Dirty Projectors Let Black Flag Fly The Dirty Projectors, a Brooklyn band, remakes a classic record from the punk band Black Flag — from memory. The group stops in for a taste of Rise Above.

Dirty Projectors Let Black Flag Fly

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All right, well, on this Tuesday morning, let's just take a moment to de-stress.

(Soundbite of song, "Rise Above")

BLACK FLAG (Punk Band): (Singing) Jealous cowards try to control. Rise above, we're gonna rise above. They distort what we say. Rise above, we're gonna rise above. Try and stop what we do.

BURBANK: Yes, Virginia, those are the soothing sounds of the seminal punk band, Black Flag. This is "Rise Above" off the band's 1990 record "Damaged." Okay, savor the flavor. Now this is "Rise Above," re-imagined by a guy named Dave Longstreth.

(Soundbite of song, "Rise Above")

DIRTY PROJECTORS (Rock Band): (Singing) We are tired of your abuse. Try to stop what we…

BURBANK: Here's how the story goes: A while ago, Dave Longstreth, whose band records under the name Dirty Projectors, was moving some stuff out of his parents' home in Connecticut when he found an empty cassette tape case. It was Black Flag's "Damaged."

Mr. DAVID LONGSTRETH (Lead Singer, Dirty Projectors): This dude with a shaved head punching a mirror. And the plastic cassette case actually was itself cracked in this kind of like broken glass pattern.

BURBANK: And so you thought to yourself, I love that tape. I wish I had it.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: Not exactly. I was kind of like, whoa, there's that album. And I, you know, I hadn't really thought about it for a really long time.

BURBANK: But he decided to re-record that entire record from memory. His goal, though, wasn't to make something that sounded exactly like the original. In fact, his version of "Damaged" couldn't possibly sound more different sonically. And yet somehow, it held on to its essence.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: "Damaged" was like one of the first albums that I got into as a teenager. Yeah, I wouldn't say it was particularly formative to my identity or that I loved it more than, you know, say the early Beatles or something like that, but just that it wasn't there I think kind of made me want to do it.

BURBANK: So you set about to recreate this Black Flag album, and I just want to get into the kind of mechanics of how that - what were the rules for re-imagining this record?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: Knowing that I really articulated to myself at the time, I just sort of began with, you know, writing melodies and then sort of distinct from the melodies that I was making, thinking of the words as well as I could, and then just sort of pairing them where they fit together.

BURBANK: Well, could you guys play a song for us?


BURBANK: All right. Would you mind just saying what the song is?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: Sure. It's "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie."

(Soundbite of song, "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie")

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme some more. Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask what for. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme some more. Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask what for.

Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for. Gimme, yeah, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: (Singing) Sitting here, I'm a loaded gun waiting to go off. I've got nothing to do, but shoot my mouth off.

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for. Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for.

Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme some more. Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask what for. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme some more. Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask what for.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: (Singing) I know that the world's got problems. I've got problems of my own. Not the kind that can't be solved, that can't be solved, that can't be solve, that can't be solved.

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for. Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for. Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for. Gimme, I need some more. Gimme, gimme, gimme, don't ask what for.

(Soundbite of applause)

BURBANK: Dirty Projectors. That's Dave Longstreth, Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian.

This is, obviously, not really a - it would be, I think, underselling it to say it's a cover album. It's really a re-imagination. Was that harder than just writing your own damn song in the first place?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: You know, it's a totally different process. It's like, you know, you try not to be creative. You just try to just cleanly remember something. It - I don't know, I think it turns out that, like, being creative is a lot like having a really good memory or having a really bad memory, but trying to just be as clean as possible. Sort of the opposite of being a Dirty Projector was the challenge.

BURBANK: In putting this record together, did you, like, pick up any tips on something musical that you're going to take forward when you're working on stuff now going back to writing - working on kind of Dirty Projectors stuff?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: I think so, yeah. The straightforwardness of the lyrics is amazing, and it's so hard to do that. You know, a lot of the music, the indie rock or whatever, that I grew up on is all about these kind of like poetically obtuse lyrics that mean everything and nothing. And the beautiful thing about "Damaged" is just how unambiguous it is.

BURBANK: It's actually interesting to hear you say that, because that's just what I was thinking when you guys were singing, was like I guess I haven't listened to a song that that's straightforward in a while. Because, you're right, it's - everything is an allusion to something else and…


BURBANK: For what you guys are doing with the harmonies and coming in, did you guys just get in a room together? And, Dave, did you already have a lot of it put together, and did you guys just start kind of improvising, like this sounds really good?

Ms. ANGEL DERADOORIAN (Member, Dirty Projects): Dave had an idea, and Amber fleshed it out with Dave in the beginning parts with another singer named Suzanna.

BURBANK: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DERADOORIAN: And then I joined the band, and then we sit in a room for about eight hours a day.

Ms. AMBER COFFMAN (Member, Dirty Projects): Yeah.

Ms. DERADOORIAN: Working on the vocal parts.

Ms. COFFMAN: Vocal parts were - when they were written, it was, like Angel said, Suzanna, this girl and I flew out to New York and Dave just had his guitar and we sat in his living room for 12 hours a day. The first day was, I think, 10 hours, then 8 hours, then 12 hours. We did that for like a week straight just every single day, hard - like not leaving the house at all. And Dave just like came up with, you know, he just kind of would play the song, show us how it went and then just be, like, okay just - you know, and do this and, like, sing the melody. And then, you know, we kind of pieced it together like that.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: We didn't have a lot of time, because we were about to go out tour.

Ms. COFFMAN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: It's really pretty music, which some people might not take as a compliment, but I mean it in the best way. Yeah. You know, even when you mouth a swear word, we have to bleep it out. So, thanks. I'm kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)


BURBANK: No. You can mouth all the swear words you want.

Is it hard to sometimes play this music in a rock club where it's, like, loud and people are drinking, and you're trying to do this really kind of delicate…

Ms. COFFMAN: It's not as delicate.

Ms. DERADOORIAN: We're really loud.

BURBANK: So are we getting kind of the pretty, NPR, the Faberge egg?

Ms. DERADOORIAN: You're getting the acoustic vibe.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: You're getting the vulnerable interior.

BURBANK: So is it…

Ms. DERADOORIAN: The Faberge egg.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: …the soft underbelly of Dirty Projectors?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: Yeah, exactly.

BURBANK: So is it more like a Comanche war yell when you're doing the actual concert?

Ms. DERADOORIAN: Some songs, you could say that.

Ms. COFFMAN: Certain songs, yeah. But no, the songs that we're singing, we're singing them the way we do, always. You know, we just have to pump the mics up a lot.

Mr. LONGSTRETH: It's just that it's about 95 decibels louder.

Ms. DERADOORIAN: There's a little more push in the vocals, I would believe, because we have to really hear ourselves.

BURBANK: That's what I wondering about. I was in the North Seattle Christian Jazz Choir, you may have heard of it. I don't want to brag. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: …it's really hard to sing really precise harmony even in the best of circumstances, but you guys are able to do it even in a kind of traditional -are people quiet? Do they respect what you're trying to do?

Ms. DERADOORIAN: Yes, usually. Sometimes we'll do shows like this, and a huge crowd people, and we're like about to go on stage and we're like, oh, are they going to quiet down? And they do. I mean, it's amazing.

BURBANK: "Rise Above" is songs that were originally heard on the Black Flag record "Damaged" after Dave found the tape in his parents' house. And thank God you didn't find "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt Him." This would have been a very, very different set.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Could you guys play one more song for us?

Mr. LONGSTRETH: Sure. This is called "Spray Paint (The Walls)."

(Soundbite of song, "Spray Paint (The Walls)")

Mr. LONGSTRETH: (Singing) It feels good to say what I want, to knock things down. It feels good to see the disgust in their eyes.

DIRTY PROJECTORS: (Singing) Oh, I gonna go wild and spray paint the walls. Oh, I gonna go wild and spray paint the walls.


Dave Longstreth and the Dirty Projectors. You can see a video of them performing "Rise Above" at our Web site: npr.org/bryantpark.

I'm Alison Stewart.

BURBANK: I'm Luke Burbank.

That does it for another hour of THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. Check us out online, npr.org/bryantpark. We'll see you real soon.

(Soundbite of song, "Spray Paint (The Walls)")

Mr. LONGSTRETH: (Singing) There won't be room for people like me. My life is their disease.

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