Katy Davidson used to play with the loosely experimental and highly inspirational band Dear Nora, bounding around from venue to warehouse, backyard bbq to art gallery, spreading free-form art pop throughout the Bay Area. Her new project, The Key Losers,brings a fresh approach to writing, collaboration and content.
Davidson discusses The Key Losers, along with her love of Steely Dan and burritos.
You have been playing music for over one hundred years! Talk about the projects you have been involved in previously and how your new project, Key Losers, differs from them.
More than one hundred years, basically! I’ve been playing music professionally since about 2001. I used to be the singer, guitarist and songwriter in the band Dear Nora. That band was an outlet for me to creatively express my feelings primarily about relationships with lovers and friends. It started as a “pop” band, and eventually evolved into something slightly more experimental. With Key Losers, I allow myself the freedom to do whatever the heck I want musically, whether it’s riffing on Howard Jones or Alice Coltrane or Steely Dan. Lyrically, I’ve moved on from writing about interpersonal relationships. Now I’m pretty much exclusively writing about the environment, and how I relate to, and cope with, contemporary society, technology and politics.
You say that the Key Losers debut, California Lite, is the best album you have ever made. How did the recording process differ from your previous albums? What makes this so special to you?
I involved a lot of my excellent musical friends in the making (and engineering) of this album. It was highly collaborative, whereas collaboration was something I immaturely shunned in the past. This album feels the most “realized” of all my recordings. Picture a beautiful mural instead of a notebook of sketches.
What will the lineup of the live show look like?
I can’t tour with the band of my dreams, which is the same band that played on my album. Everyone lives far apart and is busy with their own projects. I’m fortunate enough to have friends up and down the West Coast that are willing to do somewhat spontaneous live collaborations with me. For my San Francisco show, my friend Nora Roman will accompany me on percussion instruments from around the world. I’ll play electric guitar and sing. I often use a delay and phase pedal. I also have some backing drum tracks I will use for about half of my set.
What other stops are you making on this tour? You also tour with YACHT, how does that experience differ from when you are performing your own compositions?
Phoenix, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. It’s just a mini-tour. I’m doing a more comprehensive West Coast tour in January with a band called The Finches. My shows are always in smaller venues than YACHT shows, venues that allow me to emphasize subtlety and spontaneity in my performance.
What is your songwriting process like and how has it evolved over the years? Do you sit down and just jam with yourself or do you typically have a concept or line in mind that you then expand upon?
I used to just jam songs out. The lyrics would just come along with the melody. I was impressively prolific. Now I almost never write songs, but when I do, they are generally born from a lyrical concept.
What are some bands or performers that you find to be particularly inspiring right now?
Hmmm. 1970s-contemporary Joni Mitchell (Hejira through Shine), Kate and Anna McGarrigle (especially Love Over and Over from 1982), Zappa (Jazz from Hell), Marvin Gaye (Troubleman and What’s Going On). Pretty cool stuff. As far as more contemporary music goes, I saw both Omar Souleyman and Reggie Watts play at a festival recently, and their performances were nothing short of inspiring. I also love a few of the Lady Antebellum singles. They’re a great group of songwriters and singers. Three-part harmony done effectively in a contemporary setting, with great guitar parts and emotional lyrics? Awesome.
If you had to choose between only eating one kind of sandwich for the rest of your life or only wearing one kind of shoe – which would you go with and why?
Burrito. Just ’cause.
Key Losers play The Hemlock on Sunday, November 20th. Doors are at 9pm and tickets are $7. Lesbians provide main support and Nora Roman and the Border Busters start things off.