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Amen Dunes interview: Obeying the vacant mind

Amen Dunes interview: Obeying the vacant mind

This Friday Damon McMahon will release Freedom, his sixth album as Amen Dunes. The record sees him making his most refined and textured music to date, and he has raised his lyrical game to match, creating songs that mine his own life, fictional fantasies and unconscious imagery, all of which results in a powerful package. With warm, beach-like productions belying the heft of the lyricism, Freedom is the kind of album that invites you to invest a lot of time in it, and then once you're ensnared in the sound, it demands you dig even deeper.

We spoke to McMahon about accessing his “vacant mind” for inspiration, and how the songs that came out deal with his father, mother, his past and his emotional evolution. We would recommend listening to Freedom on NPR while you read for a flavour of what we're talking about and maximum enjoyment.


I wanted to ask about your decision to put yourself on the front cover this time; was that a tough one for you?

Yeah, it was a tough one, man. I historically had been very anonymous. I think superficially the reason was I've always been anonymous and I want to kind of claim the role a little more. I feel like I can maximise my usefulness doing this band if I don't obscure myself as much, so that was part of it. The other part of it was, I guess, to sort of unintentionally - I sort of realised it after the fact - that it tied into the theme of Freedom in general.

So tell me about the theme of Freedom and why you named the album that.

Well, it's kind of a long story, but... well, originally I called it that just because it was the name of one of the songs, and I thought it was a good follow up to Love, and in the same way that Love was kind of cheeky, this was a little bit of a smug, kind of punk thing to name an album. I just felt like it was an enjoyably ballsy thing to call the album; so on one hand it was kind of glib, but on the other... well maybe we're kind of starting from the end here, but it became an encapsulating title of the entire album's objective I guess. But I didn't know that until the end. The name came first, but only when I had finished everything, down to the album art and the lyrics, was like "oh shit, this is what this whole thing was about," and Freedom worked perfectly for that.

You referred to Amen Dunes as a band, do you not see it as a solo project as much anymore?

It's a solo project, but it's a band when it's in action, you know what I mean? I always relate to people like David Bowie, who were very considered with their collaborators, and collaboration is what he did, and it's a big part of what I do, but it's a solo project. I have a band per album, you could say. Even less, I have different band for each stage of album development. Because I had a band that helped me flesh out these songs, and then there's a different group of guys who are coming on the road with me.

Tell me about the band who helped you flesh them out.

This record has been going on for three years, man! So in 2015 I went to Portugal after a bunch of tours, and just kind of zoned out for a while and started writing this record. When I came home in 2015 and touring had ended for Love, me and my old drummer Parker [Kindred] and an old bandmate named Jordi [Wheeler] got together and spent a long time putting drums to these songs, putting Jordi's guitar and keyboard to these songs, kind of like putting the flesh on the bone structure. So that was a fucking long time. Then I would come up with a lot of ideas for greater structure while I was in the room with them. So that went on for fucking months, man, those guys put in a lot of time with me doing that.

Then when we tried to record the record in February of 2016 up in Hudson, New York, it was an old studio in a church there, and it just didn't have that spirit man, you know? It was me, Parker, Jordi and Steve Marion (you know, goes by Delicate Steve), he came down for a few days and... it just didn't have the spirit, man! So I was pretty disheartened, I thought I had finished the record, and lo and behold I had to throw it all in the trash pretty much, and find somebody to help me. So Chris Coady is an old friend of mine, he was in New York for years and we were friends a long time ago, and I cold called him and was like "Dude, any interest in coming out to New York and doing a record?" and, Chris is very wonderfully matter-of-fact, he was like "sure, I'll do it," and that was like the whole call. That was the next stage.

Chris brought us into Electric Lady Studios, it's a beautiful studio, and Chris has a relationship with them and we did it there. In the studio it was me, Parker and Jordi and then Delicate Steve; we did the basics. And then, for the rest of 2016 man I did overdubs. I did some in LA at Sunset Sound and I did some in Brooklyn, and that was basically me, but it was some more Delicate Steve and mostly this guy called Panoram, who's an Italian musician from Rome. I was basically like a fanboy of his, and we became penpals, and I asked him if he would play on my record, and he ended up doing a ton. He was the final stage of recording this record.

You've ended up with a really textured and layered album, the synths and the bass are so important, who writes them?

I actually write most of the bass parts, but I can't play bass for shit. So a session musician called Gus Seyffert (who's Beck's guy and is actually playing with Roger Waters right now!), he would play it. Some of those bass lines he wrote, but a lot of the real funky ones I would kind of sing to him. And then with Panoram, some of those keyboard bass parts he would write, but some of those we came up with together.

Alright, let's dive into some of the songs. I want to start with the intro; who is the kid speaking and where is that quote from?

That was all Panoram, man, he pulled that from the internet. There's this inspirational 80s American Hollywood movie, and he found a little kid quoting that movie on YouTube, and he used that as the intro for the record. That was his choice, but I think Panoram was conscious of the energy of this record, which is kind of coming into one's true self, if you will, and so this little boy was part of the introduction to that theme I think.

And then you have the Agnes Martin quote, “I don’t have any ideas myself; I have a vacant mind,” is that one you picked?

That was me. A friend of mine sent me a bunch of her interviews, and I was just so struck by them. I was like, "oh shit, this is like a guru figure." I feel like she was a kindred spirit to me, but also someone to help you keep an eye on the prize artistically and spiritually. So that quote, that's my mother actually reciting those words, I had my mom record into her phone, and then we roboted her voice a little bit. That quote "I have no ideas myself, I have a vacant mind," on the one hand that quote again is kind of glib, because it's kind of like a criticism of the state of affairs at large, or music at large, and being myself even at times. But then it's also a spiritual objective really. I mean if I'm going to be honest about it, that's what she was saying and that's what I identified with in that quote. So "I have no ideas myself, I have a vacant mind," the idea that this shit doesn't come from me, or come from Agnes, or come from anybody who's really tapped in. If you read interviews with anybody who feels like a natural, sincere artist they all kind of say the same thing, you know?

But your songs are so verbose and quite dense in a way, it's hard to believe they come to or from a vacant mind.

I'll say the heart of the songs comes via a vacant mind, and then all the floral arrangements of them come from a very conscious mind, if that makes sense.

That makes sense. So do the lyrics usually come out in one go or in pieces?

They come out in lumpen form. The way I write songs is like if I feel inspired I'll sit down and just sing with the guitar, and I kind of sing unstructured words and I record it, and if it's any good I'll just play it back over and over again until I can glean the lyrics from it. Lyrics are always last, but the vacant mind dictates the general lyric and then my conscious mind refines it.

So it was the vacant mind that brought to the fore these father-son relationships that pop up throughout?


Do you have any idea why the vacant mind did that?

[Laughs] The vacant mind has a will of its own, man! The vacant mind is always doing stuff that you sometimes wish it wouldn't do. I think all of this was coming from this place. Why? I think this album was my reckoning with some sort of primary struggle in myself, and reckoning with that primary struggle would open up these secondary struggles with self, and after a while I realised I had fucking 11 songs of struggle with self, of different colours and shapes and stuff. Then all of a sudden I was like "oh damn, that's what this whole album is about," but I didn't realise it until the vacant mind offered me one after the other and I had them all together and it had a general cohesion to it. But yeah the father-son thing is at the core.

'Blue Rose' is the introduction to that core relationship, was this a difficult one for you?

It's very cathartic. My father never supported anything I did, really, so I think both my adult self and my little kid self both needed that catharsis. My songs have always been some kind of retribution music. The earlier ones were a darker version of that, and this one is more of like a healthy cathartic version. The song 'Blue Rose' set the stage as the first identity that I am embodying and being empowered by, and that is this Amen Dunes kind of guy, and at the same time it's my relinquishing that character. But it does set the stage, kind of like Billy Shears, like "I'm going to sing this whole record to you." It starts off by saying "When the evening comes I go call up the band/ we play religious music I don't think you'd understand," and then that character goes through all the other characters on the record. But it all starts off with the kill off my father kind of idea.

Why is it called 'Blue Rose'?

Oh, I don't know, man. [Laughs] I have no idea. There's something idiosyncratic about a blue rose, and maybe I'm calling myself a blue rose. Actually that is what I'm doing, I'm calling myself a blue rose.

Cool! And is Paul your father's name?

It actually is, yeah.

Because he obviously pops up here and then again on 'Calling Paul The Suffering' as well as in a few other things. In 'Blue Rose' I love the line "Combed out my hair, started out, and my dreams took half a drag.”

It's like this image of this kid, it's this little boy who's like "now that I've shed my origins I'm going to start off in the world and get dreaming." Then he opens up, he's free of his father if you will, and he carries off into this dreamland of all these different characters. It's kind of like a concept album, actually, to be honest.

So 'Time' is a direct continuation from 'Blue Rose' then?

Yeah it is. 'Time' is this narrator, if you will, kind of exploring an identity hang-up. I feel like what I discovered on this record, and what it's about, is how hung up I am on all these ways there are to define myself. My mom just happens to be Jewish and I have holocaust survivor family, New York Jews, that kind of thing, and unintentionally the lyrics [of this song] kind of presented themselves as actually kind of history of the Jews.

This one was really not intentional, I was in Portugal at the time, and I had a demo of 'Time' on my iPhone, and I was taking a day trip to this very beautiful town called Sintra, which is a place where a lot of those occult people went maybe a hundred years ago like Alastair Crowley, it's a really bizarre place. Most aristocracy, they would have these big mansions there, a hundred or so years ago, and they're still intact, and supposedly it's where all these energy vortices intersect. It's a very weird place, man, all these pastel colours and stuff. Anyway, I was hanging out there, and kind of walking through one of their churches and listening to that demo and all these lyrics are coming up about Jesus, and I guess the Jews, and it goes throughout history, man. It's talking about Ancient Rome, and then it spans the 15th century, and then on to German foot soldiers, and then about pain, man. On the one hand it's got a Kurt Cobain-y "celebrate your pain" feel, because he's kind of like fucking "fuck yeah! Induction pain!" On the other hand, it's a hang-up, I think.

Yeah, I was going to ask, why is pain important to this character?

Well, I think pain is beautiful, man, because I think if you want to get liberated from your hang ups you gotta shake their hand first I think. I try to see my pain in my life as something that I need to honour, and if I stop it for too long man it's bad news, so it's celebratory. I think, without being self-indulgent or self-pitying, acknowledging pain is very healthy. So it's sort of like an anthem for that.

Let's talk about 'Skipping School', "drift along the Mekong if I could", is that actually what you would dream about in school?

That was sort of like a drug reference, I guess. This song is about me or the kids I grew up with. Again, it's double sided, it's sort of this arrogant celebration of these people, but then it's also of them and me. The whole first half of the song is all these kids who used to pick on me, or all these kids that used to be the top dog; they're cool and all, but their little lips are turning blue. He was the coolest kid in school and now he's a disaster. It was about these kids that I grew up with, and a lot of the kids who I grew up with didn't have very good endings, they got involved in criminal activity, or many of them unfortunately passed away or ended up in jail. These are the kids that I looked up to, and I think even my father had this idea of machismo. So the song is like "look at me, I'm out here on the road, I'm doing my thing, I would go back and show you if I could," criticising them. But then the singer himself is guilty of what he's criticising, he says "got held up on my way to North Pigalle/ must have got off in the wrong arondissement." The implication was he's messing around in the same way he's criticising these other guys for messing around.

And then the second half of the song?

In the second half he's like "out here on the road somewhere tonight. The weather's fine..." it's this sort of questionable superiority. Then at the end of the song he's just letting it go, I think it's some kind of forgiveness, and beginning to let go of himself, "I'm already gone." That second half is abstract but it's some kind of release of all that tension.

Let's get on to 'Calling Paul The Suffering'; why call your father "the suffering"?

This one, man, there was a lot less of the conscious mind in this one. This is one of the older songs in the record, and it kind of wrote itself to be honest. It's one of the few songs that I had before even started writing this record. One day I just sat down and started singing these lyrics, and what came out was "Calling Paul the suffering, calling you." Then it says "Hear me now Dad/ clear tones," that was something I added in. And then the whole thing about the ghost, the guy who's died and has regret, "high about the plains/ wishing he was alive again," that wrote itself, man. But I think it serves a purpose on this record, that it's about my father, literally, and then it's about regret and people going through their lives, man, wishing they could do it over and being hung up on whatever someone like Paul is hung up on.

There's a sense of absolution, like absolving your father in this one.

That's great! I hope that it is. I guess it is. It's sort of like I'm beckoning in a way to him. And there's a little toss out to my mom there too at the end, where he says "I've been rolling for two years now, I'll make you proud boo;” my dad used to call my mom boo. And my mom has been sick for two years, and I've been writing the record for two years, so yeah I guess it's a little bit of open-heartedness.

On 'Miki Dora', the bass line is so perfectly surfy, you must have had that one in your mind early on?

You know what, that one was all Jordi, man. That was the last minute, literally the last minute in the studio, he had to go and I was like "just try one on the keyboard" and he just sat down and played that. That was like one take. It is very surfy. But the song itself, the reason it feels so surfy is because there's no chorus, so the whole song is one continuing verse where the singer either sings low or sings high. The vacant mind was also kinda responsible for that one, but yeah I think the song structure feels like surfing.

You don't really write choruses though anyway, do you?

[Laughs] Nah I guess I don't, man. I never could get that right, I never picked that up.

It works better without them I think. You can tell more stories without a chorus. What's your attraction to Miki Dora?

To be honest with you, I wanted to write about a surfer, so I looked them up and he was the guy that I found. He spoke to me. He felt a little bit like me and a little bit like the bullshit that I've always been told to gravitate towards, like unavailable, shut down men who are macho, morally questionable and really aggressive. Those are the people that I think were modelled in my home or my community, or in the media. So Miki Dora is like this heroic figure who I empathise with because I can be like him too. And once again it's sort of similar to the previous song where it's like regret, he's not writing as a young man, he's writing it as an older guy and he's like "pride really fucked me up." Miki is me in this song, there's a parallel to making music there. I don't know how familiar you are with Miki Dora, but - from the little I know about surfing - he did it beautifully wrong. He was completely idiosyncratic, very artful but kind of ugly and unconventional in a way, and he used to criticise those who couldn't do it like him - "do it like me," as it says in the song. There's something that I identified with in that, and also kind of critical of that in a way.

Why did you want to write a song about a surfer?

Because I like surfers, man. [Laughs] I don't know... why did I want to write a song about a surfer? It's a good question. Because there's just an energy to surfers that just feels musical, man, and I think what I was looking for was a rogue character. I like writing about cowboys, my music is like cowboy music or something, and Miki Dora and those kind of surfers are very cowboy-esque.

Do you surf?

No, never touched a surfboard in my life. But, sort of theoretically, I'm a big surfer; sort of abstractly, I'm a big surfer.

I had to look up what 'Satudarah' is, what's your attraction to this motorcycle club or why did they crop up in this song?

That was a title that came after the fact, you know? This song is the most blatantly about my father, and it's kind of like 'Skipping School' because it's about kids that I grew up with a little bit too, but it's about growing up with my father. Satudarah, it means like "one blood," it's this idea of inclusion, but there's something ominous and negative about their sense of inclusion. I mean, they're a fucking one percenter biker gang, but they're sort of racially open and all that, but at the same time they're total criminals. So that's a metaphor for my family, man, and for being a young man and being part of a crew and breaking free from this kind of gang. 'Satudarah' sort of reflects this attitude that I grew up with, I think.

Why do you sing "my Indian dad", is that related to your obsession with cowboys?

That's just me goofing off, I don't know. Because he's like the big chief [Laughs]. No reason. This one was really like an abstraction. This take was actually the only vocal take that I kept from the Hudson sessions, so this is me just in full Young Thug form, just full mealy mouthed "feel" lyrics. So this song was incredibly difficult to put lyrics to, the only lyrics that really existed were "I remember the time my dad said "think you're a big man, why don't you talk back?"" So this one's pretty abstract.

Cool, I think it's got some great images in it nonetheless.

Thanks man. You know, lyrics sometimes they have tremendous meaning even if they're not literal or you can't connect them with some kind of rational train of thought. So that's where I was coming from.

'Believe' doesn't feel as heavy as the rest of the tracks, it feels like you're almost at peace on this one.

It is a little bit of peace within all this stuff. It's almost like the singer, the narrator in 'Believe', is closer to that relinquishing of self than the other characters. That kind of relief comes from my mother, actually. My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I started the record, almost to the day. My mom always lived freely, and I was always very critical of that, and this song is also a reckoning with that. There's part of the song that says "they said you lived out on the wrong side/ you said that's half the fun." There's a whole section where I basically realise that all that stuff I used to criticise my mom for was actually very free and unencumbered, and maybe she had a better idea of living than I did all along. So it's about my letting her go, really, and sort of becoming at peace with my own mortality via hers.

Wow, that's amazing. I lost my mother to terminal cancer last year, so I'm going to listen this song again with that in mind now.

Wow man, I'm sorry to hear that. That's heavy. I'm actually gonna pull up the lyrics here so we can talk about it... Yeah, yeah it's just like that idea of like, I spent so much time being critical of how she was living her life, how I would do it if I was sick blah blah blah, and what the fuck do I know? It says "it seems to me baby, you don't wanna stay, that's ok if that's true/ life goes on, this is just a song, but I still do it for you" - that's me letting her go. "I feel it in the air, summer's almost done... let's not talk too heavy, I'll see you the next go around/ Echoes back all things that last return where they belong." So... yeah.


Then you go from this beautiful moment into a really dark song, 'Dracula'; why did you set this one in Houston, do you have any history with that city?

No, that totally just came to me. Houston was a good setting for this kind of character. It's like semi-tropical Southern American road city. This one's a little like 'Skipping School', this whole album is some kind of redemption, they're all these redemption songs in a way. This character is kind of aloof - I mean what this song really is about is someone who looks back on their past so long that they kind of re-enter it. So this guy is like reminiscing about his days and he's sort of saying how he kinda had some spiritual awakening and he's above it, but he's looking back so far that he kind of becomes that guy again. He even becomes the girl that he manipulates, because he says "arm in arm with Houston thug..." then "Cutie's mind is on fire, she had a spiritual good time," it makes me think of young people who are preyed on by these kind of guys, and it's about this predator who has a spiritual awakening.

Do you know a lot of people like that?

Yeah, unfortunately man, I did.

Where you grew up?

Kind of a mix. People I came across along the way. And maybe myself too a little bit. I've been on both sides of the coin.

How does it feel to embody that kind of person on this song?

It feels beautiful man, because there's something about the darkness, man. Kind of like your shadow self, the real key to liberation might be through the shadow self, not indulging it or letting it run the show, but it's like an exorcising. And when I sing, these characters just come out. It ends with him having this epiphany like he's back there in that moment when he was driving down the highway and had this awakening, he says "what can you do when every thought you had was untrue/ been dreaming too long." Then the narrator, this Amen Dunes guy, comes through the radio and kind like liberates him: "powerful two chord blues coming through from me to you." And then they kind of merge and drive down the highway, this singer on the radio and the guy, they kind of just become one, and then it's "let's keep it short and sweet/ keep your brights on, we got miles to go." So this one kind of had a more dense narrative structure. But yeah that's me re-embodying these characters and liberating them, I guess. That's the best way I can put it.

Then you flip it again with 'Freedom', which feels like a moment of absolute bliss. Is that what you were feeling when you wrote it?

Yeah it was, man. It was a song started off in Portugal as a peaceful little moment. All my songs are supposed to bring some kind of peace, even if they're dark, they're supposed to be empowering in some kind of pacifying way. This one started off as this gentle song and then one day in my kitchen, I'm a big Hüsker Dü fan, so I was like "I wanna write like a Hüsker Dü-Springsteen-like anthem." That's what I was going for, you know?

I kind of shy away from talking about the musical references, because there aren't a ton, but if there are any in this album it's mainstream pop music, rock'n'roll pop, electronic music, very very mainstream music, that's what I'm most inspired by. So I wanted to write an anthem, so it's got the "nah, nah, nah, freedom." This song is probably the most abstract, and I think it's whatever you want it to mean, but it's a little bit of forgiveness, man.

Yeah, it's not a story, it's a feeling. I think it really works, it's abstract but you get the feeling so clearly.

Thanks, man. Yeah, it is abstract, it is not a story but it is a feeling; yeah exactly.

The song ends and goes silent, then there is the little instrumental jam at the end of the track, why did you include that?

Because that's what Hüsker Dü would do in the basement, you know!? If they were drinking tall boys and playing this song they would never let it end right there, they would add a little tag in. That's like the “fuck all, freedom!” of it! That outro, people were trying to tell me to cut that outro, I was like "No way! That outro is what it's all about!"

That is the song.

That is the song, yeah!

It seems like you had a perfect ending to the album with 'Freedom', but then you go and have 'L.A.' on the end, which again changes the mood completely. Why did you decide to do that?

The main reason, back to this again and not to beat a dead horse, but the vacant mind versus the conscious mind. The conscious mind put this here because it was the best sequencing, and I'm such an album lover, I'm a student of all the people who came before me, man, I studied the shit out of music my whole life, my whole thing is from listening. I'm a better listener than I am a player, you know. So after a lot of work I found the best album order, and this was it! So that's why 'L.A.' was last, but the vacant mind put it here for another reason.

This song is once again another one of these kind of masculine identities, and this character is like the most unelevated of all of them. He's basically this schmo up in the Hollywood Hills, who’s having a dream about being the Emperor of Rome, that's how the song starts. That's who he thinks he is, but he really is nothing more than this guy who's got his arm around someone he doesn't even know, getting emotional, and then he kind of like tries to let it all go. He's a complicated guy, he's almost like a Miki Dora figure, who's been trying to make it for a long time and he has a hard time of letting it all go. Then, as he's driving into town, he has this long almost-like-hangover-fevered fantasy about having sex with his ex-girlfriend. So after all these, if you will “elevated” kind of songs, that's how it ends. He's talking about wanting to get together with his ex-girlfriend, and tell her to come around when she comes through town, and not being able to put it down. So it's sort of about the most low-level base human hang-up, whether it's a drug thing or an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend thing, it doesn't really matter. The whole thing kind of unravels into this dream nonsense fantasy lyric. It just kind of devolves.

And then the last lyric of this record ties into the Agnes Martin quote, which is "that's all not me." Actually, I ripped this off, I mean a lot of stuff comes from elsewhere, but there's an old Skepta track from years ago - I've kind of stopped following the grime thing because they've gotten so like trap influenced... I love English music man, English music is a big influence on me as anything, so I was a big fan of early grime and there was this early grime song, a Skepta track where he's like "that's not me, that's not me," so this is me copying that. But it conveniently ties into the theme of the album, which is "that's all not me," meaning all these things from the Irish dad, to the Jewishness, to the surf hero, to my childhood, to teen years, to my 20s; all this shit, as hung up as I am in it, it's actually not all me, it's an attempt at letting it go. So that's why the vacant mind put this one last, but I can't take any credit for that.

And that's how it all relates back Freedom, because all these characters have hang-ups, and you're letting them go.

Absolutely, man. I didn't make this up at all, but I'm applying this concept to this album because it's something I kind of do in my own life, and it kind of came through my music, and that is relinquishing of self through self-inquiry, man. There's no way to really get rid of those hang-ups unless you access them. So this album is a series of explorations of the ways that I define myself, and that anybody does. Maybe it's a little bit more about the hang-ups that men have, but anybody, really; it's me. I mean the only way to make any kind of comment on anything is to look at yourself first, I think, so this whole album is my own self-criticism, or self-exploration, an attempt to be not so hung up on this shit. Which brings it back to the first question you asked, why am I on the cover? It's because it's just a visual representation of all these things, it's like "that's all not me," including this photo. It's a good photo, I like being on the cover, it's cool, I like it, it's simple, there's no text, but it also is my way of sort of disassociating it from myself in a way too, not being so fucking hung up. I don't need to put some abstract image on the cover. I've no need to make it something else, because this album is an exploration of this meat suit, if you really put it kind of crudely.

You're a big reader, were there any books that influenced this album or that you were reading while making it?

I was reading a ton of great books last year, but it's way more of an abstract influence. But yeah there were a bunch of books that I loved last year. I've been reading this book that my French friend sent me called Compass, by this guy Mathias Enard, which is really nice. I read Paul Beatty's The Sellout, that was really good. I'm reading Crime & Punishment right now; I just went to the beach for a week, I went on holiday and I brought Crime & Punishment [Laughs]. But I fucked up and I got a bad translation, the translation that I got is not even the third best translation, so it was a little disappointing, but it's still pretty good, obviously.

Yeah, it's amazing, it's not a beach book though!

No, you know what I normally don't mind a heavy beach read, but this was definitely a bad move.

Are you a fan of the American greats like Hemingway and Steinbeck?

I am, some of it's a little boring, but I like Hemingway a lot, man. When I was a kid that was my favourite of the American writers. Hemingway's great, man.

Yeah, because I get a lot of Hemingway masculinity from this album. And, maybe it’s just because I'm in the middle of East of Eden at the moment, but I feel like there's a lot of Steinbeck reflections in the father-son relationships on the album.

Hmmmm, I never read East of Eden. Maybe the album is very American though actually, I never thought about that.

Any other media; TV or movies?

You know, I don't really like TV, man. Y'know, my life is too short so I don't wanna watch 10 hours of Netflix. I have very strong opinions about that. But I do love movies man, and I recently watched a Jane Campion movie for the first time. She's a New Zealand director, her most famous movie is called Sweetie, ah it's so good. Yeah I saw that recently. And then Agnès Varda's Vagabond, which is really good. I'm watching movies all the time man, I've always loved movies. I'm a big movies and books fan.

What do you say to people who say that reading books takes up much more time than TV?

[Laughs] They're more nourishing. It's like eating quinoa versus Doritos.

Are you excited about releasing this album?

I am. I'm excited for people to have it. I really believe that I make this stuff to make people feel good, that's why I make this music. It has to start from satisfying myself, but I'm excited for people to have it. It's a good time for people to have it, I think there's hopefully an energy in this music that will be good for people.


Amen Dunes’ Freedom is out this Friday, but can be streamed now on NPR.

This article was originally published on The 405 - 27th March 2018.

Frankie Cosmos interview: "What the songs mean to me changes every time I revisit them and every time I play them."

Frankie Cosmos interview: "What the songs mean to me changes every time I revisit them and every time I play them."

Preoccupations interview: "we're all animals and we forget that; we're just constantly trying to pretend that we're not."

Preoccupations interview: "we're all animals and we forget that; we're just constantly trying to pretend that we're not."