For the second installment in a five-EP series that Dirty Projectors are releasing in 2020, lead Projector Dave Longstreth passes the mic to bandmate Felicia Douglass. “It was almost like playing a game,” he tells Apple Music of writing lyrics with Douglass over a day and a half in LA. “We listened to my vocalese melody—the melody I’d already written that had no words on it—and we just tried to decipher what the nonsense was and turn that into lyrics. We often wrote about similar things or heard similar things, but sometimes it was very different.” Longstreth had originally been introduced to Douglass through her father, producer and engineer Jimmy “The Senator” Douglass, with whom he’d worked on Dirty Projectors’ 2017 self-titled LP. “Solange had written the hook, the chorus part, actually pretty much the entire top line, for ‘Cool Your Heart,’ but then she didn't want to be the lead on it,” Longstreth says. “I think I’d already found Dawn [Richard], but Jimmy and I were doing a mix of a song and he was like, ‘You know, if you're looking for somebody….’ And there was just this voice popping out of the speakers that sounded amazing. So cool and so confident, so mellow but also so much emotion.” It was that voice and Douglass’ love of R&B that came to mind again once Longstreth had started writing and producing what would become Flight Tower. “Each of these songs became the songs when Felicia started singing them,” he says. Here, Longstreth and Douglass take us through the EP track by track.
Inner World Dave Longstreth: “I wrote this one on the guitar. I recorded the self-titled LP and [2018’s] Lamp Lit Prose back to back, basically just contiguously—a lot of the songs are from the same time period. And at the end of all that, I took a break, finally, from the studio, for a month or something. When I came back, ‘Inner World’ is the first one that I made, and I made it in a day. It feels like building off of something: I had all those techniques, that same sound world, the same palette, but it just felt so effortless to do. And on a lyrical level, we both found our way to water imagery right off the bat. Like, ‘What did you write about?’ ‘Oh, I wrote about a river.’ That was a cool surprise.” Felicia Douglass: “I love the arrangement. There's so much space—it’s nice to be able to sink into a song like that. It’s indulgent, in a good way, getting to do all those vocal runs.”
Lose Your Love FD: “I instantly loved it. As it came together, I thought about it more as just a pure, fearless love song, where you're just laying it all out on the table and it's a proclamation and it's all you care about. From a writing standpoint, it’s less about uncovering the exact meaning of all the lyrics, but more about someone being able to relate to the sentiment. I listened to a lot of R&B and soul growing up, and it's just that feeling of listening to a song and being like, ‘Oh, I want to feel that way,’ and just being able to live in that, through someone just professing their love to someone. I started out writing very cut-and-dried, heartbreaking ballads—love songs. And looking back on it, I'm like, ‘I didn't know what I was talking about.’ How did I know about ‘You did this to me and I'll never speak to you again’? But it's kids being sponges: You just regurgitate what you think of as love or heartbreak.”
Self Design DL: “One thing that's characteristic of this EP—and maybe this broader period of the EPs for us—is that because the lyrics are more collaborative, they came out of this more intuitive place. It's not starting out with an intention: ‘Oh, I want to write a song about global warming,’ or something like that. There is less of a necessity to have the lyrics tighten up enough at a surface level. The hope is that they make sense at a deeper level. So it’s kind of the opposite of ‘Lose Your Love,’ which is a song that's about recognizable emotions.”
Empty Vessel DL: “It was in a moment where I was really just annoyed at the guitar. And so I wanted to make the song live totally outside that. And that's where this arrangement came from. I think that I wrote most of the lyrics after reading this New York Times article about a burial site in Peru, a pre-Columbian site that they found where the people were buried standing up and facing east. I think some images in the article kind of got me going, the idea of being an empty vessel in death but also an empty vessel in life—it seemed weird to me, it seemed cool. I feel like we're both sort of naturally music-forward, music-first people—it’s one of the things that made taking this lyrical approach fun. But occasionally, you'll get one where the words are just there. ‘Empty Vessel’ was like that.”