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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dario Slavazza's EP Ocean Eyes is Full of Laid-Back, Dream Pop Tunes That Are Perfect For Summer

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge guiltysteps_coverart.png
For most of his life, 28-year-old Dario Slavazza has been making music. He learned how to play saxophone in fourth grade — followed later by guitar, piano, clarinet, and flute — and played in various jazz and other bands throughout high school. he studied ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara and has been working as an arranger and production director for Magik* Magik Orchestra for the last three years. 

"Working with them opened my eyes to the fact that you could do things that were musical that weren't just like playing in a rock band," he said of his job. "It showed me that you can make a living and still be an artist."

For the last few years he was working on an album with two friends, until tragedy struck in 2015 when his laptop was stolen. 

"It was fun," he said sarcastically. "I, of course, hadn't back anything up. I didn't really care that the computer was gone, I just wanted all the stuff that was on it, all the material I'd been working on for the last two years was on it." 

But he soldiered on. For the last year, he worked on new material and on Friday, June 10, he released his first solo EP, Guilty Steps. The four-song album is full of laid-back dream-pop tunes that are expertly crafted and awash in colorful instrumentals and a thick analog fuzz. 

We spoke with the Bay Area native ahead of his upcoming show at Brick and Mortar about the EP, starting anew, and what's next. 

Dario Slavazza plays at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. $7-$10.

SF Weekly: Did you try to recreate any of the stuff you lost from memory?

Dario Slavazza: You know, I tried and failed. I had a lot of demos that I'd emailed to people, so I tried to recreate from those and use them as a template, but it never really worked. It didn’t have the same vibe. So I had to throw everything in the fire and just start over and make new music by myself. 

SFW: You said your earlier songs didn't have the same vibe. And the vibe that I’m picking up with your work now is this sun-dappled, dreamy, laid-back sound. Was that not what the music you were making previously sounded like?

DS: What you're describing is always what I envisioned in my head, but you know when you make music with other people, they also color the sound. What we were making before was a little bit more polished, and a little bit more in the indie-rock realm with more guitars featured. I like using old Casio keyboards. I do a lot of stuff where I’ll record something and put it on a cassette tape and then I’ll put it back in the computer. I'll do a lot of recording outside. Just a lot of weird stuff in combination with nice studio sounds.

SFW: So the EP, it was you playing all the instruments?

Yeah, although there's a couple instances where I don't, like with the violin from"Guilty Steps." But other than that, all of those tracks are me. My process is usually I'll record a bunch of things, I'll chop it up, I’ll make it sound weird, and then I'll record some more stuff on top of that.  I only have so many hands. I do the engineering too.

SFW: So how did you get that fuzziness in the music?

DS: It’s a very intentional fuzz. A lot of times, it’s like the sort of a washy chorus. I love that sound; it sounds like waves. It’s this sort of fluctuating white noise. Sometimes I’ll take the organ sound and put it on a tape to get that and bring it out. And even if the organ doesn’t play the whole time, the tape sound is going underneath that.

SFW: I love "Guilty Steps." It’s a very symphonic opening for the EP. It reminds me of Andrew Bird.

DS: It’s very pensive. It sort of breathes and builds on itself. It’s a little overture into the EP.
SFW: That’s a good way to describe it. What about "Ninja?" 

"Ninja" is actually an ode to a dog. Ninja is a dog. She’s a little black Australian sheep dog. So the lyrics are me talking to her as a puppy. She’s like three now. But it’s me telling her to point her ears and listen close. It’s just a little song to her, with the sax solo at the end.
SFW: "Ocean Eyes" has something to do with when you were at school in Santa Barbara, right?

DS: Yeah, that one is a very California in general track. I wanted it to make you think of beaches with tons of fog, where everything is kind of misty. And it’s just about that timelessness of the beach when you're there. It doesn’t really say anything about a particular time, it could be any time period, anywhere along the coast. That’s kind of what it is to me. 
SFW: And then "Subtle Thrill." That struck me as a very lively ending for an album.

DS: I feel like most of the songs are very relaxed, and I kind of wanted something that was a little more dance-y. The drum beat on it is one of my favorites, it’s like a breakbeat almost. I was a break dancer for a long time and so that beat is a very danceable beat. And then paired with that is this really long floating melody. It’s actually one of the few melodies I wrote when I was in college. There was this van and I drove it between the Bay Area and Santa Barbara a lot. I would just sing to myself. So I wrote a lot of melodies just humming and singing to myself. I mean you're in a car for six hours. So it was the combination of the break dance beat with this long contemplative road trip kind of vibe on top. 
SFW: Apparently this is the first of three EPs?

DS: I started working and I got to this point where I kept working. I basically have the next EP done. It’s been recorded. And I’m actually working now on the material for the third one.

SFW: Is the second EP similar sounding to Guilty Steps?

DS: I think it’s a little bit more soul, sort of funkier. Guilty Steps is the introductory opening and the next EP is a little darker. But sonically it’s still a lot of the same stuff. It’s all a continuation of working on things.

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Jessie Schiewe


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