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Dazy on being OK with not knowing, 'OUTOFBODY' and 'OTHERBODY'

Dazy (James Goodson) poses in a fisheye lens against a wall of speakers.
Dazy (James Goodson)

In 2020, Richmond-based rock musician James Goodson started a home recording project under the name ‘Dazy.’ Dazy’s music isn’t afraid to jump headlong into combinations that seem contradictory at first: Noise and distortion pair with drum machines and organic rock riffs, and feel-good sounds have a hint of melancholy in the lyrics.

Now, after two studio releases and a cross-country tour, he’s gearing up for a homecoming performance on Brown’s Island with Snail Mail on Friday, May 5.

Note: the following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Annie Parnell: Last year, you released the 12-track album OUTOFBODY. And in March, you dropped OTHERBODY, which is an eight-song EP from the same recording sessions. What was it like getting all this material at once?

James Goodson: I had written so many songs prior to and during the making of the full length, and I didn't really know which ones were going to end up where. It was a little bit of a crazy process to narrow it down, and I ended up recording 20 songs and really liked all of them. They were getting cycled through all these different sequences, and [I was] trying them in all these different ways to see what worked together and what didn't. I landed on the 12 songs for the LP, and then had these eight songs leftover that I still really liked, and didn't want them to just get lost the time.

I don't know, I've always liked when bands put out a lot of stuff. If you've got the songs and you like them, there's no reason not to, so I just wanted to get them out there and have something new out ahead of this tour.

I was psyched to be able to just kind of have everything out there. In my mind, I see [the album and the EP] almost as these two things that go hand in hand and are of a piece.
I was actually about to ask how you decided what stayed on the album.
It was tricky. I previously hadn't really had a lot of input on what ended up on anything before. This was the first time where I had other people giving me some advice and thoughts. That was really helpful — to sort of see what people from the label thought, and getting other perspectives for the first time on songs they liked. I think that really helped a lot for narrowing it down.

Some of it was going with your gut and deciding what made sense together and what makes sense in the sequence. You know, with streaming and everything, everybody kind of just picks and chooses the songs that they like, and it ends up on a playlist or whatever. But I grew up with albums and really caring about album sequences and that kind of nerdy stuff. That's part of the fun to me. And so I always took that really seriously.

What is your songwriting process like?
With Dazy in particular, it's this thin line between demo and final thing. I'll be messing around, whether it's with a drum machine beat that I like, or a bassline or a guitar part. I’m kind of writing it and recording it all at the same time, trying to get it all on to the computer and get some kind of demo made to get the idea out of my head.

A lot of that stuff ends up being on the final recording: Most of the drum tracks, the bassline, all these bits and pieces that were sort of thrown on there — a little bit slapdash you know — they ended up being the final thing that I really liked. Whatever energy that had I ended up keeping it, and realizing that those pieces from the demos could end up being the final thing that goes out into the world and that was OK.

That was kind of the big gamechanger with me with all this stuff: realizing these things that I thought were flaws that were going to need to be redone or properly recorded, that maybe they didn't need to be. Maybe that was what I liked about it.

You’ve said previously that The Jesus and Mary Chain have a big impact on Dazy’s sound. What other artists have been on your mind for this project?

The Jesus and Mary Chain, for sure. I think the stuff they do with rock band instrumentation combined with drum machines is really big for me, and so is a lot of other music from that era where people were doing that kind of thing.

Bob Mould’s solo albums, where he did a lot of drum machine stuff — that really inspired me to realize it's OK to just put a noisy distorted guitar right there with a dance-y beat. That's not ‘not allowed.’ You know, Primal Scream, and I like Garbage a lot — bands that merge those different worlds of drum machine–y, computer-y music with very organic rock sounds. 

What have you been listening to lately?

There's this band from the U.K. called Wonder Horse that I really like and had a record out last year. That's one of my favorite things. I really liked the new Yo La Tengo and the new Alex G records. And then I've been on a kick — as far as older stuff — of that band Folk Implosion [with] Lou Barlow from Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. I think I'd always actually been tricked by their name and thought they were a folk band.

There's an interesting contrast at play on both recent Dazy releases that may be connected to this post-punk ethos: big feel-good sounds and really vulnerable lyrics. The new EP, for instance, opens with a song called “I Know Nothing At All.” Tell me about that tension.

I think that's the product of music that I was listening to when I was growing up. It was always stuff that would have these big, anthemic moments and then lyrically be darker or sad, or just have that melancholy. I think there's something about that combination, where the music is undeniably making you feel good and then there's this kernel of melancholy. There's something about that combination that I think is the perfect sweet-and-sour thing that really works.
I also think it's very difficult to write songs about how great everything is going. That’s a hard thing to do that I have not quite figured out, and I do try that sometimes. When you write a song, a lot of times, you're just trying to get out whatever is stressing you out or on your mind. And doing that with music that feels good, sounds good, and is upbeat and happy, is always really satisfying to me.

It can be really liberating to say, “Yeah, I don't know.”
That’s huge for me. I think that's a giant part of being an adult, this realization [that] there's a lot of things you're not going to understand and not know — and coming to terms with that. Holding a lot of different things in your mind all at once, rather than everything being super cut and dry. And I think [with “I Know Nothing At All”] in particular, I wanted to find the most boiled down way of being like, “I really don't know. And that's fine.”

On May 5, you'll be performing at Brown's Island with Snail Mail. What can listeners expect to hear?
I counted it up the other day and there's, like, 45 Dazy songs out in the world. So it's pretty hard to make a setlist already, but we definitely try to keep a good mix of the pre-LP stuff that I like and a lot of stuff from the LP. We're actually working on trying to get some songs from the new EP in there, so it'll kind of be a little bit everything.

Live, it's definitely a little bit of a different animal than recordings. Because we don't play with a drum machine, it's a live drummer, and there's just a lot more looseness to it but in a way that I really like.

When the project first started it was 2020, deep into the pandemic, and there were no shows. So part of the fun of it was not even thinking about playing live — I was really treating it as a home recording experiment. It wasn't until so much later that I ever even had to think like, “Oh, how do you execute this at a show? How is this doable?” And I think we figured it out in a pretty cool way.

What's next?
I'm always working on new stuff. I have a crazy amount of demos on my computer at all times. It's always a matter of figuring out what’s jumping out at me, and I'm always adding to the pile. I’m just excited to play Brown's Island. I mean, that's a pretty legendary spot for a show to happen. Especially to play such a crazy show in our hometown — it’s gonna be pretty exciting.

Dazy’s OTHERBODY and OUTOFBODY are available now.