New Music From Dagmar Will Soon See “The Light Of Day” Gemma Rose and Miranda Lee Talk To Blurred Culture About Their New Album After Lovely Hotel Cafe Performance
LOS ANGELES, CA- Dagmar is a San Fransisco based band consisting of Gemma Rose and Miranda Lee, and I found out about them when a friend suggested that I go check them out at the Hotel Cafe while they were on a jaunt down the west coast a few weeks ago.
They only have a one full length album to their name, but it’s a solid one. Afterlight, which was released 2015, is an ethereal album highlighted by beautiful harmonies over dulcet instrumentation. The way Gemma and Miranda’s voices meld together, especially during dissonant harmonies, is breathtaking, and each song takes you on an emotional wave of crescendos and decrescendos, through smart production and arrangement, when the lyrics call for it.
After an absolutely lovely performance, I had a few minutes to chat with the two chanteuses to learn more about their future project and how they go about writing music together despite busy schedules.
With Gemma as a nurse, and Miranda as a teacher, when do you guys find time to actually write and perform music?
Gemma: Miranda is also a single mom, so it adds another layer of challenge for us to practice together. But she does have a couple nights a week free, so we try to prioritize playing music together. Then also I work per diem so I can just take off whenever I want, which is really great for being a nurse, having that flexibility. And then summers are our tour time when her son Eli, who is 5, is with his dad, we take off and go on the road. And then the rest of the year we’re mostly staying pretty local, and writing music and doing weekend trips when her sons with his dad as well.
When it comes to writing new music, how does it start?
Miranda: We write our songs in a variety of ways and sometimes one of us will come with an idea and we help flush it out together and grow it into a full song. Other times, we start from scratch and write it from bare bones together.
I’m assuming because you are the music teacher, you are the one who arranges all the vocal harmonies and things like that?
Miranda: Oh no, not at all! That is like a joint effort between the two of us. We both have a background in classical singing and choral music. I always tell Gemma she thinks outside of the box… a lot. And so sometimes she’ll have a wild idea, and I think it’s a bad idea, and then we try it. Half the time it’s amazing and half the time, it’s not. (Laughter)
You keep the amazing ones.
Miranda: That’s right! And we have an agreement together that we’ll try anything musically, any idea. So yeah, we both arrange the vocals together.
So this album that you are currently working on now, that would be your sophomore album?
Gemma: Yes, yes, it will be our second album.
How far along is it?
Gemma: Well, we’re almost done recording stuff; it’s just like putting it all together that’s going to take some time, and also like raising the funds for that. I hope we’ll be done with something by the end of this year. We have quite a few songs and we’re trying to decide how to piece it together, whether we release them in singles and then eventually have a full length album or it will be two EP’s or, I’m not sure yet. But we want to get it out as soon as we can; it’s just hard to make money as a musician. We usually keep all of our, I don’t know, we usually try to make the money that we’re spending on music, in the music that we’re doing.
Miranda: Yeah! We started recording about three weeks ago in June, in Iowa. We laid down all the instrumental tracks with our drummer out there.
So it just needs to be mixed and mastered at this point?
Miranda: Yeah, we laid down a bunch of the vocal tracks this past week in San Francisco with a producer/ engineer. We have a cellist, who we play with a lot of the time in the Bay area, and he added his music to it, it’s beautiful! We got some Game of Thrones music and it’s like epic!
Miranda: So it’s coming along, it’s coming along…
Are there any strong or consistent themes in the new music?
Miranda: It’s not an intentional theme per say, but the songs we’ve written in the past, a lot of them have been …
Miranda: Sad! Sad or kind of angry, kind of helping us to process some things that happened that were sad. And this is a little bit more songs that are romantic and moving on and finding love in different ways, and also songs about finding ourselves more and kind of more female empowerment… reconnecting to ourselves in a deeper way.
What was the song, you mentioned this during your set, you said the one song that was like 98% love as opposed to like.
Miranda: That one is called “Moth” and then “Airplane” we sang after that, and that’s a love song too. That’s like a, that’s a 2018 dating kind of song, where like online dating and how does that unfold in your imagination.
And how long have you been performing as Dagmar?
Gemma: About 4 years, 3 1/2 – 4 years… We used to have a different group before that. It was three of us, but the third woman, she lives in France, so it made it a little challenging. There was a while where I lived in Nashville and Miranda was in San Francisco Bay, and she was in Toulouse, France, and we were trying to write together, but it was just tricky. It’s pretty tricky if you can imagine.
And so what does Dagmar mean?
Gemma: It means “Light of Day”, it’s a Norwegian female name. But it sounds harsh, and we like that it feels strong and harsh in a certain way, yet it’s also something feminine, and we feel like our sound is kind of that way where we have dissonance and you know, major and minor seconds rubbing against each other. It’s funny because our third band mate, who lives in France, her best friend was named Dagmar. And Miranda and I loved that name when we she said it because her name’s Darla, my name’s Gemma with a ‘G’, and then Miranda, so it had all our letters in Dagmar, and we’re like, “That’s it! And she’s like, ‘we can’t name it that, that’s my best friends name!'” But then when she left the band, it was like, it’s gonna be Dagmar.
That’s cool though.
Miranda: It’s a privilege to be making music with Gemma and have this close sisterly bond and we are, I think, becoming increasingly passionate about healing of ourselves and other people and how does that relate to my job in education and her job in healthcare and also especially women, and empowering women, letting our voices be heard and having our voice as women.