Published Jul 11, 2018Indie rock, R&B, punk, West African music, glitch — no single genre, song or even album can fully encapsulate the totality of stylistic fusions nomadic singer, guitarist David Longstreth has in play at any one time with his long-running project Dirty Projectors. If there's been one constant across his lengthy career, it's been an embrace of constant reinvention.
With the release of Dirty Projector's latest, Lamp Lit Prose, here are five noteworthy facts you may not know about the chameleonic band.
1. Both Amber Coffman and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig were early admirers of Dirty Projectors and both would later become bandmates with Longstreth.
After playing a solo gig at a San Diego ice cream parlour, Longstreth meets 22-year old singer Amber Coffman. Speaking with the San Diego Union Tribune in 2009, she calls the show an "artistic epiphany." Another earlier admirer is future Dirty Projector touring player and Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, who, in what he says is his only published music review describes the record as "Dave Longstreth making his own fucked up version of American music."
2. In a creative move that Longstreth would later utilize on Dirty Projectors, ex-girlfriend and bandmate Larkin Grimm uses their relationship as artistic inspiration.
In September 2005, Grimm, who had toured as a member of Dirty Projectors' live band before splitting with Longstreth, releases her solo debut, Harpoon. Inspired by her relationship with Longstreth, the cover features a pencil sketch of Grimm spearing a snake with a harpoon. "Dave is the serpent on the cover of my album. He is sad about killing me, and I am crying over killing him, but we do it anyway, because this is our nature," she says in a 2008 interview. "We fought a lot, we were foolish, we had a really dangerous and insane love affair, and we hurt each other terribly."
3. Bitte Orca turned many hip-hop and R&B luminaries into fans.
In September of 2009, Dirty Projectors play "When the World Comes to an End" from their collaboration with Björk on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They also play an acoustic version of "Stillness is the Move" in the Roots' dressing room, causing a previously skeptical ?uestlove to tweet: "dirty projectors really became a fav of mine after today." JAY-Z and Beyoncé attend a Dirty Projectors/Grizzly Bear gig in August and Coffman briefly meets Beyoncé, who expresses her enjoyment for the band. The next day JAY-Z tells MTV that "what the indie rock movement is doing right now is very inspiring." In November, Solange releases a cover of "Stillness is the Move" swapping out Longstreth's guitar for a sample of Soul Mann and the Brothers' "Bumpy's Lament."
4. Swing Lo Magellan was considered something of a commercial misstep.
The record peaks at number 22 on the Billboard 200, spending three weeks on the chart. Despite positive reviews, the record is not the commercial success Longstreth had hoped for. In 2017, the band's manager, Brett Williams, tells the New York Times, "You think an album's gonna propel you forward, and then it doesn't, at least not immediately."
5. The members of Dirty Projectors showed off their comedy chops in an episode of Portlandia.
In an episode of Portlandia, at a "Battle of the Gentle Bands," Longstreth plays guitar in a fictional group called Featherwash, which is fronted by Fred Armisen. Coffman and singer/percussionist Haley Dekle are part of Bless the Barn, fronted by J Mascis and Carrie Brownstein; they ring a bell by kissing it.