Dirty Projectors' Felicia Douglass Talks Their New EP 'Flight Tower'

Dirty Projectors' Felicia Douglass Talks Their New EP 'Flight Tower'

Dirty Projectors' Felicia Douglass Talks Their New EP 'Flight Tower'

Keyboardist-percussionist Felicia Douglass talked with V about the new EP where she leads vocals, what the band's process looks like, and more.

Keyboardist-percussionist Felicia Douglass talked with V about the new EP where she leads vocals, what the band's process looks like, and more.

Text: Sam Ford

Dirty Projectors saw their genesis in 2002, when Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter David Longstreth spearheaded the indie-rock band. Over the past two decades, Dirty Projectors have become one of the genre’s most popular names and Longstreth, who’s remained a constant member throughout numerous lineup changes, is now joined by Felicia Douglass, Mike Johnson, Maia Friedman, and Kristin Slipp

With a discography that includes eight full-length studio albums, this year sees Dirty Projectors releasing five EPs. Each installment has a different member on lead vocals—with the exception of drummer Mike Johnson—until the entire band reconvenes on the fifth and last EP of the series. On Thursday the second EP titled Flight Tower was released, where keyboardist-percussionist Felicia Douglass takes the wheel.

Flight Tower’s lyrics were written by Douglass and Longstreth, who’s joint forces cultivated four tracks that are “more electronic than the first EP that Maia Friedman leads, which is more folky,” Douglass told V. “But kind of straightforward, irresistible pop is what I would describe [Flight Tower] as.”

Given the nature of the EPs being designed by Longstreth, he’s also credited with production, engineering, and mixing for the series. “Dave and I wrote ‘Lose Your Love’ and ‘Inner World’ together, [and] it was kind of nice to just meet up and sit together and write in real time. Because surprisingly, as a songwriter, I collaborate with a lot of people but mostly songwriting is solitary,” Douglass said of Flight Tower’s process.

“Even if you're in a band, you make the music and then sit on your own and start to process and write up different options,” she said. “Dave played some of the songs for me, and for ‘Lose Your Love’ specifically, I was immediately like, What? That's incredible what is this? I need to hear it again!”

Since Douglass can usually be found behind the keyboard, helming Dirty Projectors’ percussion, or providing backing vocals, she explained her excitement in focusing solely on lead vocals for Flight Tower; “Especially because, even though we're all usually multitasking—playing, singing, singing harmonies, playing percussion, playing keyboard—every musician who multitasks, it's a great skill, but it doesn't necessarily mean that that's what we want to be doing all the time.”

“Before quarantine we performed only two of the songs, but it's a great relief to just be able to focus on performing and singing and not separating your brain to do three things at once,” Douglass said. “Since I stopped playing percussion, Maia has to step in and play [the Sampling Pad Drum] and there's a lot of teamwork involved in the dynamics of the song, but meanwhile I just get to stand front and center and sing.”

While Douglass, Friedman, Slipp, and Longstreth each have their own EP to lead vocals on in the series, the fifth EP will have all of Dirty Projectors on vocals again in their typical style. “Since every EP is like its own little world, it's going to be really nice to finally put out the last EP where we're all sharing space and switching off,” said Douglass when asked about what she’s looking forward to within the final installment. “After hearing little pockets of each person's style within every EP, it’ll be like hearing it all come together.”

Dirty Projectors have been kicking for nearly two decades now, but Douglass is a more recent addition to the band. Before joining in 2018, Douglass’s prowess on the keys, sweet-sounding vocals, and from-the-soul writing was—and still is—heard in musical projects like Ava Luna, Gemma, and a handful more all on top of her solo work. Though when listening to Dirty Projectors’ tracks since Douglass joined, one might never guess that she was new to her role playing percussion. 

“I have been in bands for a little over a decade, but when I joined Dirty Projectors, I actually had never played percussion in other bands,” she said. “So it's the sort of thing where you're like, Do I think I can do that? Sure, I think I can! I say yes and figure it out later, but it was definitely eye opening and just out of realistic goals. I felt like I was in music school just at home. I was like, Okay, percussion 101! And Mike, our drummer, helped me a lot as well.”

Douglass elaborated on how the band is able to dedicate themselves to learning and perfecting their craft, given that Dirty Projectors isn’t just a side hobby for them, which she thinks of as a luxury. Douglass also alluded towards the reciprocation of knowledge that Dirty Projectors foster within the group, allowing everyone's backgrounds and interests to thrive along with the band's music. 

“[It’s] a really cool experience in itself; understanding how a new group of people can narrate that, and just through my influences and my love for soul music and R&B, as well as everyone else's influences,” Douglass said. “It was really cool to work with Dave on songwriting specifically because I've definitely admired his previous work; how he's so good at genre bending, and that's big for me because I really think that there should never be any rules when people try and put artists into boxes.”

Seen nowhere else better than in this year’s series of EPs—from more folky tracks on the first EP, Windows Open, to Flight Tower’s more pop and R&B sounds—the group has mastered the art of seamlessly blending each of their individual musical influences, of which Douglass said, “Was cool to see that progress and watch, with all of us in the band, what it means to the sound of Dirty Projectors.”

Credits: Cover photo of Felicia Douglass by Jason Frank Rothenberg


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