Led by vocalist Dan Smith, Listener is one of few unique bands emerging from the darkness of the indie underground. Their style, which Smith personally has named “Talk Music,” sets the tone of an energetic poetry reading rather than a typical structure of music found so easily in today’s music. Listener continues the hard, but good work of touring North America in hopes of showing audiences that music, while not having to appease to any specific genre, can still be so correlative to all of the different experiences life can offer. Cliché’s Heather Glock was able to catch up with Dan Smith to talk about the many influences and experiences that push this passionate band to continue on their journey.
Cliché: Your music is so heavily focused on what’s being said and the audible portion of the art. Are there any visual artists that you find particularly inspiring in regards to your work?
Dan Smith: I really love watching movies. Sofia Coppola, PT Anderson, and Wes Anderson films I’m always really excited for—also Nicolas Winding Refn.
In an era where the music industry is dominated by “hook-driven” and what is often thought as “frivolous writing,” what drives you to write not only the unique content that you do, but to choose the delivery in which you present it?
In some ways it’s just the way I know how to write, just write it down and it becomes what it becomes. There’s something freeing about the music that we make in that we don’t have to appease a genre, and when we make our music, it can have a hook if the song needs it, or a sing-along part, or none at all. It’s about what the song needs, and not what a genre says we have to have in order for it to be a complete piece.
For a while you were known for doing your ‘Tour of Homes’ tours. Now you’re playing venues with a full-band feel. Tell me about some of the differences between touring people’s houses and touring larger venues. What are some of the pro’s of each? Is there anything you miss about the smaller shows?
In 2005 and 2006, and perhaps some of 2007, we played house shows… and even sprinkled in and out here and there we would play them after that too. Sometimes it was out of necessity for a venue, and the house just worked that we could play a show there. We don’t really play many house shows at all anymore. I think when it started it was more of an idea to only play house shows on a tour. There may be room for that kind of tour again in the future… but Listener is in fact a band, and we play fairly loud, and we want everyone to see and hear what we are doing comfortably. So, we’ve been booking venues, and we want our guests to have the best experience we can at our shows… sometimes this idea works brilliantly, but you can’t have it perfect always.
To reach the full interview and see exclusive photos, check out our Aug/Sept issue!
Photographs by Heather Glock