I first heard Dal’s music when their bass player Aubrey, a talented young photographer from my home town, shared a song on Instagram. The song was their first single ‘Those Days’, a dreamy, soulful piece that sounded like it could have come from a Roy Ayers or Scott Walker album. I saved the song to my bottomless playlist of lovely tunes, and every time it came on over the summer it would stop me in my tracks. I’d have to pause what I was doing and check my phone, holy shit, this is Aubrey’s tune.
Since then Those Days has become a solid favourite and is firmly up there in my top songs of 2020. When it came to editing our first film, I knew instantly which song I wanted to use. Thankfully Kal, Aubrey and Josh, collectively Dal, liked the idea. As a filmmaker it’s a good sign if, even after hearing it a hundred times during the process, you still love a song at the end of an edit. I caught up with Aubrey (bass) and Kal (keys) to talk about creative process, being around inspiring people, and more importantly when they will be releasing more music for us to binge.
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Owen : What brought you all together?
Aubrey - Josh and Kal had been making some music together for a little while. I had just started learning how to play and was really keen to get in on it with them. It was one of those really nice things where as soon as we played it just felt really good straight away. I hadn’t met Josh before then, but we instantly realised we shared an incredibly synced up interest in certain corners of music. In fact, I think it was within the first few weeks of us all hanging out when we got our first track “Those Days” recorded.
Where does the name Dal come from?
Aubrey - We spent our first summer making all of our music in a little cabin down at the end of the garden at Kal’s parent’s house. It became a bit of a routine for us where Kal’s mum would make an incredible Dal for us in the evenings. It became part of our lifestyle making music together and was always a part of our hangs. When it came to sticking a name on our music I think there was probably some Dal in front of us and we didn’t think much further than that.
Who are you biggest influences musically?
Aubrey - For me, D’Angelo’s Voodoo record made such an impact when I got into it. I couldn't believe it. I’ve been told it was on in the house a lot when I was a kid too. Pino Palladino’s bass playing on that record still blows my mind. These days it’s a lot of Sam Wilkes and Sam Gendel. They're absolute big dogs and some of the most exciting musicians out there for me. They feel like they’re in a league of their own.
Kal - Yeah, as Aubrey mentioned, D’Angelo and that era of Neo-Soul brings a lot to the table. J Dilla is a big one too, I remember always listening to him and the likes of Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde on loop, before I was consciously thinking about music really - so I’m sure a lot of that went in. In more recent times I’ve really been enjoying the appreciation for space that some more contemporary artists are showing, namely Matthew Halsall and Kamaal Williams.
I’m interested in the creative process. What’s the set up creatively with writing and production?
Aubrey - We just tend to just jam in the room together. We normally play together for a bit and then something grabs us. Sometimes we all get on different instruments and work on overdubs to bring a track along a little bit, it depends really. Josh is such a good writer and producer in his own right that he enriches a lot with his approach to engineering and mixing.
Do you inspire each other or effect each other creatively?
Kal - Yeah, there’s definitely an element of that when we’re playing together. It’s kinda like a conversation, and then there’s that lovely moment when we’re all on the same page, and each part starts to emphasise the others.
Aubrey - I think it's just nice to be around people who make art that you like. We all really want to try and make decent music together so we push ourselves as much as we can. My bass playing has always made the most sense when with Josh’s drumming I’d say. That’s a lucky fit.
I find that often in the creative process there’s a turning point, where things fall into shape and creation almost takes control of me rather than the other way round. Does that resonate with any of you?
Kal - Exactly! It can be hard sometimes pushing through the more tricky bits, but it’s always in search of that moment, that’s the best feeling. It’s just great fun when we’re playing with no expectations and suddenly something clicks. Often we’ve got no say in the matter, so when it happens you’ve just gotta cherish it.
There’s a vintage feel to your music. One could be mistaken and think Those Days is a re-discovered gem from the vaults. Where does that come from do you think?
Aubrey - It’s hard to qualify that kind of thing, I think a lot of that is just the sound of the cabin that we recorded in. It was a curious little space to track a band in and definitely had its own sound. Also we track stuff all together in the room so there’s bleed in the microphones. Situationally it's probably not all that dissimilar from some of those old recordings we love. It’s still early days and we’re all just hoping we can carry on making music that feels good. Our sound bends and changes depending on who we’re working with, which is a really nice feeling because it suddenly starts to feel a bit bigger than us.
Can you talk a bit about how you collaborate?
Aubrey - On our second track ‘Fontanel’, we featured a local saxophonist called Neil Maya. He lived in the house next door to Kal’s cabin and had heard us playing and asked to come by. He pretty much got that take down on that one straight away. An absolute legend. With ‘Those Days’ Leah Yeger sang and also played violin. We tracked each harmony one by one with her, and that was a really special experience. Otherwise we all have a go on pretty much everything. We’ve all got a similar ear and reach for similar things on all instruments. It’s usually pretty mixed up on all our tracks.
Who would be a dream collaborator?
Aubrey - To be honest it would have to be Sam Gendel. We all love his music and get so much from it. We think the stuff he does is out of this world. It would be amazing to have his feel on one of our tracks one day. The melodies he reaches for and the feeling he gets with his playing is really special to us. We’d strongly encourage anyone to check his stuff out.
I know you guys have been working with Joe Mount (Metronomy). What has his involvement been?
Aubrey - Most of all he’s just encouraged us to keep making music. We’d been sitting on “Those Days” and “Fontanel” for a long long time and it was him that got us believing it might be worth releasing. Having encouragement and belief from someone like that is ridiculous really. Joe’s been a pretty amazing figure for us. We’ve not got him in on a track yet but I reckon we might sneak in some kind of collaboration one day. We all dig the Metronomy stuff a lot.
I follow Aubrey's photography, Kal are you creative in other ways?
Kal - Yeah, funnily enough I’m a photographer as well, alongside that I do a bit of design work, that’s really how me and Aubrey first connected, the music then kinda grew out of that.
Aubrey, your photographs have a particular feeling about them, cinematic, dreamy, and a certain vintage. I can’t help noticing that there are parallels here with the music. Are there any links?
Aubrey - Thanks so much! I mean that tone that you’ve described is my absolute dream for anything I’m creating really. There is a definite feeling that I’m drawn to with visual and musical stuff. Maybe it's a coincidence and down to making stuff with like minded people. I think a lot of the aesthetic and tone with our music can be attributed to Josh’s mixing and ear
Kal does your photography inform or link to the music in any way?
Kal - Absolutely, when I think about it, I'm often subconsciously connecting with similar ideas in both my photography and music. I think both mediums are inherently similar, in the sense that it’s quite instinctive, and that the outcome ends up being a representation of my thought process at the time. You just end up with either an image or a piece of music.
Can visual art inspire music and vice versa?
Kal - Yeah, I think so. I mean going back to the idea that you can explore similar ideas through different mediums, I think you can always find bits of interest in other people’s process, no matter what kind of thing they’re doing. So that definitely applies to other forms of visual art. Often that’s where you find the best bits I think, when you can draw inspiration from someone else’s way of talking about something. Music is great in the sense that it gives us the opportunity to mess around with loads of other creative outlets, be it photography, a music video or just a bit of content for Instagram.
Who inspires you all in your other creative pursuits?
Aubrey - It’s people making stuff locally really. Local artists like Kal, Finnegan Travers and Jay Bing are massively inspiring.
Kal - Yeah, as Aubrey says, I find it super inspiring when I see people I know doing great stuff, maybe it’s something to do with knowing the person behind the work. Beyond that though I’m really enjoying the work of Samuel Bradley at the moment.
Launching a band in 2020 with all the restrictions on playing live and even getting together must be especially challenging. What are you doing in response to the current and strange new world emerging?
Aubrey - We’ve mainly just focused on the recording aspect of stuff. We’ve not had the chance to ever play a live gig (and we can’t wait to hopefully get that opportunity), but we’ve been learning to just love the studio side. It’s definitely unusual not having any kind of physical or social side to it all. It’s kind of just been digits and words on the internet so far. I mean we’ve had some really lovely responses which has been amazing, but it’s all slightly disjointed and doesn’t quite feel real when it’s all online. Like we don’t know which tracks would do better at a gig for instance. We don’t know if people would dance to our stuff or chat over it or walk out. It’s all a bit of a mystery still. Having said that, for better or for worse it just feels like we’re making the most pure music to us since there’s pretty much no external factors influencing anything right now. I do yearn for the day we can one day meet people and get out the house playing our music though.
What are the Dal top tips for relieving stress and anxiety?
Kal - I find going for a walk always helps, or simply finding an excuse to get some fresh air and a change in environment.
Aubrey - Kal is a legend for getting us out the house and out our own heads! It works every time.
You released 2 amazing songs pretty close together and have left us wanting more, when can we expect to hear more music from you guys?
Kal - This year for sure, we’ve got to finish what we’re working on before we can say when though!
So can we look forward to an album from Dal in 2021?
Kal - We’re working on a beat tape kind of release. I guess you could call it an album but we’re not necessarily viewing it as such. I think it’s more of a way for us to get familiar with the process of finishing tracks. The bits we’ve been working on over the past several months definitely feels glued together, so it makes sense we release it as one body of work. Hopefully, we can just continue to make some nice music together and enjoy the process. Maybe even get out and play it for some people, fingers crossed!
Who else should we be listening to?
Aubrey - Hiroshi Suzuku’s ‘Cat’ is a special one for me. I mean we all love it really. Specifically the track ‘Romance’. Otherwise the no.1 recommendation I have is anything by DJ Harrison. ‘Stashboxxx’ is a great place to start and such an incredible record. He’s got some great live sets on YouTube too.
Kal - A staple album of the past few years for me is Connan Mockasin’s ‘Jassbusters’. Recently though I’ve been really getting into podcasts, specifically ‘Broken Record’ with Rick Rubin. Oh, and ‘Grounded with Louis Theroux’. Both definitely worth a listen.
Would you be up for making us a playlist for Goodrays Radio?
Ye boi. I’ll send it to you.
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You can watch the Goodrays Launch video featuring Dal on our homepage : www.goodrays.com