cam Gordon had some word with David to learn more about his inputs and how they affect his output.
First question: why did you pursue Suno Deko as a solo project?
This project was envisioned as a solo endeavour mainly because I wanted to see what was possible in loop-based music and what kinds of structures and textures could be made without the use of other musicians. This, and also, the experience of being in a full band and wanting to make music without the democratic responsibilities to other peoples’ aesthetics.
Can you give us a taste of your full band experience?
In my former band, I was mainly a guitarist, though also an occasional vocalist. I wanted to push myself to see how many instruments I could half-learn enough to convincingly incorporate, and also work within the confines of needing each element of the song to be loop-based. It creates a very rigid structure within which I had to operate, which was actually kind of great — I had specific parameters and had to make songs that way.
Your songs tends to straddle lines between longing and sadness, romance and expressiveness. Do you tend to prefer to listen to music that is very emotional and evocative?
I love that description, thank you. Absolutely. I think that can come in many forms and for different people, any music can be emotional and evocative. I can listen to something completely conceptual like Joanna Newsom and be devastated; I can also listen to something deeply raw and emotional like Grouper and feel the same gravity of sentiment.
Do you tend to immerse yourself in a lot of instrumental music during your downtime?
The music I identify with most and emulate in my own work certainly has a strong vocal, lyrical, and emotional centerpiece, though I will say I am equally influenced by non-vocal music. Steve Reich and Nils Frahm have been massively influential on my ideas of music in the past few years, and neither of their music has lyrical vocal content.
Parts of Thrown Color EP were conceived when you were living in India. How did you end up there and how long did you stay?
While Suno Deko itself was conceived in India, all of the music was actually written in the fall and winter of 2012 in Atlanta. I lived in Delhi for the latter half of 2009 working for an Indian painter as a studio archivist and assistant, a job I fell into under strange circumstances, but an experience that ended up being formative in its difficulty. It was an emotionally trying time for me, where I was deeply desirous of “being” something, and was at that time too young or immature to understand what an empty goal that was. Add that to living in one of the most chaotic and unforgiving cities in the world.
Did any cultural or geographical influences seep into your music from those times?
It’s funny now how resonant some of those experiences are even after I felt like I sealed that part of my life off from any emotional excavation. Eastern religious thought and philosophy has certainly made an impact on me, and has kind of always been a part of my life. But I feel now more than ever those kinds of ideas and beliefs about life and the universe are vastly influential on how I understand the world and craft lyrics or poetry about living in it.
Do you feel any need to work towards hatching a full-length album? Do you think listeners really care one way or another about formats in 2014?
I can’t speak to listeners’ consumption patterns, but I can say affirmatively that I am hard at work on a full-length which will likely include all of the songs from the EP. It’s in the early-ish stages of recording, but I’ve been working here and there on getting the mixes to sound better, getting opinions from friends and colleagues, understanding more of the mechanics of the process, and getting a better picture of what needs to change or happen to get the work where I want it to. The album as a statement is still important to me — I feel like an 8-12 song piece of work is the right amount of time to fully immerse someone in an emotional landscape or set of ideas. It also begs of the listener to focus in on a body of work in a time where immediacy and distraction are paramount, so when a listener gives over the time, the rewards are vast.
What’s the biggest challenge of touring solo? Do you have anyone with you to at least help schlep all your things on-stage?
I try as often as I can to tour with a friend. I’ve spent a lot of this year on the road with Julie Byrne, who is also playing the Toronto show. She is a true inspiration to me, not only as a friend, but as an exquisite songwriter, musician, and performer. I’ve also toured with Little Spoon, Alligator Indian, Tantrum, Mutual Benefit, and best of all, my Dad, this year, which have each in its own way been loads of fun. Apart from that, it’s pretty great to tour with such a small crew — I have a Prius, so for me touring can actually be a mildly lucrative if it all lines up right. I am planning to add a member to Suno Deko starting next year, and I’m hoping that won’t disqualify me from using a hybrid to travel, but we’ll see!
Suno Deko play Sunday, November 2nd at Magpie (831 Dundas Street West).
– Interview by Cam Gordon (Completely Ignored)
Photo credit: Jonathan Bouknight