Artist Interview: Digisaurus

Digisaurus, a local synth-pop musical group located in Columbus, Ohio, has a setup that’s more interesting than a traditional band. It’s a group of about five people who get together weekly with a theme and write songs based on that. Sometimes, people will have pre-set notions or clips of audio that they will bring to the session and those will be incorporated. We were lucky enough to be able to interview James Allison, the creator of the group, via email (as he was fairly busy).

Indientry: What exactly is the concept behind Digisaurus?

James Allison: The concept behind Digisaurus is kind of constantly evolving, and that’s something we’ve even tried to encapsulate in the name itself. It started out as a pretty open concept with different writers, musicians and visual artists to really make some great songs and focus on their presentation. However, I’ve found over the last six months it is evolving more and more into a band and being presented that way. I don’t think there’s really any rules, and we definitely want to keep it as open as possible when it comes to collaboration. But I’m always excited to think of the many things we can potentially become.

I: What inspired you to create something like this? Why not just a traditional band?

JA: For me personally, I was just inspired by music from artists who followed that model: Gorillaz, Daft Punk, Mark Ronson, Nine Inch Nails, etc. It seemed like a great way to really prioritize the music and art instead of the image.

I: In 5 words, how would you describe your group and your sound for someone who doesn’t know anything about you?

JA: Futuristic golden pop rock explosion.

I: I’ve read in two different places that the musicians with whom you work with are either a set group of friends and varying artists who you invite over. What’s your usual setup?

JA: We would host a writing night at my studio each week and everyone would just bring their instruments with the aim to play. We’d just set up in my control room and all plug into the board. I kind of outline it more in the next question.

I: How does the songwriting process work with this setup?

JA: For this first batch of songs, we always had a starting point when we’d gather on these writing nights. That starting point could be a hook, a lyric, a sample, or just an aspect of music we were inspired by. We’d then create some sort of loop, plug into the board, and just record around that loop all together for an hour so. I’d then be able to take that session, cut it up and kind of frankenstein those ideas into a song. I guess in a sense we were kind of just pumping out all these musical ideas, and then I would match them up like a jigsaw puzzle to create a song.

I: After your debut EP, No More Room For Love, do you think Digisaurus will be making any more music? If so, will it be with the same group of artists or would you switch it up?

JA: We’re definitely creating more music. We had a lot more music than the EP written when we were done recording. The songs on No More Room for Love”just made sense together. I don’t know that the same artists who helped write some of those songs will end up being part of recording and writing in the future, but everyone’s always welcome and they know that. I think there’s always going to be an element that demands we switch things up a bit in order to create the best music possible, but you’ll also hear some of the same names involved with Digisaurus.

I: What’s next for your group?

JA: There’s really two different modes we operate in. One is creation mode and the other is perfection mode, and it’s really hard to switch back and forth between the two short term. In 2014 we were in creation mode…writing, coming up with ideas, concept, brainstorming visuals, etc. It was great. Now in 2015, we’re in perfectionism mode. We’re focusing on recording those ideas from last year, putting together a performance with those ideas, and really refining all of that. We’ve only just gotten the live show going, so we really want to focus on getting on the road more so we can find rhythm there. We’re also still recording some of those songs we had left over from last year while we’re doing that. I see us staying in that mode for the rest of the year, but we’ll probably get back into creation mode in 2016. I don’t think we’ll spend the entire year creating like we did before, but we’ll definitely need some time to come up with some new and exciting ideas possible.

I: How do live performances go? How did the show on Saturday go?

JA: The live performances are pretty traditional in the way that you’ll see five people up there playing the songs. We’re presenting ourselves as a band, but we didn’t necessarily all write or record the actual songs. I think it opens up a unique perspective on the songs and makes it worth seeing. It shows an entirely different side of the art you won’t hear on the record. We’re also very into visual aspects. We’ve put a lot of effort into lighting, stage effects, and our wardrobe to make sure the live show is an experience for people.The show on Saturday was amazing. It was our third show, and we were playing a 5,000 person capacity amphitheater with some really great acts. When you’re in that type of environment, everyone involved in the show really steps it up and the crew is so knowledgable and incredible. They really allow you to be able to focus on your performance because you can have full trust in them that the sound, crowd, and entire production is going to be amazing. It was our first time playing in daylight, so that took a little bit of getting used to. But overall it was an incredible experience.

I: If you could open up for any band at any time period on tour, who would it be?

JA: Probably like The Rolling Stones in the 70’s or something. Those Arena tours looked so cool.

I: Personally, what are you listening to lately?

JA: I still very much believe in the album format just because I love the concept and artistry behind creating music in that form. I usually like to just spend a couple months with the same few albums so I can really analyze them. Right now I’m doing Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special,” Tame Impala’s “Currents,” and Caribou’s “Our Love.” There’s also this great single out right now by The Weeknd called “Can’t Feel My Face.” He sounds like the next Michael Jackson on it! I’m gonna need to hear at least two more singles like that from him though before I’ll trust him in my album rotation 🙂 In the digital era, I don’t think albums are irrelevant. But I think it’s arrogant to just come out and say, “here, spend 45 minutes of your time listening to 10 songs of mine.” You need to build up trust with the audience in a crowded field and show that your songs are consistently coming out ahead of the pack for them. Then I’ll trust an artist to listen to their album.
I: Follow-up: Does that have any influence on your music?

JA: Absolutely. I don’t just listen to the music anymore when I listen to albums. I’m reading interviews with the artists, watching the videos, looking at the album art, etc. I want to know the entire story of how the entire presentation came together, from start to end. I’m definitely using all of that to learn about new techniques, technology, or forms of collaboration. It’s inspiring.

I: Do you think that your music accurately reflects the past-future joining behind the name Digisaurus?

JA: Yes, I think I touched on this before….but this project is all about evolution. I don’t think anything signifies that more than this image of a robotic terminatoresque dinosaur.

I: A lot of your music on Soundcloud sounds like (to me) it has jazz-y undertones beneath the electronica/alternative bits, especially Two Steps. This is a really interesting combination. Was that intentional?

JA: That song definitely started out with some tri-hop sounding drums that set the tone as we progressed with it. I think Jazz, R&B, soul…a lot of that stuff was present during our last writing phase, but I wouldn’t say we limit ourselves to that. “Without Me” is a straight up rock song, and “Make a Move” and “No More Room for Love” have a lot more funk elements to them. I guess all that stuff is a derivative of Jazz, and yes, it was completely intentional!

INot A Chance In Hell is really interesting, I love how you used the audio from someone calling you. Was that a real phone call?

JA: Yes, it was an actual message that got left for me at work. I work at this online t-shirt company…she actually had a very good point about our return policy being messed up. We used to sell toys & video games and forgot to update it to apply to t-shirts. However, I just couldn’t believe how personally offended she was by a piece of business jargon she read online. We get people complaining because they want free stuff…but this was pure and passionate. I felt compelled to make something even more ridiculous than her reaction to something she read on the internet.

I: Do you play any of the instruments in the EP? It’s clear that all of the musicians are talented, especially you with that falsetto (I am thoroughly impressed).

JA: Thanks! And yes, I did play some instruments on there. It’s a little hard to remember which or know what made it on there at this point. I think I handled a lot of the synth’s and a couple guitar parts. In general, I play a lot of instruments at a pretty mediocre level. I’d record parts to the a song to a certain point, and then I’d invite in musicians or friends who were more proficient at each instrument to record them again. Most of the time it would end up better, but sometimes not. You just have to do it and find out. I know on all the tracks I actually recorded all the drums, one drum at a time. Jeff Martin came in after recorded a full kit on “Make a Move, “Without Me,” and “Two Steps,” and just killed it. But we actually kept my drum tracking on No More Room for love. It was a very percussive track and the technique just ended up fitting the song better.

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Check out Digisaurus on Soundcloud for sure. Their music is very alternative, but personally, I like it a lot. Support local music! Even if you don’t live locally to this, support small musicians! Either way, it’s pretty great. Be sure to take a listen!! I, for one, will be waiting for Digisaurus to release more music.

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