A couple of years ago, a friend sent me an album by email saying, "I think you are really going to like this." The band was called DIANA, the album was called Perpetual Surrender, and I have never felt more found, more seen, than when I listened to that album. I listened without knowing anything about the people who made the music; it just didn't seem important, the sounds already had an otherworldly quality to them. It was if the album captured past lives led as well as future ones (I imagined myself listening to some songs after I broke up with my then-boyfriend, despite the fact it took me years to actually break up with him — the songs knew before I knew).
It had been a while since I had fallen in love with a band in that all-consuming teenage style, so when one of the band members reached out to me earlier this year and offered to send me their still-unfinished record to hear my thoughts, I almost had a conniption. There are few things as scary as listening to a new album by a band whose previous one completely defined a phase of your life.
The now-titled Familiar Touch, out on November 18, perfectly picks up where the previous one left off, without being more of the same. Singer Carmen Elle says she doesn't really think you can dance to their music, but I disagree. I have found myself blasting their newest single, "Slipping Away," while I dance around my bedroom just like a hormonal adolescent. That feeling of past lives is still there, but it's more grounded — it feels more like it comes from real life as opposed to a magical land somewhere far away.
I talked to Carmen on the phone last week about what it's like being an indie musician, Sade, and why music is still what keeps us all going.
Laia Garcia: How different was it making the record this time around? I know that when you joined the band last time, they had lyrics written, and the songs were mostly finished and they just needed a singer on the tracks.
Carmen Elle: Yeah, last time the album was done. We were very excited when we started working on the new batch of songs. We toured our last record for a year and a half, so we were ready. We worked on the arrangements together, we workshopped some lyrics together. It was more collaborative than Perpetual Surrender for sure.
LG: I find it so amazing that you don't write the lyrics, because they always feel like they are your own!
CE: I think I am really good at interpreting the emotional charge behind the lyrics. That's honestly one of the reasons that we wound up working together the way that we have. You know what I mean? It's not easy. It feels good when I'm singing them.
LG: I read in an old interview that you were working as a baker part time, and I love knowing about people's secret lives a bit. Are you a musician full time now, between DIANA and your other band, Army Girls?
CE: That's a good question. Fuck, what am I doing right now? I'm mostly [doing] music. I went through a pretty low, very depressed year this past year. And I actually broke up my other band. I was trying to quit music really hard. I really just did not think that it was making me happy or healthy. My other band is only a two-piece, and it was easier to break that band up.