Peasant is 24 year-old, Damien DeRose. Recording and writing in a one-bedroom apartment, he likes to eat bagels and swim in creeks (freshwater only). We like long strolls on the beach listening to his music. TDOA writer Amy talked to him about his fantastic voice and beautiful melodies.
TDOA: Your aesthetic feels very breezy and vintage (to me, anyway). How would you describe Peasant’s sound?
DD: I’d say I don’t try to do too much, and I really think simplicity can be quite beautiful. I also really really do love my oldies, so I guess that’s bound to turn up in my sound.
TDOA: Peasant was featured on Urban Outfitters’ Music Monday. How did that bolster your popularity (no doubt with the hipster crowd)?
DD: I honestly have no idea, I didn’t start seeing really trendy people coming out in droves to my shows after they got all bloggy on me. I don’t know, it seems to take a lot to get people to take notice of things these days. We’re bombarded everyday with ten new bands and commercials and blah blah blah so I don’t really think it made a huge dent in the collective hipster consciousness.
TDOA: Why do you publish under a pseudonym?
DD: Because the idea of a Peasant sort of sums up the way I create and sort of live (on a good day), and also if I fail miserably under this pseudonym I haven’t soiled my good name too outwardly.
TDOA: Your Myspace says that the new album is “the best ever.” What makes that true?
DD: Well that’s a little bit of not so subtle salesmanship lets be honest. I do like the record a lot, and the fact that I got to record it completely on my own and really release something that comes straight from me to you can’t be overstated. I have to say though, as time goes on these things are not nearly so cut and dry and it’s like picking a favorite child at times. Having had time to reflect on things a bit since the record’s release I think I see there are certainly things I didn’t do right on it, so it’s far from perfect, and quite possibly not my best ever, and I certainly hope it isn’t all downhill from here either.
TDOA: Who would you like most to collaborate with? I’ve gotta say, an Iron and Wine/Pheasant duo sounds like magic.
DD: Hmm well… hypothetically I’d die if Brian Wilson wanted to help me arrange a few of my songs. Realistically I’d like to get some of my good friends in the bands I’ve spent time with over the years to help me out in the studio, Drink Up Buttercup and Illinois to name two, are all good friends and local so I think I’d like to plop them down for a few sessions and finally consummate our relations. I’ve actually already started doing something along these lines but I’m going to be as vague as possible and leave it there. Suffice to say, collaboration has never been my strong-suit, and I’m working diligently to change that.
TDOA: Listening to your songs, I feel like you worked tirelessly to get every minute detail “right.” Is this the case, or is your creative process a little more fluid?
DD: As often as I can. I tend to spend a lot of time on certain recordings, on others I wish I spent more. That’s sort of why I love recording at home and not in a studio because you get so much more TIME to work on things and flesh them out. To say it can’t be fluid at the same time would be incorrect however, because even though I may slave over things for days and weeks, my songs usually start out as a very vague sketch on the guitar or piano and then slowly evolve to new heights. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t spend tons and tons of time PLANNING what I will record, but I spend tons and tons of time generally adding and subtracting ideas as I go along recording, which makes the process both fluid, and hopefully in the end, “right”.
TDOA: I think the simplicity of your sound is something a lot of artists could learn from. What do you think is the key to keeping your music fresh and real?
DD: I honestly have no idea. At times being that way and writing like that has been effortless, at other times it seems impossible to find for some reason. I think a lot of it has to do with letting go during the writing process, and writing a lot so you have plenty of ideas to choose from to release something or “finish it”. It’s funny to say that simplicity can be difficult to do right, but it really can be I think. The trick to my “simplicity” may be that I really do live and believe in the idea that what makes an artist unique, or even a person for that matter, is the traits that are truly their own. I try to just channel myself, sounds rather funny, but the words that come immediately to my mind are often the ones that are in the final draft of the song, because I believe that those subtle inconsistencies and honest thoughts are actually the most powerful.
TDOA: Indie rock is rapidly becoming the most contrived genre around. Artists are trying too hard to be indie. Your music, though, doesn’t give off that vibe. What do you think makes these artists work so hard to fit a specific mold?
DD: Yes, if only we could do to indie rock bands what we do to deer when they overpopulate, than this wouldn’t be an issue would it? But seriously, like you noted in your last question, simplicity is a consistent part of my music, and as I responded, emphasizing the simple quirks of my brain, my heart, and occasionally my liver are what makes my music mean something, to me, and possibly to other people. I think that’s why I’m comfortable with the label “indie” or I used to be, because it didn’t really used to mean you wear Ray Bans and cardigans, it was more a philosophy in general, and not a collection of cliches and stereotypes. It’s ironic that the term “Indie” (short for independent lest we forget), has become something of a really homogenous generalization for kids wearing skinny jeans and blah blah blah, relating more to a style than a philosophy. So it goes though, and it always has, and always will, being cool is quite important for a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with themselves and they will suck the life out of any movement. There is hope though, because I think you could never truly adopt a philosophy of independence by following or imitating something, and even more so, I like to think that there are a few people who have truly been moved to pursue their own dreams and goals in life, however crazy, or simple, or independent they may be, maybe just because they like “indie music”.
TDOA: What’s your favorite track from the new album, Shady Retreat?
DD: I like Prescriptions a lot. The lyrics mean a lot to me and sort of sum up how I feel about a lot of things today rather succinctly without being preachy. I also enjoy playing it live and this record has a lot of songs on it that are nigh impossible to play live.
TDOA: On that note, Shady Retreat sounds like a good descriptor of the album as a whole. Is there some deeper meaning, or does it just point out the fact that we’ll be listening to this record at picnics in the park?
DD: Well I got the name from a road I lived on while I wrote most of the record. I think there are quite a few meanings for me, the stage in my life that it encompasses was a rather reflective and semi-quiet period. I had a girlfriend i thought I was going to marry, I felt rather isolated, and quite like I was just sort of blocking out the whole world… I think I just took a step back for a moment, really almost two years, and it’s not something I’m sure I’m proud of, but it’s there, and the record is there, representing that uncertainty and that need of mine to hole up and escape, sometimes rather extremely. so there you have it, hopefully the next one is called something like “Snap Out of It!”…
For more information about Peasant, visit the Facebook page here.