"I was several songs deep into the writing of Emotional Freedom Technique when I realized that I'd never attempted to pen a duet before," says Dave Depper of "Your Voice On The Radio," the Laura Gibson debut taken we're premiering today from that new solo record. Depper is a mainstay of Portland's music scene and became, over the past few years, a full-time member of Washington state's legendary Death Cab For Cutie.
Part of the appeal for Dave Depper toward those male-female duets is what he calls the "sheer suspension of disbelief" that recalls the improbably perfect pairings in Broadway musicals. He made the song with a dear friend, singer Laura Gibson, known well to All Songs Considered fans as the tender singer first to grace the Tiny Desk Concert series. Here, Dave plays a lonely soul with a yearning for love; Laura Gibson plays a songwriter wondering if anyone hears her tunes. When Dave Depper's character hears her song on the radio he swoons — and no sooner than midway into the track they're a duet singing about love.
He says he wrote "Your Voice On The Radio" with "her in mind. In recent years Laura has rightly become recognized as a master of hushed, intimate, often acoustic-based music, and I thought it would be a hoot to temporarily recast her as an idealized disco queen, surrounded by bubbling synthesizers and drum machines. She absolutely knocked this one out of the park — I think she did two vocal takes total."
For the song's robotic, pastel-hued video, Depper brought in a friend, Christopher Harrell, saying "his work strikes a perfect balance of deeply awkward and strangely touching."
The track Dave Depper first put down resembled the '70s disco sounds of Chic and he liked it okay, but Around the time David Bowie passed away, Depper was listening to the music Bowie had made in Berlin, particularly Low, and thought: "Hey, what if I re-record every instrument to sound like how they're produced on the song 'Sound and Vision'? So, I did just that, even down to the same phase shifter on the guitar and the harmonizer on the snare drum — and suddenly I had a track that fit in with the rest of the record I was working on."
Laura Gibson wrote to tell us that "there was a good three-year gap between singing on this song and hearing it again in its finished form, and that melody remained solidly in my head the whole time (and perhaps for all eternity — it is very catchy). So much growth and life happened within those years. Listening now, it feels like a small time capsule of our friendship."
Christopher Harrell's video is, besides sweetly awkward, also a gift to gear heads; its opening shot of a pristine ARP Odyssey — first introduced in 1972 --before moving on to display much of the equipment that helped characterize not only the disco sound, but a good chunk of '80s synth-driven pop (and Bowie, too). Harrell wrote to me that its concept "came from Dave's love of vintage synths and my love of colorful, music-driven pieces. Having Dave's collection of beautiful instruments to draw from was the perfect palette for creating this deconstructed vision of the song. In the end, we wanted to create something that felt nostalgic, colorful, and a just little weird."
Dave Depper's album Emotional Freedom Technique is out on the Portland based label, Tender Loving Empire.