Published Aug 21, 2013This week, the release of Perpetual Surrender trumpeted the arrival of synth-pop group DIANA. The four-piece belongs to an ecosystem of Toronto talent that includes singer Carmen Elle's Army Girls and an unnamed ambient duo comprising drummer Kieran Adams and keyboardist/saxophonist Joseph Shabason. Far from complicating matters, this web of distractions and side-projects proves essential in buttressing DIANA's eclecticism, Adams says.
"Carmen pursuing Army Girls is not a worry," Adams tells Exclaim! "We all have other things. I think that's something we hope she'll do; I hope we all pursue other things. It's part of the reason this band's able to be — hopefully — a unique-sounding thing. The ideal for this band is that it both harnesses and supports everybody else's other creative pursuits."
Since signing in the U.S. to Jagjaguwar and Paper Bag Records in Canada, it's at least true that DIANA has become more lucrative than its parallel projects.
"A year and a half ago, being signed to a great label was a total dream," Shabason recalls. "And then all this stuff happened. We had this incredible label, which is gonna give us money, as well as putting out our record. It's totally new and amazing and cool and I'm very grateful for it."
As with Perpetual Surrender, the band feels that, approaching album two, the idea of creating without innovating is inconceivable.
"We went for a swim yesterday, and we were talking in the car about how we write a ton of stuff that doesn't make sense," Shabason says. "So before writing a second album, we have to find the way that album's going to sound. It's less about the thought of writing a second album, and more about trying to find a sound that gets me jazzed enough to make a second album that sounds a certain way."
That perennial dissatisfaction has propelled them to impressive heights. By subverting blog-pop's fetishization of familiar sounds, Perpetual Surrender paints an evocative yet unique landscape, a dreamy journey down a river made of tears in a candy floss rowboat.
"We used things like compression and distortion, reverb," notes Shabason of the search for the new, "which are used through many eras of music, [especially] '80s-sounding stuff. But we'd make it a little more extreme, [instead of] putting on a certain reverb to evoke a bunch of recordings you've heard, or using a certain patch on a famous synthesizer so when you hear it you naturally go, 'Ah, I love that!'"
For DIANA, there's more to synth-pop than pushing the right buttons: "If you just use it again, you're not doing anything new. So we take a sound like that and process it somehow, in order to subvert being easy and recognizable. We try to make it feel unique."
Perpetual Surrender is out now on Paper Bag Records/Jagjaguwar. As previously reported, the band have several Canadian dates lined up, and you can see the schedule here.