People are complicated. No one is any one thing and we change over time—we know this. And despite the best of intentions to reflect the reality of that, through an hour in conversion with singer-songwriter, Madi Diaz, one thing repeatedly springs to mind for me: Madi Daiz, above all else, is a story-teller.
Sitting outside of Intelligentsia Coffee in Silver Lake over two very intensely caffeinated iced coffees, Madi continually peppers our shop talk on the new record with stories of losing house keys in the rainy streets of New York, a series of movie posters someone re-designed using Comic Sans, and tales of the cities she’s called home most recently—Boston, Nashville, and, now, LA.
Austin’s South by Southwest is still fresh in her mind too. “It’s gotten soooo much bigger,” she says of the city-wide music festival. “It’s pretty bad. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or negative. It’s still really fun. You know, the reason I went down there is because I really just wanted to see my friends. And be like—’Hey look, I’m still doing this. I do have a record coming out. I’m still playing music…. Tad-a!’ And I ran into so many people that I haven’t seen in years. Years. I mean, you can’t walk ten feet without high-fiving somebody.”
When asked to throw out some of the better, lesser-known bands she caught at SXSW, Madi names Canada’s Royal Canoe—who she’s opening for at The Satellite tomorrow—and Sydney’s Gang of Youths.
But with the festival expanding its brand over the past few years to encompass events in Vegas and recent concerns about safety and whether the festival’s grown too big for the city of Austin, I asked Madi to give her take on it all—is SXSW over?
“Okay, I’ve decided that this is the thing—It’s like the most fucking ridiculous obstacle course/marathon, and if you’re not shitty musician, you can still pull that off. Because you will either…you will fight or you’ll die…. Or you’ll fight and die…but you can still make it happen.”
She admits that, in general, festivals aren’t her thing though: “I don’t like festivals. They make me nervous. They’re too many people, they’re all…moving…at the same time…. At festivals it’s like, this guy’s tripping towards you and puking and, like, holding the hand of his girlfriend who’s, like, sitting on the ground eating a banana like the sky is falling.”
Plus, port-a-potties, you know?
For anyone who has yet to hear the music of Madi Diaz, depending on what era you hit her at, you’ll hear a fine balance of rootsy, folk-sinpired signer-songwriter stuff and straight-up, foot-tapping pop. Regardless of where particular songs or bodies of work hit on that spectrum, though, much like her personality, above all else, Madi’s work tells a story, and it’s always one with intelligent, undeniable hooks that keep you interested. Having been a fan of hers since first hearing her play with Keegan DeWitt, I was anxious to hear more about her coming full-length, due out later this year.
“It’s really different in that…I’m kinda letting myself go all the way there. I’ve been pretty reserved in my poppiness and textures…now it’s really lush and really true-sounding. And there are a couple of love songs, which is…different,” she explains, laughing. “Yeah, I started writing it when I was falling in love with my then boyfriend and wrote a slew of songs; I was feeling so good, I was like ‘This is crazy. I’ve never actually been light and happy, this is amazing.’ And then the shit hit the fan.” The result—a narrative that spans a relationship, from happy to sad to…done.
The exact release for the album’s still up in the air. “I’m pretty sure the rough album street date will be late August,” she says. “It definitely has summer vibes, but there is definitely a darkness to it. So I feel like it’s good for late summer/early fall.” Diaz plans to release one or two singles leading up to the album later this summer.
When asked why she feels like it’s still necessary to release a full album at all given the music scene, she responds right away—”Because I wanna tell my fucking story, man. Don’t cut me off. I love the idea of being commercially successful, I really do. I think that it is great and is obviously going to pay my rent. But at the same time, my favorite artists are people who have not started from that thought. They don’t conform to that thought. We’re artists, we’re in this to take a chance. So what else are we supposed to do?” She continues—”I definitely have written some of these songs to be universal because I do long for that human connection with my fans or with anybody—I hate the word ‘fans’; I feel like a douche bag saying it—But I do long for that connection with another person. So I do want to write something that is going to be palatable, but at the same time, I know that—being a fan myself of other artists—I would only want that person to express themselves at their truest.”
In addition to the new solo record, Diaz tells me of a new side project she’s doing under the moniker riothorse (photo, right, by Catie Laffoon).
“I started this side project band with one of my really good friends, Emily Green (Kissy Girls, Passion Pit). We kinda came together out here in the fall because we were both super-scorned women by bad boyfriends. And we’re finishing this four-song EP that we’ve been producing together.” She continues, describing how it compares to her solo work—”It’s not so much different as it’s…it’s just an art project. And it’s definitely girl vibes—it’s super-lady-time. We’re both singing in unison the whole time and just, like, really lush guitars. Kind of very haunting, spell-cast-y. As a musician right now, there’s so that I love sonically and that I think a lot of people love sonically and you can get at so much more of it than you used to be able to, that…it’s fun to wear different masks; it’s fun to try different things.”
Diaz is hoping to have the riot horse EP hit ay around the same time as her album, or as she puts it, “BLEH—This is everything! …Vomit on the world.” …in a nice way.
Madi Diaz plays The Satellite tomorrow night with Royal Canoe + Roses. Doors are at 830PM and tickets are $10. Her new album won’t be out until later this year, but check out her last two records in the meantime: We Threw Our Hearts in the Fire + Plastic Moon. The latter holds one of our all-time favorite tracks ever—the epically soaring “Let’s Go”.