Deradoorian: From Dirty Projectors to Her Budding Debut

My first listen of Deradoorian’s debut LP The Expanding Flower Planet was a surreal, naturalistic experience, one where the album title proved a prescient summary of how I felt laying in the hammock of my backyard after finishing a joint. It seemed only fitting then that Angel Deradoorian, the chanteuse behind the mystic record, asked me to meet her in a park. She was exactly what I had hoped her to be—calm, soft-spoken, and incredibly ethereal—the closest thing to a wood nymph that Greenpoint, Brooklyn had to offer.

Deradoorian has undoubtedly had one of the most curious careers in current alternative music. She joined the indie titans Dirty Projectors at the age of 20, helping create their mammoth single Stillness Is the Move, only to take her exit from the band after the supporting tour. She’s collaborated with members of Vampire Weekend, and wrote a horror-movie themed album with Animal Collective’s Avery Tare, all the while preparing for her long-awaited first album. And how does it feel for such a well-rounded musician to release her first record? “Like I’ve finally gotten all the colors for the coloring book,” she says with a laugh. Milk’s Jake Boyer spoke to Deradoorian about her remarkable career, her teenage eccentricities, and the surprising message she received while on mushrooms.

The trajectory to your debut LP has been incredibly unique. In so many words…why now?

I guess it’s never predictable what you’re going to do when your passion is just making stuff. Dirty Projectors was such a focused kind of band that I put all of my energy into that, and I wasn’t really focused on any of my own stuff even though I was doing it. I think for me it would’ve been very difficult to separate my own music while working with them. So I definitely had to do one or the other. And there was a point where that option was available, so I decided to explore it.

Having worked with so many musicians of different kinds, do you feel like they’ve contributed to your sound? Or have they been projects you’ve invested in along the way?

I would say the latter. I just want to play music. I didn’t even think I was going to be in Dirty Projectors. I’d been asked at one point if I wanted to and I said ‘no.’ And I thought that ship had sailed, but I was given another opportunity to join. The music they were playing and the sounds they were making were unlike anything I had ever heard, and I didn’t totally know what I was getting into. I found myself learning these bass and vocal parts that were super fucking hard and technical. Just being like ‘Wow, I can actually do this,’ was awesome. To see how much I could push myself in a group, for a group, with a group. But all the while I was working on my own music, taking things from these experiences, ingesting them and, for lack of a better word, regurgitating them. Vomiting them up into something new.

What were your teenage years like? Were you a rebel?

I would say I was a very boring teenager (laughs). I didn’t do a lot of drugs, or sneak out. I was a good kid for the most part. I was under this weird idea that I couldn’t be bad, I always had to do my work. And I never really felt understood in the public school system, I couldn’t understand social dynamics. I felt very alone, and what I wanted to be doing was not there, that was not my place. Maybe I would’ve felt more inclined to stay if I was at an art school or something like that. So I left high school early at 15, and my latter teen years were spent in community college.

What’s something you did when you were younger that feels strange now?

I watched a lot of documentaries and fashion shows. I was really into the Style channel. Whatever, I’m not as fashiony as I thought I would be then (laughs). That and listening to way too much Incubus. I thought they were the coolest band ever for some reason.

I picked up a lot of nature and naturalism in your new album. Is it fair to say that’s going through your head right now?

Yeah, it’s pretty elemental. Some of the writing I did for it was in Baltimore, where I lived in this house in the woods. A lot of the imagery comes to me from my surroundings, so a lot of the music is very nature-oriented, for sure. But it incorporates all kinds of things: nature, art, the unknown, spirituality. The album title kind of stemmed from this tapestry I have, this Tibetan mandala flower thing, which probably looks pretty awesome if you’re on drugs.

If you were at party, where would we find you? What kind of party would it be?

A pool party, I guess? It would most likely be a pool party, one where I’m cooking for everybody. Like ‘I’m gonna grill all this food for you guys, even though I want to swim. But not so much, as I’d rather be cooking.’ That’s usually where I’m at.

So you’re a cooking fan, I assume?

Big time. I make a lot of Indian food. When I lived in New York I became obsessed trying to learn how to make Indian food. And I was a vegetarian then, so it lends itself well.

You ‘were’ a vegetarian?

Yeah, I just started eating meat again, which has been pretty great. It really opens a lot of other windows to delicious worlds.

What made you want to start eating meat again?

Well I was vegetarian for 13 years. But I took a bunch of mushrooms and something told me to start eating meat again. It’s a short story. And I feel good right now, I don’t know if I’ll eat meat again forever, but right now it feels like it’s helped my health. I don’t feel so weak anymore. I kind of went crazy for a little bit, like ‘I can eat anything on the menu?!’ I’m trying to chill it out now.

Are you thinking about how your content is going to be consumed in today’s day and age? Are you worried about streaming?

I am worried about that, a little bit. I go back and forth with it. I want people to hear the music of course, but it’s not like I get a check from Spotify or anything. It’s just a very weird time in the music industry, and there’s really no money in it. Like, art should be accessible, I understand that. It’s supposed to be for everyone. But how do you sustain off of that? And right now I’m trying to figure out what form that will take so I can keep doing this. Streaming doesn’t give me anything, but I stream other peoples’ music, so I’m just as bad as anyone else. But if the passion is there, you’ll find another way of doing it. Maybe there’s some good in that this will weed out people who aren’t as passionate. There’s going to have to be a solution at some point, music is never going away.

Do you feel that ‘debut album pressure’ for this record or do you think you’ve gotten that out of your system?

Uhhh yes. But I think I feel that every single time I make something. I want to put everything into it. I don’t really know if I’m a very thematic or tight-conceptual type of writer yet, there’s still so much room for exploration that I don’t really know, or if I want to know, the trajectory for my music, except that it has to be made. I hope this isn’t the best album I make. But when you think about making another, it’s daunting. ‘Can I even do that again?’ Hopefully whatever the next time it is it’ll be just as difficult and passionate and fun. I guess when it stops being that you should be worried.

‘The Expanding Flower Planet’ is released tomorrow, order it here

Photography by Bennet Perez

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