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Dust Bowl Faeries Reflect on Individuality and Agency in Their Latest EP Carnival Dust

By Dani McKenzie | 22 February, 2023

[TNS]: Dust Bowl Faeries has a very distinct sound. When deciding on your sound and image as a band was it important to you to set yourself apart and stay true to the music and messages you wanted to create?

[Dust Bowl Faeries]: Believe it or not, we didn't really choose our sound, it chose us! I've always been an oddball/misfit, and my superpower is....drumroll (not really)... I

always see the dark side of things: the shadows and the negative spaces. You can really hear that in our songs. The other musicians in the band just sort of materialize, our paths intersect and voilà, the faeries! The irony of the question is that honestly, I'm more often trying to find ways to "fit in" than stand out. I have no problem being weird and different, but in music (and in life), there is so much pressure to fit into a certain genre, gender, orientation, career etc. It's really so oppressive! But at least I can say that Dust Bowl Faeries are truly authentic.

[TNS]: You seem to have a very close relationship with your visual collaborator Lisa M. Thomas and the imagery of the band has a very diverse team behind it. The aesthetics and art surrounding the band seem to be a big part of the way you present yourselves. What does this artistic process and conversation look like for you all? How are the artistic visions and the way they tie in to your music decided? 

[DBF]: Lisa is our magical film fairy who somehow with her own alchemy can turn what

might just be a little bit of roadside dust into a sparkling yellow brick road. Lisa directed her first Dust Bowl Faeries video almost by chance five years ago when we wanted to create a video for our #metoo song, Sirens. The video came out so well that the following year Lisa decided to direct another video, this time for our song Zebra. Then she directed the 16mm film for Vampire Tango, a song that I wrote after attending a Voodoo ritual, and we have literally been collaborating on one video or another ever since.  Lisa understands our aesthetic so well that sometimes it's hard to know where she will take us next. The reality is that Lisa pretty much decides which videos get made and if we are recording, whatever song inspires her ends up on our next album! Lisa also does projections at some of our live performances, which is always a big hit.

[TNS]: There is such a vast variety of different sounds found in your music. From a fan perspective, are there specific artists, sounds, or cultures that inspire you all individually or as a band and how do you feel that has impacted where the band is now?

[DBF]: I studied music with a Klezmer accordionist so Eastern European folk music and Jewish/Yiddish folk songs have had a big influence on my songwriting. I like music that has an Eastern folk/Roma sound, like and DakhaBrakha, Alina Orlova & DeVotchka. I love a good hora and the Balkan/Romanian brass band movement has been a big inspiration. There are a lot of women and gender non-conforming musicians in the modern brass bands (which is great!) like Balkan Paradise Orchestra. I really love Roma-punk music, like early Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box and Bella's Bartok, and I'm a big Dresden Dolls/Amanda

Palmer fan. I've always loved Weimar/dark cabaret music, like Three Penny Opera, and vaudeville singers like Josephine Baker, and accordion players like Edith Piaf, and "gypsy jazz" music, Django Reinhardt et all. Oh, and Tiger Lillies, so dark, so fun.

[TNS]: What got you all into music and was it always something that brought you all together?

[DBF]: What really got me started playing music was the Riot Grrrl movement (way back when) and my grandmother, Margie, who played piano and loved to sing all the old schmaltzy hits. Dust Bowl Faeries met largely at the Club Helsinki open mic, which I hosted

for years with my co-conspirator, Cameron Melville, and Hazel, my re-gendered taxidermy spirit animal. Hazel was the open mic's mascot.

[TNS]: How would you explain the band’s relation to your fanbase and its evolution from the beginnings of the band to now? Could you speak a bit to what your fanbase means to you as a band but also possibly as fans of other artists yourselves?

[DBF]: I consider our fans to be part of the faerie entourage, really, they are an integral part of our music and shows. It's so wonderful to see familiar faces, every show is like a reunion of chosen family. There's nothing like a world pandemic to remind us of how vital it is to have listeners, friends, audience and fans. Playing by yourself gets pretty lonely! The best thing is when people show up who like to dance, we always remember them, it's so much fun when people are dancing, the energy is great.

The fun thing about shows, whether you're performing or listening, is seeing people you know, meeting new people, and knowing that you have at least one thing in common with everyone in the room, you came out to hear the band that's playing, and that's unifying and creates a sense of belonging. We all want to belong, sometimes, even us misfits and oddballs.

[TNS]: Could you speak a bit about your new EP and how the process of making this new music and possibly entering a new era as a band differed from your previous experiences?

[DBF]: We had a good time making Carnival Dust and I think you can really feel that when listening to these songs. Recording can be stressful, really stressful, but the songs on Carnival Dust are fun and lighthearted, in their own gothic sort of way. There's been a shift in

our music since the pandemic. We've been playing more up-tempo songs. Our lyrics are still pretty macabre, but there is more humor. There's a lot of really intense and depressing stuff going on in the world and we needed to find a way to cheer ourselves up and have fun. Music has been a great vehicle for that.

[TNS]: If you had to pick one of your songs to perform or play for the rest of your lives what would it be and why?

[DBF]: Candy Store (on The Plague Garden). It already feels like forever with that song. My grandma taught me the first verse when I was a kid, so the song reminds me of her. We wrote the rest of the verses, which takes the song in a bit more of a maniacal and politically

charged direction, which is fun. There may be more verses to come, who knows.

[TNS]: If you had to describe the band’s sound or vibe in one word what would it be?

[DBF]: Carnivalesque.

[TNS]: What advice would you give aspiring musicians and songwriters from your experiences so far?

[DBF]: I started out playing in collaborative bands, and at that time, I wouldn't have it any other way. Those bands were really fun, so long as everyone was getting along, but when the shit hits the fan and the band breaks up, you have to start over with new everything, songs, band name, musicians, socials, website, photos, recordings, blah blah. It gets exhausting after a while. It took me a long time to build up the chutzpa to start my own band (Dust Bowl Faeries) and sometimes it feels lonely, like when I'm doing all the grunt work myself, but if someone quits, the band lives on. So, when you're ready, go for it, make it yours, make it last, you can do it, and....this is kind of down and dirty, but in my opinion, don't date your bandmates! Playing music can be sexy and romantic, but every time I've hooked up with a bandmate I have regretted it. I do know a few romantically intwined duos who make it work, like Frenchy and the Punk. Wow, no idea how they do it, but apparently, it is possible, somehow.

[TNS]: What do you hope will be your impact as a band, from now and for the rest of your career whether that be on the music industry itself or in general?

[DBF]: I'd like to reach as many diverse ears and eyes and bodies as possible... more singing, more dancing, more freaks, more revolution, more change, more transformation.

I want to offer all of the darklings in the world a little bit of magic, something that speaks to them, something that resonates, something they can sing along to when they're feeling happy, or sad, or insane, something different, something real, something playful

and honest and mysterious. I'd also like to be an inspiration to other women, non-binary, queer and gender-nonconforming artists. It's so important for as many voices as possible to be out there, representing, enchanting, whatever it is that you do. I believe in diversity. Diversity of sound, music, people, identities, species, and experiences. It's so easy to

feel defeated, like the whole world is against you, but what a boring world we would live in if everyone and everything looked and sounded the same.

Check out more of The Dust Faeries latest EP "Carnival Dust" on Spotify and Apple Music. Stay up to date with the band via Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.


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