White Poppy: Interview
“You need the chaos to have order, just like you need hardship to appreciate joy. I suppose I do value chaos.”
Crystal Dorval first released music under the guise White Poppy in 2012 on a Not Not Fun release entitled, I Had a Dream. Since then, she has dropped two more cassettes on Constellation Tatsu and Green Burrito, a single-sided 7-inch, a split release with Samantha Glass, and a full length, self-titled LP/CS last year.
Dorval is heading to Canada’s East coast this week to play a few shows and dabble, but before she left, TMT was afforded the opportunity to get a good Q&A sesh with her. Scope ‘em below and enter the mind of White Poppy.
So satiate my curiosity, how did you hook up with Britt and Amanda at Not Not Fun?
Well, I just sent them an e-mail. [Laughs] It was actually my friend Daniel ( recent Euro tour-mate, Pan) who suggested I contact them. I was a fan of the label but was intimidated to contact them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, so I just sent this super casual e-mail. I didn’t hear back from them for awhile, so I thought my email just went out into the internet void. Eventually I heard back from Britt, and he suggested a tape, and everything began unfolding after that. I really like working [with] them.
What was this “dream” that inspired the title for your debut release I Had a Dream?
It’s actually kind of sad. No, it’s interesting to me because I had been working toward this dream of pursuing music and art, and it started to get really hard. There were no breaks and nothing was coming my way and I was becoming hopeless and felt like quitting, thinking, “I guess I’ll go back to school and become, I dunno, an administrative assistant or something.”
“I Had A Dream” was this sad defeatist song about giving up, but ironically, that tape opened up a more successful path for me, and things have been going quite well ever since that release. It’s symbolic to me personally as something that was intentionally named and made in the death of something, but in turn started to help me become more successful. Thus, it wasn’t an ACTUAL night dream. Which I think most people consider.
I’ve noticed differences between your first CS I Had A Dream and your latest Self Titledrelease, what changed there between your recording processes?
I Had A Dream was recorded completely to tape and I mixed it myself and it’s pretty harsh. It was a trial-and-error process because I had just bought a four-track and was teaching myself how to use it while recording the songs. With the S/T I wanted to capture aspects of that original sound from I Had A Dream, but also make it more polished. I recorded all the songs to tape, then added more layers digitally. The real difference is that I had the S/T professionally mix and mastered.
Right, and they just re-released your Self Titled album on cassette. Do you prefer your music on tape or vinyl?
I requested that; I like having tapes. Actually, I just realized that I haven’t listened to the Self Titled yet on vinyl [Laughs] [Laughs]. I feel bad saying it, but I don’t purchase or collect vinyl. And it’s like, NOW I’m just too old to start a record collection.
Recently, I’ve been trying to get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t want many material possessions. Just trying to get rid of everything I CAN get rid of. Mostly I listen to music on my computer or iPod. I love records as THINGS. I just don’t want them in my house.
When I made Drifter’s Gold I was still living in Vancouver, in the the city. For years and years I’ve been obsessed with this idea of paradise, and my music is so inspired by that longing for an escape from the city into this idea of paradise. To me, summer is the paradise season. It gets brighter and greener, and all the flowers and animals are out, people are happier; it feels very blissful.
Last October I moved out of the city and into a rural farm community, and now I’m just living in a type of “paradise.” It’s weird, because I found it harder to become inspired to make things without the longing.Drifter’s Gold was more of a longing for paradise, and now I just live in it. I think a lot of my creative inspiration comes from longing for something, but I am now trying to work on being satisfied with what I have, so maybe contentment will be a theme in the work I make at the farm.
Damn. Well, you also did that Song A Day project too. Do you feel like these on-the-fly ideas (song-a-day, seasonal music) will continue under the White Poppy name?
Um — I’m in a space right now where I want to spend a significant amount of time perfecting one thing, ie, another full length. However, I like the idea of bouncing back and forth between the two methods, of spending time working long and hard on something, and also creating things more spontaneously or on the fly.
That’s what happened between the Self Titled and Drifter’s Gold. I spent many months making the S/T, and then right after I completed it, I was inspired to make Drifter’s Gold, almost as a way to decompress from the rigid work habits of creating the S/T. I finished Drifter’s Gold in a matter of weeks, like: BAM BAM BAM done. So, it’s very different how the two emerged, but I feel that if one didn’t exist, neither would the other.
Not to be one of those people who LOVE their own shit always, but I love that song. It’s such a simple song, but I have no idea how to recreate something so simple. I don’t even remember creating it.
What is that a bird in the background? It’s storming where I’m at and it sounds like you’re just chillin’ on the lawn! It’s trippy.
No, um, my house is very thin. It’s like half-outside. Thus, the birds outside are quite loud. They’re my garden birds!
You’ve got a garden?
There is an unkept flower garden outside my house where the birds live. I want to start a food garden one day, but as is it’s more of a jungle then a garden out there.
Where do you live in Canada?
I live on Vancouver Island. It’s about an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from the mainland, and it’s where Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) is located. I live in a rural area about an hour away from Victoria.
And you work on a farm out there?
It’s not that I work on a farm as much as I just hang out here. I mean, I do my own sort of work. Like, recently I’ve been planning out this fence. But it’s not paid work. I’m pretty into domestic projects right now. I wanna make a nice patio to hang out on.
Do you find inspiration for your music/creativity while getting your hands dirty like that?
Well, yes and no. I really got inspired on this last tour to Europe to come home and record. The whole trip, on the train rides, I’d be listening to my demos and unfinished songs on my computer, and just getting excited to get home and work on recording. But, as soon as I got back, I immediately lost the motivation to do the recording. [Laughs]
I don’t want many material possessions. Just trying to get rid of everything I CAN get rid of. Mostly I listen to music on my computer or iPod. I love records as THINGS. I just don’t want them in my house.
Shoot! Was this last tour in Europe your first time there as White Poppy?
Actually, it was my first time being there at all.
What was your most memorable experience?
I did one BAD thing, and that was REALLY fun and memorable, but I don’t want to say what it was. Mostly, I was just happy to have more freedom there, even though that may sound super ‘North American.’ Like, I’m not sure how it is in the states, but the smoking laws in Canada right now are very strict. So it was so nice to just sit on a patio with your after-lunch smoke — or even smoke inside, even though, I know some people are grossed-out by that. I just like having the option of being allowed to smoke wherever you want.
And in Germany I was pretty happy to just be drinking beer on the sidewalk, and stuff. I remember when I was in Prague we played at this little club, there were people smoking at the bar all speaking a different language, and this was my first culture shock. Like, ‘Whoa, this is WAY different from home: there’re DOGS in the bar!’ THAT was pretty awesome.
Did you have a favorite cigarette brand? I know they go HARD on the physical packaging of them in Canada.
Umm, it all started because of the person who booked my tour. I played in his city the second day of the tour and he was smoking these cigarettes called Parisiennes. He bought me a pack, and then I just kept smoking that kind for some reason.
Were you traveling with a group while on tour?
I ended up bringing my friend with me [Pan] who’s also a solo experimental performer, and he opened up most of the shows for me. He also helped me manage everything, like all the gear and trains and stuff.
Usually when you’re on tour do you play a pre-practiced set of songs, or do more jamming/impromptu playing?
I practiced certain songs prior to leaving, so my set list was fairly similar each night, and it consisted of a variety of songs that are from all of my releases, but also some improvisational and experimental stuff.
It’s hard for me to do a lot of the songs live since I am performing solo, and some of the songs just need more people for backing. White Poppy started as a recording project, so my live shows are still more of an experiment than anything. It’s always different.