9 Apr 2016

Angel Deradoorian on the bystander effect

From RNZ Music, 3:10 pm on 9 April 2016

“Is that what you’re asking?” Angel Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors) asks down a crackling, rather thin phone line. It’s a struggle to make both a personal as well as technical connection within our 15 allotted minutes. “What was that? Sorry I can’t… the connection’s a little weak” she laughs as we attempt to have a conversation about her psychedelic whoosh of a debut solo album record as Deradoorian: The Expanding Flower Planet, as well as her collaborations with Flying Lotus, U2, Animal Collective’s Avey Tare, and Brandon Flowers. Unfortunately a lot of the questions are falling flat, getting stilted replies or resulting in confused responses like “In the what afterwards?”.

When the talk turns to her sister being the drummer for the Deradoorian touring band some conversational momentum is attained. Her whole family is musical and artistic: “My Dad’s a saxophonist and his hero’s John Coltrane but he loves soul and he’s played in bands since he was sixteen. My mom, she listens to whatever… she did go through a phase of really liking The Prodigy. It was a Prodigy, Chemical Brothers phase for a couple of years”. Angel laughs: “Pretty funny”. Mama Deradoorian’s devotion would have been particular unusual in the US where electronic dance music struggled to get a foothold until the EDM explosion of a few years ago, “Yeah I don’t think I was listening to those bands as much as she was”.

Angel Deradoorian.

Angel Deradoorian. Photo: Supplied

Angel was on a sultry, smoother path at the time, listening to “a lot of 90s R&B, I thought it was the best music ever”. One woman stood out from all others. “I loved Mariah Carey. I think when I was nine, maybe seven, I really wanted to learn that song Dream Lover on piano. My piano teacher was like you “you can’t play that song””. Angel surpassed her teacher’s expectations “She didn’t believe in me. I bought the music anyway and I taught myself how to play the song”. Victory! “It wasn’t that hard”.

Earlier this year Angel’s former Dirty Projectors bandmate Amber Coffman spoke up about sexual harassment by a music publicist; which led to more claims from women inside the music industry that this publicist had harassed them. Angel says there is a culture of silence around this issue that Amber Coffman helped break: “It’s very secret. We didn’t know about any of those girls, or anybody’s stories. People are ashamed. So you don’t really know what’s going on”. Amber Coffman’s harassment was witnessed in public, why didn’t anyone speak out, and intervene? “I think in general people are afraid to step out on a lot of things. Little things, you might be feeding the car meter and someone’s standing right next to you, watching you do it and they know you don’t have to pay on Sunday. It’s scary because everyone’s ass is on the line, or that’s how they feel”.

Angel thinks that people don’t want to mess with their established relationships at the expense of ones they value less, and a man might find it harder to empathise with a woman who is being mistreated. “They don’t know what it feels like to be harassed, how terrible that feels and how embarrassing it is. And how when you’re around those people in the future you can barely look at them, or respect them. I mean it’s really got to stop. Women deal with this, to a degree, their entire lives. I think it’s a good time for men to understand how serious and how traumatising that can be”.

Listen to Deradoorian's interview including music from debut album The Expanding Flower Planet along with a dash of Mariah Carey:

Deradoorian plays The Kings Arms in Auckland on Wednesday 13 April.