Waveland’s second LP Darling has the breezy summertime ambience and naked emotional vulnerability of a Sofia Coppola soundtrack. Daniel O’Connell’s intimate acoustic strumming glides through a dreamy fog of digital back beats on haunting openers “Obelisk” and “Slow Ride”; these and many of the album’s more pensive tracks feel like an indie lo-fi take on Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief. “Nothing’s Changed” and “I Know Where You’ve Been” have a more up-tempo, surf-synth swagger, while “Panic” and the acoustic “Red Shift” are infused with an irresistible ‘80s new wave influence. O’Connell’s lyrics often have a picturesque, narrative quality, and even when weighted with apprehension, possess a romantic longing. His vocals are also well-complemented by the companionship of backing singer Rebecca Greaves on the otherwise lonely meditations “Slow Ride” and “Caterpillar.” Ultimately, Darling is a varied yet cohesive body of work that will have you uncovering new layers of sound and sentiment upon repeated listening—well worth checking out.
Where Y’at was fortunate enough to catch up with Waveland frontman Daniel O’Connell to discuss the influences behind his latest effort in advance of his upcoming Thursday, March 15, show at Saturn Bar.
Where Y’at: This is your second album. What have you learned about the writing and recording process since your last effort? What was more difficult this time around?
Waveland: It was actually a lot easier. I have been writing songs since high school, but only started doing full arrangements for them a few years ago. So, I got to come into this album just a lot more experienced and definitely a lot more confident than I did the previous one. I also just knew a lot more about the instruments I was using, so I think stuff like the drum arrangement is more intentional this time around.
WYAT: What are the benefits and difficulties of being a solo recording artist? Do you consult with other musicians for feedback during the recording process?
Waveland: I definitely consult people, mainly Robert Tornillo from IZE. I send Rob pretty much everything I work on, much to his dismay. He is a very good barometer for whether something is heading in the right direction, and he knows me really well.
I think the difficulty of being a solo recording artist is there is no one there to take over the parts of the process you don’t like. I hate the initial steps of structuring the song. I much prefer when everything is laid out and you get to go crazy layering in instruments and manipulating vocal samples. But working with someone also means giving up the freedom to go really far in whatever direction you want, and that is priceless.
WYAT: What made you want to record Darling, and what is the significance of the title? How does this collection of songs differ from Songs for the Wormhole?
Waveland: Both records are very anxious, but I think Darling is more hopeful than Songs for the Wormhole. From my perspective, which is probably wrong, Darling is a record about accepting broken things and making the best with what you have. I have been calling it a record of dystopian love songs, so I think I’m going to stick with that.
WYAT: What is your favorite song from your new album? Why? Tell me about how this song came about.
Waveland: My favorite song is “Panic,” which is apparently no one else’s favorite song on the record (laughs). I think it’s the most concept-heavy song I have written. The song came about from a conversation I had with a friend a couple years ago who asked me what a panic attack felt like. I have a lot of anxiety issues, and back in high school, I had what is known as panic disorder, which pretty much means I was having several panic attacks a day.
The narrative of the song came from that conversation, and the narrator helping someone through a panic attack. So, the verses are all instructions, and I actually tried to time out the song so that the refrain of “breathe in, breathe out” would be about the right tempo if you were trying to keep someone from passing out during an attack.
WYAT: Tell me about your upcoming show and tour. Will these performances differ from shows you have done in the past?
Waveland: Starting off, I will be playing a few shows in NOLA, Tallahassee, and Houston with my good friend Crawford Smith. The shows will be similar to my previous ones: just me on stage with way too many instruments.
WYAT: I recently saw St. Vincent on her Fear the Future tour, and for the entire performance, she commanded the stage on her own without a backing band. It never once felt like it was anything less than an arena show—not the intimate, acoustic atmosphere you usually associate with one-person sets. Do you find performing without the support of a band empowering? Intimidating?
Waveland: I also saw St. Vincent on this tour and it was amazing! I am not nearly that entertaining on stage. Way fewer giant projections of my face.
I enjoy performing alone. I usually get incredibly stressed out before full-band sets, just because there are so many elements out of my control. When performing live for Waveland, anything that goes wrong is on me, which I find strangely comforting. I have also set up my set in a really fun way for myself, in which I switch between a few different instruments, and it is something I would never feel comfortable trying with a full band behind me.
WYAT: Tell me a bit about your musical influences and upbringing that inspired the sounds on your new album. What music are you listening to these days?
Waveland: Some of the bands that are really explicit influences on the record would be David Bowie circa Diamond Dogs, Girls, Handsome Furs, Rhye, and EMA. EMA, especially Past Life Martyred Saints, is a big, big influence on me. I found that album in college, and I was really pissed because I felt like in five or 10 years, that is the album I could’ve made, but she already made it. It’s just perfect all the way through, and really convinced me to strip down and let everything be a little messier than maybe I was comfortable with.
WYAT: Are there any local bands you would like to give a shout-out to—anyone you find inspiring who our readers should check out?
Waveland: My favorite local bands are Shark’s Teeth, Lawn, and Fishplate. Definitely check out Fishplate’s Heavy Heart if you haven’t already. It’s a really gorgeous alt-country record.
WYAT: For your physical release, you chose the cassette (a pink one at that, which is awesome!). Why this media over a CD or vinyl? Are CDs “not cool,” and do musicians no longer find this to be a successful distribution/marketing tool?
Waveland: Mainly, its way cheaper than vinyl. As for CDs, my computer doesn’t have a disk drive anymore. Also, CDs are really not pretty to look at, and I think cassettes are more collectible. I know people who just pick up cassettes at shows for the aesthetic look of them, so that was my main reasoning.
I think CDs still have value for major label artists who can sell them at whatever stores still sell CDs. If I can only make 70 of something, I’d rather make pretty pink tapes.
WYAT: Last word—anything else you would like us to know about Darling?
Waveland: Darling would absolutely not exist without Beau Gordon. Beau mixed and mastered both Darling and SFTW, and he is amazing. In both cases, I brought him messy, home-recorded nonsense and he turned it into records people would actually want to listen to. He also gave me a fantastic Donna Summers album the last time I saw him, so thanks for that.