Dinosaur Feathers is an indie rock band from New York City who combine skilled songwriting, African rhythms and soaring vocal harmonies. The band’s self-released album, Fantasy Memorial, has drawn favorable reviews in the Village Voice and New York Times amongst other places. Last week, I sat down with Greg and Derek from Dinosaur Feathers before they were scheduled to go on at Cake Shop and asked them a few questions. For more information on Dinosaur Feathers check out their website.
How did you guys get started as a band and what projects are you currently working on?
Greg – I started working on songs about two years ago. I was doing a solo project– just me and the drum machine . Derek and I went to college together. He was at a show I played by myself here in New York, actually the only one that I played by myself here in New York. He and another friend of ours offered to join up to help out, do some keyboards and some vocal stuff. Then shortly thereafter, we just started working on some stuff, and about 6 months later, we really started playing and doing shows.
Derek- I feel like it grew pretty organically out of Greg’s stuff. We’ve always been working primarily with Greg’s songwriting. We expanded and elaborated on that. Some of the new stuff we are working on has been a bit more collaborative.
Greg- We’re working on some new songs for an EP. That has been a much more collaborative process.
What is your favorite New York venue to play?
Greg- That’s tough. Derek, Ryan and I have played a lot of different places. We really like Cameo Gallery. Bar IV in Brooklyn–It’s sort where we got started. So it’s great to go back there and play. Studio at Webster Hall has always been really gracious to us.
Derek- we have played lots of wonderful venues
Greg- we are getting close to having played all of them
Derek- we have been very lucky to get to play a lot of great venues in New York
You guys have been compared to the Beach Boys. Are they a big influence?
Greg- I would say its half and half I really like the Beach Boys. I think the vocal harmony stuff we do is where a lot of the comparisons come from. That’s partly because Derek and I sang acapella together in college. We are both good singers so singing seemed like a natural thing to do, rather than trying to be the Beach Boys. In fact, when we were on tour we listened to Pet Sounds. Had you ever listened to the whole thing the whole way through?
Derek- No, I hadn’t even heard the thing before!
Greg- Pet Sounds is one of my favorite albums of all time, but Derek hadn’t even heard it! I mean clearly there are other Beach Boys songs that Derek does know. They are definitely an influence, but I think some of the reasons for the comparisons are due to other things.
What other up-and-coming New York Bands are you guys listening to these days?
Derek- We are good friends with Pearl and the Beard, We have been playing shows with them ever since the early days. They continue to astound and astonish with their incredible skills.
Greg- Our buddies Shark? are really awesome. We love playing with them and their stuff is really great. The Darlings are great, we have played a bunch of shows with them. I mean there are so many good New York bands. We got to play a show recently with Twin Sister; that was awesome. They are a lot of fun. We have been lucky; we got to play with some touring bands.Also some up and coming bands from other cities: the Fatty Acids from Mllwaulkee, Carnivores, our friends from Atlanta, and our friends from Philadelphia, Grand Children who have an album coming out..So while we’ve been in New York, we have gotten to make friends with some cool bands from other cities as well.
Many of your songs have a kind of whimsical feel to them. How do you convey that feeling through your writing?
Greg – The album that we released is actually a break-up album. So the lyrics are kind of sad, but the music is kind of joyful. It’s joyful in a wink and a nod almost, with humor but also sadness — it’s done as a joke almost. So it is a combination of serious content and the whimsy in the music.
Derek – There is a sense of joy in the music. I feel like that’s one of the best parts of being in this band- I get to play like, really fun music.
You guys use a drum machine rather than a drummer. How did that develop?
I bought a drum machine. I didn’t really know any drummers in New York. It was just based on not having the resources. We didn’t have a place to practice with a drummer… I didn’t know a drummer… so it just came out of that.
Derek- As things developed, the drum machine parts got more and more inventive. Not that we wouldn’t want to play with live drums at some point– with live drums you can do some crazy stuff.
In what ways have you used the internet to reach new fans?
Greg- We use Myspace…after months of poking, we have a Facebook site.. I don’t have Facebook myself, so Derek made the Facebook page..
Derek- I don’t have motivation so we didn’t have a facebook page for the longest time! We did release our first EP as a free download through our website. I would say that blogs, especially blogs around New York, have been absolutely instrumental in helping us reach new ears and find bands that we would like to play with.
Greg- The blogs have taken care of us. The community of passionate music people have been super, super helpful for us. We owe them a lot.
Your Music Often Features the use of African Rhythms. How did you make that choice?
Greg- I spent some time in Mali, in West Africa during college, I studied abroad there and also before the band played any shows, I went back to Mali to visit my host family and travel around. Mali was definitely was an influence along with some other world music that I was listening to…some Tropicalia and stuff. It also was a matter of what sounded good on the particular drum machine I had and what particular samples I had access to. If the African stuff had sounded really terrible, I wouldn’t have used it. I just liked the way it sounded. I was just following the random path life led me on, and also developing music based on what the drum machine had to offer.