Dana Schechter of Insect Ark talks about what went into making an album like The Vanishing and what this experience meant to the band
It’s the build up. It’s that unnerving feeling of uncertainty or excitement that is synced up with the personalities of Insect Ark’s passion for the emotion of how music affects our senses. It’s what makes their latest release, The Vanishing, an amazing achievement. Their instrumentals sometimes builds a feeling of delusion through hallucination and foggy illusion through haunting tones. Other times, it’s a stark reality in the exactness of the notes. Together, they create something not many can accomplish at this level.
Dana Schecter is a multi-instrumentalist who has dipped her creativity and expression into many projects including Swans, Angels of Light, Årabrot, and many other bands along with her own projects Bee and Flower and Gifthorse. She has steered the ship through two Insect Ark albums and turning heads with her impressionistic ideology to aural art. For their third release, The Vanishing, she teamed up with former SubRosa drummer Andy Petterson (DØNE, the Otolith, and INVADRS) to create a complete mentality to these instrumentals.
Having the two together has created what we recently called brilliant songwriting. Schecter helped break down the mentality and philosophy behind the band and the album.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to make The Vanishing?
I didn’t want to make The Vanishing. The music found its way through me. What I mean is, music is part of me no matter what I do or what I actually want. This doesn’t mean that they are formed and develop on their own, because obviously they can’t and don’t, but they are a reflection of what I do and who I am, and ideas take on the shape of songs when I give them space and time to develop.
What made the two of you want to team up for an Insect Ark project? How did you know this musical partnership was going to make your vision a success?
I was looking for a drummer and Andy came highly recommended. I was already a fan of Andy’s
drumming/music/bands. Of course, chemistry is best tested in person so we met for an audition. We come from similar enough backgrounds that after initially talking and getting along, it seemed likely that we’d work well together. Luckily, we were right.
What went into creating The Vanishing? What challenges did you face?
I had mostly finished writing the songs a few months before Andy & I met. I’d been working since the start of 2019 and spent some time developing the material with former IA drummer Ashley Spungin. I did a lot of detailed preparation so the challenging parts for Andy and me were more related to the distance (he lives in Salt Lake, I live in Brooklyn) and the fast pace we needed to work at to stay on the schedule (we had a scheduled tour with Oranssi Pazuzu a few months out, and a plan to record the new album the following month). The music came together quite naturally and I’m sure if we hadn’t been compatible, there would have been many more challenges.
Do you feel like the final product is a simile to the mental conception of the album?
The Vanishing is not a concept album. It is a reflection of ideals and methodology that I associate with all the time. The theme revealed itself as it went, but yes, I do feel that it is a good reflection of the ideas that are the foundation.
How did this differ with other Insect Ark albums? How do you feel the past releases helped shape the ideology of this album?
The main difference for me is that over time I have become more and more interested in boiling ideas down to their essence; I’m interested in simplifying things (all things). I don’t feel that there is time or effort to waste while we are on earth. I don’t feel that I have as much to prove as I did when I was younger. Each album is totally different, in that we come to music through life, and life never stays the same. It takes some time to see with any clarity how a discography defines the trajectory of an artist, and doing this for my own work is tricky. I’m sure there are many things I can’t see on how it’s developed.
There is a stark philosophy into the mindset of these songs. How has your experience with listener interpretations compare to your perspective of the music and has anything surprised you with how people view it?
I’m pretty surprised how much people seem to “get it”. This is a lucky coincidence, or perhaps, it means the album is successful since as I mentioned, it was developed from very purposeful ideals. It was, and still is, an echo of my mindset. I’m actually fine, though, if people interpret it in their own way. I can’t define someone else’s experience.
Tell me about the cover art?
The painting is called “Eyes” by French painter Sonia Merah – I was a fan of her work for the last few years and when she showed me this painting, I was drawn to it immediately – I actually laughed out loud at how perfectly if encompassed the mood of the music. There is an echo of humanity, a shifting, a filament, a strain, it is ungraspable.
How has New York influenced you as a musician and your work with this project?
I spend a lot of time inside when I’m in New York. I have a home studio and I’m a freelance animator working in film and video which means I’m able to work on music whenever I have free time. This is actually quite unusual for NYC, because most people have to do a serious hustle to make ends meet. I’ve been there long enough that i’ve figured out how to live cheaply and still have time to make work, but it is definitely a struggle at times. It requires making choices of how to use your energy, which I firmly believe is limited.
How has the other bands you two are involved with help shape Insect Ark?
I like being a musician in other bands, whether I collaborate, write my own parts, or play something already written…I don’t need ownership of ideas to find value in them. Sometimes it’s nice to be a temporary member, the relationship brings a different sense of freedom. As far as writing goes, of course I learn from seeing how others construct their music, but I don’t think I’ve necessarily adopted anyone else’s methodology and called it my own.
Where does this leave the Insect Ark’s direction? What plans do you have for 2020?
That’s a question I’m not sure how to answer. I think it could continue to evolve into any direction.
2020 will be a busy year, it’s pretty much booked up already. We are in Greece right now, about to start the first tour for The Vanishing, March 2020 in Europe, the UK, and a show in Russia, etc. We’re really excited to get out and play these songs again. Starting next month I’ll be busy on tour with Swans on /off until early Fall, then Insect Ark will tour the US and EU again in the fall.