Johanna and the Dusty Floor: Dust and Birds

I’m sure you’ve realized that in recent years Brooklyn has become a veritable clown car of lovely and amazing singer/songwriters.  And this week Kickstarter (a phenomena which I’ve been...

I’m sure you’ve realized that in recent years Brooklyn has become a veritable clown car of lovely and amazing singer/songwriters.  And this week Kickstarter (a phenomena which I’ve been tripping over in every conversation I’ve had with a musician since I first reported on it in my profile of Charlene Kaye) is bringing two of Brooklyn’s most lovely and amazing to Philadelphia… twice.  This Thursday and Friday Johanna and the Dusty Floor and Bird Call will be gracing Philthy stages (8/4 @ Club House and 8/5 @ The Fire) as part of their current tour, which was funded by raising $5,000 on the site.

This represents the first US tour for Johanna Cranitch and her unkempt ground, who released their first LP, Northern Lights, on Red Valise earlier this year.  The album is delightfully audacious for an act that finds themselves in the singer/songwriter genre, often incorporating epic moodinees more reminiscent of elegantly angsty 80s teens than anything that would find itself at World Café Live.  They’re apparently not afraid to imbue their sound with all of their influences (which turn out to be, at times, more apparent, than Cranitch realizes).  Ms. Cranitch and I recently discussed this… along with social networking, Jarvis Cocker, and the Twilight Saga.  Check it out below.

Izzy Cihak: There seem to be a number “proper noun and the ____” bands out there right now (Elizabeth and the Catapult, Florence and the Machine, Erland and the Carnival, etc.). Are there any others that you’re partial to?

Johanna Cranitch: Well I LOVE Elizabeth and the Catapult…. they are amazing and Elizabeth is a lovely human. I also love Promise and the Monster, a great Aussie band called Evan And The Brave, Marina and the Diamonds, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and, of course, Antony and the Johsnsons and Joan as Police Woman.

IC: What inspired the particular name of this musical project?

JC: It’s so boring. My ex husband came up with it as a joke about my ever increasing amount of dust in my old east Village apartment before we got married. I had been toying with names for a few weeks and he laughed one day while wiping off the dust from his clothes saying “you should be called Johanna and the DUSTY floor.”  It just stuck.

IC: You were a Jazz student at the Australian Institute of Music. How do you feel about Jazz compared to Pop and how comfortably do they sit next to each other on the shelf of your mind? You’ve obviously been influenced a lot by both.

JC: Well, Joni Mitchell is a Pop artist of her time… and she came out with one of the most brilliantly written jazz albums I have ever heard, with an amazing bassist called Charles Mingus. It was the last thing he wrote and it was with her. I love her and her melodies can fit into both realms. I think this fits perfectly as an analogy for this question. My Jazz background has given me a sensibility that I am certain I would not have in my writing. But then again, any study or training gives you a wider knowledge of your craft, doesn’t it?

IC: I understand your current tour has been funded by Kickstarter. I recently wrote a piece about Charlene Kaye who, using Kickstarter, convinced her fans to give her $33,000 to fund her next album, which still seems nuts to me. What was your own experience with the site like?

JC: I loved it. Honestly, we needed 10,000 for our tour. We asked for 5 thinking we could put the rest in ourselves. I think it is a great way for people to support independent artists. We are not begging, you get prizes depending on what you donate. So essentially, we are asking people to ‘Invest” in the development of a project. I think it makes people feel like they are a part of the process. Well, I mean they are, aren’t they?! Chiara (Bird Call) and I are just so incredibly grateful to EVERYONE who donated. We would NOT be doing it without the help.

IC: Are there any musicians that you’re regularly compared to that you actually hate and, conversely, are there any artists that you really like that no one would ever guess?

JC: I Love Annie Lennox, Pulp (OMG Jarvis I love him),  Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel independently and in Genesis, New Order, Depeche Mode, I could go on and on… ooh oooh DAVID BYRNE! love him.

IC: What are your biggest non-musical influences?

JC: Claude Cahun, Nan Goldin, Kiki Smith, Picasso, NY, Paris, the sky (No, seriously, I am fascinated by the sky.) I know that sounds weird.

IC: In a society of the spectacle such as ours there are about a billion platforms for a person to be introduced to a song (live concerts, commercials, film, radio, etc.). What would your fantasy ideal outlet for your music be, whether playing it onstage alongside one of your heroes, or soundtracking the work of one of your favorite visual artists, or anything else that you secretly fantasize about being a part of?

JC: I want to be on a rad soundtrack like the Twilight soundtracks. Look, regardless of whether you like the movies or not, those soundtracks are just so well put together!!!! I think Chop Shop does them. GENIUS! And, of course, playing alongside my modern day heroes, such as Sufjan Stevens. His vocal arrangements are just so inspiring for me seeing as my music is very heavily harmony-based

IC: You’re playing two local Philadelphia shows (8/4 @ Club House and 8/5 @ The Fire). What would you tell potential attendees to convince them to come out to both performances?

JC: That we both (Bird Call and I) have a VERY unique pop sensibility and are both very different, which makes for an interesting concert experience. I don’t think I need to convince anyone to come to the shows. The proof is in the pudding. Just come and have fun with us!!! I love you Philly!!!!

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.