What's Your Pure Self? Angel Deradoorian Helps Us 'Find The Sun'

[Cover photo credit to Sean Stout]

Angel Deradoorian's recently released album Find The Sun  sets out to convey elements of her own personal journey into finding a more essential version of herself, but it's constructed and presented in such a way that it opens the door for the audience to follow on that journey and make some discoveries of their own.

What could be a better catalyst for reflection during the time we're living in? The album was released digitally in May 2020 but more recently arrived on vinyl and would definitely benefit from a full record listening session. If it makes you question the ways in which society might shape your view of yourself, that's an added bonus that suggests you're on the right track.

Angel Deradoorian spoke with Tower's PULSE! about what this search for self entails, the process of working on and recording the album, why live improv performance is such a big part of her heart, and lastly, she shares a little bit with us about the conflict in the Artsakh region that needs more media attention right now.

Hannah Means-Shannon: Do you traditionally release on vinyl, or is Find the Sun a new direction for you?

Angel Deradoorian: Usually, if I release through a record label, I release everything on vinyl. I try not to release on CD if I can avoid it since I’d like to not use as many toxic resources. I prefer vinyl for the collectors of the world. Though CDs seem to be making a comeback, since it seems like the 90s are trending again.

HMS: I heard that you feel like this album is about finding a better version of self, but you feel that society is not set up to allow that very easily. I find that interesting because I often feel that way about the world around me, but I don’t really articulate it. How did you come to that conclusion?

AD: [Laughs] Probably from being a starving musician for half my life. The more I learn about how capitalist society works, it’s not really designed for independent people to thrive. There’s not a lot of funding in general for the arts, especially in music. I’m so used to living this typical musician lifestyle that we just think it’s how it’s supposed to be, but it finally took a toll on me psychologically because it’s really hard work.

It’s constantly doing something artistically, whether writing, coming up with ideas, composing, arranging, rehearsing, all that stuff takes a lot of time and money and effort. It’s constant hustling for a lot of musicians. That kind of stress was weighing down on me so much that it made me want to quit. It made me think more deeply about what I was doing and who I am, and all of the obstacles that are set up and have to be overcome if you want to pursue the American dream.

If you’re a woman in society, or if you’re a musician, there are all sorts of factors you’re dealing with, whether it’s your appearance and how people think your music is, or whether it’s your “self” and how that gets marketed. Once your art is outside of you, other people deem how they want to work with you or not work with you, and that can really affect your career. It’s knowing who you are in society. We are living in a very financially imbalanced era that’s only getting worse. But what’s past that, past those identities that are applied to you by the outside world? What’s your pure self?

[Photo credit to Sean Stout]

HMS: When you were talking about how others describe music and musicians, it made me think of all the genre terms that are often applied to young musicians, and those terms can become very limiting. It becomes like type-casting an actor. It does seem like musicians who try to seem to stay away from terminology suffer in news coverage.

AD: When you’re on the artist’s side of things, I don’t always know what’s helping or hurting me. I couldn’t really see it being any other way than the way it is. Unless it is something overt that portrayed me negatively, art is so subjective, and criticism is so subjective that it’s hard to know. You just have to keep making your work and ultimately, it’s up to the people who are listening to it to decide what to extract from it.

I don’t feel that I’m an Indie Pop Artist. But that’s always what I’m called. I make a lot of different music on purpose and I put it all under the same name. Maybe because I’m too lazy to change monikers. But I don’t think I need to. Some people just want to make stuff. If they want to be a specific genre, that’s great, but it’s not really the path I want to take. I don’t know how that helps or hurts me in the long run. Or in whatever success is.

HMS: A related area to this discussion is that the pace of social media and of digital work pushes a lot of musicians to feel like they have to keep pouring content out as quickly as possible.

AD: Totally, and I think that’s a big tie-in with marketing and capitalism in this society. It’s like, “If you don’t make all this stuff in this amount of time, you will be forgotten, and you will not survive.” That’s not how art works for anyone, really. But people go into this stress mode with it, and they might miss out on the feeling of joy in being creative. But you also have to make things that are up to consumer standards or that could really mess up your career. So how can you constantly be so perfect?

HMS: Do you take on other work to help even out the pressure on creative work being commercial?

AD: I do scoring a lot. I co-score a lot with my old bandmate from Dirty Projectors. I don’t tour a lot. I’m lucky to get offered some very cool performance opportunities. A lot of my stuff in the US is one-off performances, and sometimes those are residencies. I make special music just for those performances, and it’s a good challenge to keep creating. But it’s extremely hard in the US to tour and make any money. That kind of income is withering away for artists within my range. I can tour in Europe and kind of do okay, but I would not do okay in the US.

But yes, there are several types of work I’ll take on over the course of the year just to maintain my standards and integrity of what I’m creating with my music. That does not really revolve too much around social media or self-promotion. That’s not really for me. I go crazy if I’m on that stuff for too long. It feels very divorced, for me, from making the work. I know that people can do so well with social media when they have the energy and the time, but I’m not figuring it out in that realm.

HMS: How long did you work on coming up with the songs on Find the Sun, and how long did you spend recording it?

AD: It took me quite a while to finalize my deal with ANTI-. Before that was finalized, I did start writing music. Once the deal was finalized, I picked up the energy and started finishing writing songs pretty quickly. I wrote the rest of the material in one to two months. Most were skeletal songs and I found a couple of musicians to improvise with me. Then we barely rehearsed it, but they are such good musicians that we could just go into the studio and work things out pretty quickly. Then we did about five live takes and picked one of them. It’s one of those things where you have to work with the resources you have, and I don’t want to ask a lot from the people who work with me unless I can pay them an amazing amount of money. But I budget everything and work it in a way that it feels fair for everybody.

I’m sure that, to some degree, informs what the music sounds like, but not in a bad way. I wanted the music to be raw, and not too heavy. The lyrics are heavier but the music, to me, is not super-heavy. That took about four months, overall, of pretty concerted to get from writing, to rehearsing, to recording. Maybe a little longer with mixing, but that didn’t take long either.

HMS: That sounds like the way to do it! That’s very effective. Particularly within a budget.

AD: I think one of the lessons I learned is that you can’t wait around for anything. You need to make your work and you should do it sooner rather than later. Don’t let things get in your way. Find a way to make it work. Either way, the outcome is not going to be what you expected, but it’s much worse to let it drag out and stagnate in your mind. I’m always amazed by people who take a year to make a record. I could not do that. Some people make amazing records in that time, so I know my theory is not totally accurate. But I can’t do that. Maybe someday.

HMS: Is part of your goal for this album to take elements from your life and make something meditative that someone else can engage with through listening?

AD: Yes. This is definitely a practice for me. It’s kind of like mindfulness practice or meditation. You need to extract wisdom from knowledge. In anything you learn ever, there is a lesson in it that you can apply to yourself. But the more you know, the more you’re responsible for in life in terms of your behavior. You don’t get to be ignorant of your behavior and the way that you affect people in the world if you are really taking knowledge in.

That’s part of what I’m talking about on the album and trying to live and be that person. It’s really opened me up in a way that’s really amazing, and I’m a lot more open in my heart than I could have ever imagined. I feel a lot less judgmental and less insecure through these practices. I stay faithful to them because I know that they work for me. A lot of people in the world are hurting and need to free themselves from their suffering. We all suffer and not one human is exempt from that. I think that does come across in the album based on messages I’ve received from people who listened to it. I guess you write about what you’re going through, and that’s what’s been going on. I don’t know what I’ll write about next.

But yes, it is an attempt to connect with people. That is the kind of music that I want to make. I want people to feel understood when they listen to the music.

HMS: That’s awesome. That’s almost casting the music in a therapeutic role. I suppose you might make music by yourself, for yourself, but never release it. But if you release it, it has a role to help people.

How does this all relate to live performance for you, or playing with other people? I know you were in Brooklyn doing some live performance things in recent years. Is it important to you that Find the Sun gets live performance?

AD: Live performance is very important for me. It’s often a challenge for me because I do mostly improvised sets or I’ll create a certain set for a certain concert almost 100% of time. Unless I tour, then I have more of a set layout for the music. All the stuff I’ve been doing in Brooklyn in the past few years has been within a music scene that has a lot of improvisers. I found this group where a lot of us have been in successful bands at certain points and have had solo careers. It’s very hard to sustain and live in New York as a musician, but the people there really still love playing music. I noticed that that aspect wasn’t going to leave me. All these things go away, like the idea of becoming famous, or touring, but when that goes away, who is still there?

I really wanted to keep doing music because I love it so much, and I’ve seen a lot of the people there go through different versions of that and really hold on, remain, and stay dedicated to their craft in a very present way. That’s what improvisation is to me. To be able to connect with people on a stage by improvising is doing something beautiful in that moment together that will never be repeated. It’s a joining together of our souls during this period of our lives. It brings so much enrichment to everyone’s life in that moment and beyond. It really changed my paradigm massively to start really doing that practice, playing lots of concerts.

It doesn’t matter if many people are there are not, but just being present, knowing you created something just for that show, and with other people who are down for the experience. There’s a lot of pressure alleviated, and you get back to your essence. That era of my life, which I hope to return to, has really changed my life in a really awesome way. It’s informed the way that I want to record music, too, and what it is just to be a practicing artist. I really like bonding with other people on stage.

HMS: Our Tower Records motto is “No Music, No Life”, also written “Know Music, Know Life”. How do you think that applies to your life?

AD: Music is very old. It’s a very universal language. It holds a very, very deep place in most peoples’ hearts in the world. It would be very hard to live in a world that didn’t have music in it. I definitely have learned so much from it because it’s my life and my life path. Music has taught me about who I am and has saved my life. It’s my lens and filter for experiencing life and I’m very grateful that it’s there.

HMS: Do you want to comment about the conflict in the Artsakh region? I noticed you had been posting about it.

AD: Yes, that’s been really rough. If anything, I think that people should just know about it. It’s not really being covered well in the US. It’s hard to cover stuff happening in the Middle East. There aren’t many journalists who go there so the information coming out is from people in Armenia. The history of the area is convoluted, but overall, it is indigenous land to Armenians who have for centuries lived there. That’s been proven through art, texts, monuments, and things in that region. It’s been very distressing for the diaspora to hear about this, because of a lot of us don’t live there due to a genocide. I’ve never been there, and I don’t have any family there because they died in that genocide. So this is a triggering situation.

Artsakh was attacked on September 27th, and the US Embassy warned US citizens to get out of the area. Even with a ceasefire, forces are not stopping. Almost all Armenian male citizens have been deployed to fight, and since there are only three million people in Armenia, losing lives is like a genocide. And the Azeri citizens, on the other side, don’t have much say in it, and are dying too. The citizens of Azerbaijan don’t get to speak up because of the way their government is run. It’s a very sensitive subject, but it’s important to talk about. It is dealing with resources, like the oil industry. It is a situation where America is not dealing with genocidal acts when they are allies with a country that is funding these attacks on this tiny country that has gone through so much already. It’s indigenous people having their land stolen from them and being killed. That’s the biggest message here.

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The decades long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the ownership of the Artsakh region bordering the two countries is on the brink of a full on war. Indigenous Armenians have inhabited this region for centuries. It is reported that Azerbaijan initiated aggressive force this past week. This conflict is extremely traumatic for Armenians as it is tied with painful memories of the Genocide. A ceasefire was implemented in 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but as we can see this agreement has not been honored (many times over). Overall, we need support to stop this from getting any more violent. Too many lives have been lost already in this conflict causing more trauma and resentment all around. Help if you can. I’ve tagged some IG accounts for more info here. I will post a few pieces in my story today with links to petitions asking to stop the violence.

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