DVA DAMAS: SUBMIT YOURSELF TO THE SITUATION
photography by aaron giesel
DVA DAMAS, a two piece from Los Angeles, talk with me about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay masks, their philosophies on intuition and fear, and why no one dances in L.A. Their most recent release, the “Wet Vision” 12”, was produced by Burch and Cocherell and curated by Juan Mendez for the label Downwards America, and integrates a plethora of sounds for a borderline Western-slash-goth-slash-80s electronic soundscape. Incorporating vocals, guitars, synths—including a Yamaha CS5—as well as samplers and a Zoom drum machine, the duo’s collaboration is the result of childhood friendship and a developed connection with each other’s psyche, cultivated through the five years they have been actively making music and touring together. They perform this Wednesday, Mar. 23, with Faust and Dahga Bloom at Union—win tickets here! This interview by Jacquelinne Cingolani.
I have you guys on speaker phone so I can record.
Taylor Burch (vocals): We have you on speaker because we are actually doing clay masks right now and we have to wash them off.
Is it the bentonite clay one?
Joseph Cocherell (drums): Aztec Clay.
I love that shit! Can I put this in the interview?
Taylor Burch: Ha—yeah of course!
I’m always blown away with bands with only two people on stage. I feel like it’s a ton of pressure!
Taylor Burch: As anyone else would, we do get nervous about what could potentially go wrong. Once you walk on stage you’re kind of okay and just submit yourself to the situation. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve played a few shows where a bunch went wrong and it’s not that bad. I mean—a little embarrassing but you’re still breathing.
It seems like it’s an attitude you adjust to—trying to let your intuition guide you so you don’t completely freeze.
Taylor Burch: We’ve been playing live for five years so when you first start out, you freeze when things go wrong—and you make it more obvious to the audience that something has gone wrong. Nut eventually you learn to just go with it. For example, the show you were at where we played with HTRK—I was looping something and it wouldn’t work so I had to manually loop it, stay in time and focus on the vocals! Instead of panicking, we responded by smiling really big and kept going. Later, our friends asked us why we were smiling, having no idea something had gone wrong.
Is there something you both enjoy about the danger of it?
Joseph Cocherell: Yeah—we went through a phase of recalculating how we were doing everything live. At first, we were trying to plan everything out and then we found ourselves seeking out that kind of danger you mentioned because it makes playing live so fun. It also means things will go wrong and things will happen that wouldn’t have happened if you were a little more structured.
Keep nothing in stone, exist in the moment, and let it all ride. Is this philosophy present in all areas of creating?
Taylor Burch: We really enjoy pop music and it’s hard to create a pop structure on the fly. We have been trying to do our tracks in a way where half of what we do is planned and the second half of the song, we do what we want to do moment to moment and go off of our environment.
Do people respond to you because of that blend? Because there is authenticity in it?
Taylor Burch: It’s kind of hard to tell because we haven’t been playing that often in this new particular way. But we have been getting good feedback and we’ve noticed from our perspective people tend to be enjoying it more and dancing instead standing there with their arms crossed staring at us.
I know that one—that’s an L.A. thing! Stand there with dead eyes, arms crossed.
Taylor Burch: It’s weird because I do it too. I never dance when I go watch someone perform or see a band.
Joseph Cocherell: When I was in Europe I noticed how many people would go out specifically just to dance. With L.A., I’m not sure if because it’s a car city and there are so many restrictions that people feel they can’t loosen up due to all of these responsibilities—I can’t really say. But for sure L.A. is an observer.
Does the city directly influence the writing process? How does the writing process work?
Taylor Burch: The writing process works with me writing up a rough demo because I’m not really skilled with the technical side. Then Joe and I go back and forth with perfecting it and making it more proper. I’ve never lived anywhere else but L.A. so I’m not sure how much surrounding affects what I do. I feel like I don’t really go searching for inspiration, it just comes.
Joseph Cocherell: I know this sounds cheesy but it’s almost like an energy loop. It’s really hard to explain because we have been so insular, due to it being just the two of us. It just happens and we both agree on it or we don’t.
Is there anyone in L.A. who influences you aesthetically or musically?
Taylor Burch: Our friend Albert Cameron. He is an artist living in L.A. and his opinion means a lot to me. He does installations and he also does music but he never really shows it to anybody.
Joseph Cocherell: It’s cool because everyone we know constantly works and is highly motivated and wants to do something and it’s motivating to see people working all around you.
I think there is something really magical about people making art with no real end result. I can see why Albert would be such an influence.
Joseph Cocherell: You know you’ve hit something when you’ve affected him. It’s not about approval but more how it moves him.
Is it because since it’s out of the box, it stands alone? Sometimes you see a lot of bands or artists start to blend in over standing out.
Joseph Cocherell: We’ve never wanted to be a part of the scene so it never mattered to us.
Taylor Burch: We never wanted to be lumped into a group because it makes you so disposable.
You’ve known each other since childhood and I swear knowing someone creatively since childhood creates strong psychic intuitions about one another’s process.
Joseph Cocherell: We’ve known each other since we were fourteen. We met at a school in Santa Ana for artistic kids. We got really close when we turned 17.
Taylor Burch: Joe had been in bands all throughout high school. I was obviously a big fan of music and we talked about making music for a while before it actually happened. We learned over the years how to communicate and work together productively.
Joseph Cocherell: That goes back to what you were asking about how we work together. We’ve known each other for so long, it’s almost intuitive. I know what feels wrong and what feels right and I know she feels the same way.
Taylor Burch: A big part of it is learning how to talk to each other. When you are making something where so much emotion goes into it, you have to be able to separate from it. Our relationship is like a brother and sister—if we have any conflict, we always drop it and don’t hold grudges.
Joseph Cocherell: At the end of the day it’s cooperation with some sort of end goal.
How do you guys do that?
Joseph Cocherell: You have to surrender to the ego! Part of it is that we would never classify ourselves as musicians.
As frustrating and ego bending as it can be, there is something beautiful about not knowing what you are doing.
Taylor Burch: I don’t actually know how to play the guitar or how to sing. You couldn’t play a note for me and I’d be able to tell you, ‘Oh, that’s E or that’s G.’ I know nothing about musicianship.
Exactly—it’s not about what you are playing. It’s how you play it.
Taylor Burch: Yeah, and to be honest, the more I make music, the more difficult it gets for me to make the next thing—I feel like I have learned so much more. It’s like I almost want to unlearn because the more you know technically, it makes you start thinking about notes in certain parameters.
Joseph Cocherell: I always say I could give a fuck how well someone plays guitar or drums. I’ve heard simple beats move me more than anything technically advanced. It’s about how something makes you feel. I always look at music as constructing, not playing. I look at music like a building. It needs certain things to function and anything else is extra. That’s how we do it. She makes the blueprint, and we fill it out together and she designs how it’s going to be decorated.
Taylor Burch: I guess you can call it musical design?
It’s cool for whoever is reading this to understand they can do it too, even if they haven’t been playing for years and years.
Joseph Cocherell: Be yourself and take risks. I think that being yourself is the most important thing you can do. Proper things are boring, do the thing that is wrong.
Taylor Burch: Yeah—Jonnine and Nigel from HTRK are some of the coolest people we know because they never try to be anything but themselves. When I first started playing I felt I was copying someone else, but I learned I was being a lesser version of something else and not my unique self. Why would you want to be a copy of something less over being your unique self?
DVA DAMAS WITH FAUST AND DAHGA BLOOM PLUS DJ MICHAEL STOCK (PART TIME PUNKS) ON WED., MAR. 23, AT UNION, 4067 W. PICO BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $22-$25 / 19+. WIN TICKETS HERE / GET TICKETS HERE. DVA DAMAS’ “WET VISION” EP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM DOWNWARDS AMERICA. VISIT DVA DAMAS AT DOWNWARDSLTD.TUMBLR.COM.