Following the sudden exit of singer Dean Wareham from “slowcore” pioneers Galaxie 500 in 1991, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang went on to craft their own genre of sad and smart psychedelic folk. Going into their second decade as a duo, Damon and Naomi have released False Beats & True Hearts, the eighth and (somewhat) happiest album yet. Contributions come from many familiar names, including avant sax player and arranger Bhob Rainey, Ghost and Boris guitar god Michio Kurihara, and Ghost’s main man Masaki Buto, and the accompanying tour featured guest musicians in every city. I had the pleasure of spending some time with my old friends before and after their L.A. stop at The Satellite with Amor de Dias, and couldn’t let Naomi go without a quick Q&A.
MW: The new album is great! Now that reviews are pouring in, do you feel like listeners hear it the same way you did when you recorded it?
NY: What has been very gratifying is that the reviewers do really seem to have heard what we were trying to do. This time we were consciously trying to write a more upbeat album than the last one and the response has been really positive; we can’t complain that we are misunderstood!
MW: Although you are a duo by definition, you’re always playing with friends. Some regulars (Kuri, Bhob…) and a few less frequent (Alasdair, Smokey…). Can you talk about the always-changing dynamics?
NY: We love a good collaboration. Working with Kuri and Bhob over a long period of time has allowed us all to grow into the music together and so playing with them feels very natural, but this last tour, due to the fact that Kuri couldn’t play with us in the U.S., we had the opportunity to have more spontaneous collaborations. We were excited about all the players: Alasdair MacLean (Amor de Dias, The Clientele), Mac McCaughan (Superchunk, Portastatic), Wayne Rogers (Major Stars, Magic Hour), Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash, Beck, Tom Waits…), and Chris Martin (Kinski) along the way. Mary Lattimore (Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore) also sat in with us one night on harp. It’s a very different experience but also really fun to hear everyone’s interpretations of the songs.
MW: You’re not known for playing covers, but… Every time I hear “It Changes” or “Lila’s Theme,” I can’t help think of D&N. Not sure why. What do you think?
NY: Wow, those songs are super-sad… I think a lot of our music is very emotional, and the loss/the passage of time is often in the lyrics, either explicitly or indirectly. Those aren’t the typical subject for pop songs but it is something that we find in a lot of music that listen to that moves us, and song seems like a very good way to express these sort of emotions…
But actually, we have always played a lot of covers, going even back to the olden days of Galaxie 500. It has always been a way for us to inhabit and learn from songs we haven’t written, maybe couldn’t have written, but wished we had written… Recently we covered the Rolling Stones “Shine A Light,” but who knows? Maybe we have to cover Charlie Brown’s “It Changes.”
MW: Istanbul, Paris, Tokyo–sometimes it seems like your tours share the same settings as James Bond movies. Does it ever get old?
NY: Never! There is always something new and fun to discover, to hear, to see–to eat! And what could be nicer than to get to play our music for people all over the world; it’s a dream come true!
MW: My stint was brief and a long time ago, but I need a job. Is there a future for me in T-shirt sales?
NY: You, Martin, could be selling the Brooklyn Bridge and people would buy it. Our merch sales never did so well as the time you were on duty at the merch table during the Boris tour.
Check out Damon & Naomi’s music, news, and merch here, and don’t sleep on Amor de Dias, either. You’ll surely want to incorporate the latter’s soothing brand of indie Tropicalia into all of your hot dates this summer…