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I was lucky enough to catch Snowblink and sit down with frontwoman Daniela Gesundheit after her opening set for Owen Pallett. Though the discussion was brief we talked about nature imagery in writing, Toronto and Michael Jackson. It is also a treat to speak with musicians who are still excited about their craft and performing. I am pleased to present the Spectrum Culture interview with Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink.

So this is the last night of your tour with Owen Pallett. How is it going for you?

It’s been awesome. It’s so fun. We’ve been touring about five weeks. It’s a nice, long stretch.

Did you know him beforehand?

Yeah, a little bit. Dan’s known him for a really long time. He wrote string arrangements for Dan’s record for a string quartet. They’ve known each other since Owen was 17. I don’t have to divulge how old Owen is but they’ve known each other a little while.

Is it bittersweet to end tonight?

Oh yeah, totally. We’re a bit exhausted, so we’re excited for a little West Coast vacation time.

You no longer live in San Francisco?

Well, I lived there for three years but two years ago I moved to Toronto. We’re going to go down the coast, spend some time with my family in LA and then drive back to Toronto.

A lot of your music has nature imagery in it. Is that a big part of who you are?

It was until I moved to Toronto (laughs). Yeah, growing up in California and LA, I would go to the beach a lot. My grandparents live on the beach. I would go to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the desert. That’s where I feel coziest. Toronto is super urban and flat and not much to speak of. I know there is nature to explore there, but I haven’t found really found my spots yet.

Do you feel out of sorts?

No, there are some nice areas. Dan and I got a grant- this is the balance for living in Canada- to rent a cottage on a lake during the winter to do some writing. So I’ve had some kind of nature time. I don’t feel out of sorts, but I do miss the ocean a lot.

Has the city crept into your writing at all?

I think so. The newer songs, we played a bunch of them tonight, there is a bit more aggression maybe or just that city-alert vibe rather than a mellow, nature vibe.

You don’t feel nature is chaotic at all?

Oh, I do but I don’t feel chaotic in the presence of it. There’s hurricanes and tornadoes, so there is plenty of chaos, but if I’m in the middle of nature I feel calm whereas in cities I tend to have a buzzing city feeling.

Do you think the city will be it for you or will you find your way back to a more rural living situation?

I actually don’t know. I think I will always be bouncing back and forth because they both have so many things I desire and crave. I don’t have a strong pull towards either one.

I saw that you opened once for Patti Smith, who is someone I really love. Did you get a chance to spend any time with her?

It was pretty brief. It was at Wesleyan University and she was doing this tour where she was kind of opening up for Ralph Nader and she picked a couple of student bands to open for her and we were one of them. It was really like ships passing. I wish we had gotten a few more moments with her.

It must be a big deal being a woman in music to be in her presence.

Totally! She was a super powerful performer. I learned so much in the half hour watching her. She’s rad; really amazing. She’s a really grounded lady.

You did a recent Daytrotter session where you covered some Michael Jackson songs. You did “P.Y.T.,” “Thriller” and two others. How did you pick those songs?

The way that happened, we were at that cottage I was telling you about. I was trying to write a bunch of new songs and I kept coming back to these Michael Jackson songs. This before he died, about six months before it. I was really going deep with it and really enjoying it and the next day a friend of mine from Toronto called and said, “I’m going to put on a Michael Jackson tribute night. You wanna do this?” I was like, “Uh…yeah.” I just sat with them and would pick little fragments of the songs that stuck out to me of his versions. Just these little vocal lines or these parts that caught me and I put my emphasis on those. There was no way I was going to recreate the whole pop craziness.

Or moonwalk.

(laughs) Or moonwalk. That is exactly what wasn’t going to happen. I just focused on these little parts of it and ran with that. It was super fun to work on those. I loved it.

Did his death add any layer of resonance to it for you?

I would say no. It probably added resonance for people listening to them but I never knew him personally. I was sad when he died because we weren’t going to have any more music from him.

Well, that is something we’ve been living with for years and years anyhow.

Exactly! We’ve been letting go for awhile. Basically I didn’t know him personally, I don’t feel a personal loss from his death.

Do you see any cover collaborations like that in the future?

Sure, I actually do want to go deep with some Enya covers. I present it as a joke because it’s so easy to joke about but there are a couple I think that are so good and I really want to work that out.

Sometimes when you cover pop songs, you can take them to new and dark places.

We just downloaded Like a Prayer by Madonna and there are some songs that are just so out there. I never really listened to the whole record but “Oh Father” has got some deep, dark stuff.

What’s next for Snowblink?

When we get back to Toronto this summer we’re going to record a new record. A small label in the UK is going to put out Long Live.

That has been gestating for awhile, right?

It’s been tossed around a lot, but they’re going to put it out worldwide in the fall.

by David Harris

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