Tonight (Thursday, March 1) Indie pop diva DD Dagger will kick off the release of her second album Radixxx with a live performance at Austin's 29th Street Ballroom.
I met with DD Dagger aka Allyson Lipkin at Sweetish Hill, a little bakery in downtown Austin, to discuss the release of her second solo album Radixxx. She drove up on her scooter and walked in apologizing for being late with her usual natural charm. She wore Levi's and a shirt she'd silkscreened herself with her stage name "DD Dagger." The shirt was appropriate considering DD Dagger has come to be the bold, fresh face of a resurgence of the Do-It-Yourself attitude in the world of Austin indie music.
DD Dagger's first album Femme Auteur was a true solo project; Dagger wrote the entire album (except for a cover of "Crimson and Clover," recorded with Mark Orton, Tin Hat) played guitar, drums, saxophone, tambourine, and harmonica and sang all the vocals, and recorded the album herself. Femme Auteur won her critical acclaim and the devotion of fans taken as much by her beauty, charm, sense of style, and stage presence as by the album that artfully mixed everything from indie rock, to jazz, to ambient, to punk, and proved that DD Dagger has a strong musical compass and talent to spare.
Radixxx is a bit of a departure from DD Dagger's debut album. It's more saxophone heavy, less edgy and guitar driven, with a more bluesy sound. Basic tracks were recorded at Sweatbox Studio, Austin, TX with talented local musicians John Ashley and Phil Arapaju; with keyboards, beats and saxophones recorded in Dagger's home studio. In one of the album's strongest tracks, "Watch This Fire Burn," DD Dagger performs with British singer and guitar player Nic Armstrong. Nic's signature 60's guitar sound and creative harmonies brought the duet to life. Dagger's voice sounds throaty and sensual in the track "Finger on the Trigger," which has a fuller big band sound. In "Falls Apart," recorded with help from producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Heartless Bastards), DD Dagger employs her signature lazy, jazzy, doom and gloom subject matter imparting with tongue and cheek that "the shore will lose it's tide... the sky will certainly cry, but I'll be waiting close by -- to take what's left of the pie."
"My friend Todd described one my live performances as 'dark Broadway,'" Dagger said. "I really liked that description because with the help of my creative director and choreographer La Pistolle, my show has developed into a more theatrical performance; but not in a commercial way. When I collaborate with her we have dancers, costumes, mood changes; and that is really exciting to me -- to mix music with other art forms."
In the live kick off of the album tonight, DD Dagger will perform with two back up singers, three dancers and up to eight other musicians in a carefully crafted stage performance that will find Dagger wearing a gold form fitting bustier made of leather she and a costume designer Becca Miller created together. The designer also created harnesses for the dancers attached to a plant-like spine for DD Dagger to wear during a slow, plodding song called "Sea of Eyes."
"It's inspired by the [human] spine and by the album's title Radixxx, which is Latin for 'root,'" Dagger said. "It's very visually interesting to see us move with the artificial spine. It evokes a snapshot of another subconscious in my mind; which is fitting because the song is inspired by a dream I had."
When asked about the dancers, singers and musicians collaborating with her, Dagger explained that it's been a challenge to schedule and pull off rehearsals because everyone involved has other jobs. "It's something we have made happen -- through the sheer power of the creative force -- and I don't know where that comes from. Artists possess it; and I've surrounded myself with a large pool of artistic talent"
DD Dagger works as a visual artist as well and she funded the production of Radixxx by selling a painting a day on Facebook for thirty days. She sold each painting for only $35. The paintings were in such demand that DD Dagger fans often woke early in the morning to have a shot at buying a painting.
"It was pretty successful," Dagger said. "I had people waiting to get a painting. It did build a sort of tension and invigorated my faith in this whole process." Dagger cited the famous Brooklyn painter Steve Keene as an influence. Keene believes paintings should be at least as inexpensive as CDs and sells his paintings for five dollars. "People ask why I sell my paintings so cheap. And I tell them, 'That's what my people can afford,'" Dagger said.
In the same spirit of making art accessible, DD Dagger will be giving away a free digital download to everyone who attends the show. Radixxx will be available immediately for purchase on Dagger's website and in a month on Itunes and Amazon. Anyone interested in DD Dagger's sound can purchase a copy of her Femme Auteur on Itunes, Amazon, or at her website.