Dana Bouy by Colton Major
Dana Buoy is the current evolution of songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Dana Janssen, previously of Akron/Family. Janssen has teamed up with long-time collaborator Justin Miller on a record that’s less folk and more beach party, a cool glass of water, instantaneously refreshing on a first listen.
From the first rolling drumbeats of “Twisted Sky,” the record begs repeat listens. The title track and “Colours Out” stand out with their psychedelic slant; these are the kind of tunes you roll a joint to on a lazy Saturday. Meanwhile, “Whatever” has a sleepy spring swagger to compliment the chillest winter thaw. There’s enough variation to keep things interesting, but the feel and tempo remains consistent throughout. It’s an easy pick for an early morning listen – and as we found out when we sat down with lead singer Dana Janssen, morning routines have been paramount to the creation of these songs. Read on below to hear Janssen’s thoughts on pulling inspiration from dreams and how his recent move to Portland, Oregon influenced his songwriting.
AF: You grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. What’s the scene like over there? Without googling, I’m picturing rural.
DJ: Williamsport is rural, yes. A very slow town with not much going on. They seem to be very into the blues and have many blues festivals so there’s that. The little league world series is from there, so that happens every August. Other than that…. not much. But I was always able to get out of town. It’s only a few hours from NYC (where my Dad’s family is from) so we would visit him there on weekends and what not.
AF: You’ve said that your mom was a big musical influence growing up, that she played a wide variety of music. What are some of your favorite childhood tunes?
DJ: She would always play the Rolling Stones but like voodoo lounge era Stones. Old tunes too, but when a new album came out she was on it. Which is cool that she stayed current with the band. Also, a lot of Madonna. “Lucky Star” was the song she would most often put on the stereo on weekend mornings when it was time for me to get out of bed. Blasted it. I always liked this as my alarm clock. I love ’80s Madonna. And she loved playing these club mixtapes. Like 4 on the floor type bangers with a subtle reggae touch. I got into that stuff too.
AF: Sounds like she had a good time on the dance floor back in the day!
DJ: Yeah, she liked to dance.
AF: Your first instrument was a saxophone, then guitar, then drums. When you were first exploring music, did you find ways to interrelate these different forms?
DJ: I generally would go down the rabbit hole of one instrument and get inspired with that for a while, but it wasn’t until my twenties that I would start to cross these together while writing and performing.
AF: Right, I suppose it would have been easier to experiment solo if Ableton had been a thing at the time. Then you can just loop yourself.
DJ: Exactly, although I use Logic. Always wanted to try Ableton. Instead I got into the Octatrack which I’m told is Ableton in a piece of hardware.
AF: Was the production aspect of creating music an easy thing to transition to? Or was it a little daunting at first?
DJ: I took to it pretty quick. When I first started recording, it was with the program Fruity Loops. It had a sequencer which I fell in love with. Then I moved these ideas into Protools. Just being able to multitrack was amazing. Putting together a loop and layering the same sound on top of itself to get this cacophonous sound was pretty inspiring.
AF: Akron/Family was formed in New York. Dana Buoy is a project that sprung out of your move to Portland, Oregon. How did the two cities inform each project and what differences struck you in the creation process?
DJ: When I got to Portland I could afford space. Just being able to have a small home studio setup in my house was amazing, and having time on top of that to actually use it was even better! NYC was always tough because you’re working a lot to float your rent and then you might be exhausted from that so it seemed a bit tougher at times to get yourself motivated to go. Plus balancing everyone’s schedules was a tricky task. Here in Portland, life has been much more relaxing. I feel inspired by the nature out here. The air is amazing. The food is so much fresher. Everything for me jumped up a few notches, in terms of quality of life. When I got here I was able to find a clarity that I used to my advantage in my writing. Also, having time to read more, I took to checking out some books my friend Seth recommended, like The Artist’s Way and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to name a few. These have been so helpful to me when I apply them to my art.
AF: The Artist’s Way! I’ve been making my way through that myself. It took three separate recommendations, but I finally caved.
DJ: It’s a good one. Do you do morning pages?
AF: I’ve technically restarted the book three times. I think it says something in there about not getting defeated and calling yourself a failure. But so far that’s the wall I keep hitting. I tend to be a “haven’t written in five days, suddenly get the urge and now no one talk to me for the next four hours” type.
DJ: I had to make it my practice to get through it too, but well worth the effort.
AF: Alright, Dana (and the universe). Four times is a charm. It’s way too pointed for me not to just do it.
DJ: You got this.
AF: The music world has taken a decidedly political turn since Donald Trump took office. Ice Glitter Gold has such a light-hearted, sunny feel to it (a welcome break). Do you draw from personal experience when writing music?
DJ: Ooph. Donald. What a fuck. A lot of my subject matter is from personal experience but I also like to write from third person point of view as well. I witness so many great stories that I can’t help but want to make songs out of these. Also, my dreams are a pretty deep well of source material. I like to be in the habit of remembering my dreams as soon as I wake up. I write them down often as the start of my morning pages but not always. Mostly the more interesting ones. I think on this record there is a good balance of these three perspectives: the self, the observer, and the dream warrior.
AF: Do you ever take on source material as inspiration?
DJ: Like topical songwriting?
AF: Topical or even the taking on of a character. Grimes talks a lot about the use of historical figures as characters within her songs. So I was wondering if you don more of a character’s perspective at times.
DJ: Oh absolutely. I have yet to experiment with historical figures. That sounds like a pretty ripe idea! But topical maybe not so much, more taking character.
AF: What artists do you have on rotation right now?
DJ: I’m currently most often listening to artists like LCD Soundsystem, Kendrick, Tamia, El Debarge, Robert Palmer, Funkadelic, De La Sol, Tribe Called Quest, and Mos Def.
AF: Any new artists we should keep an ear out for?
DJ: Dana Buoy, duh.
AF: You have a few tour dates on the docket right now. Can we expect to see more soon?
DJ: Most definitely! The plan is to get out and tour this album. full service. I’m ready to get back on the road again. It’s been awhile since I’ve toured so it’s back to being exciting for me.
AF: A young musician lives in rural Pennsylvania, just finished high school, and is itching to make music. What advice to have for them?
DJ: Well, it’s maybe a little different these days because of the internet, but back in my day it was move to the city and get out and play live as much as possible. I think the experience of being in a room with other humans is invaluable. You learn so much about not only performance and becoming a showman, but about songwriting too. The growth I found during my first tour was unreal. Also, create every day. Even if it’s just playing your instrument, you gotta commit to your craft. become a master. And persevere! This is not an easy lifestyle, but if you can find a way to make it work for you I think it’s worth it.
Dana Bouy’s new album Ice Glitter Gold is out now on Spotify and iTunes. Check out their tour dates below!
03/19 – Portland, OR @ The Know
03/21 – Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern
03/22 – 03.25 Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Festival
04/20 – Seattle, WA @ Fred Wildlife Refuge
04/21 – Bainbridge Island, WA @ Space Craft
04/23 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
04/28 – San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
04/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ Resident