Review & Interview: “For Pleasure” by Diz James

“For Pleasure” by Diz James feels like a tranquil Neutral Milk Hotel song–but don’t let that fool you. It is unfailingly unique. Most of it consists of an acoustic guitar/vocal duo, splashed with eloquent lyricism. The moments with more varied instrumentation become all-the-more special, as they’re brief and starkly juxtaposed to the intimacy of the rest of the song. Put it all together, and you get a touching, creative, and overall well-thought-out track.

We’re greeted by a deep, warm acoustic guitar chord. Quite swiftly, Diz James comes in crooning, “Broken wanderer sings / Of his broken wanderings.” His voice takes on this lovely conversational tone, so the lyrics glide by in this easily-relatable, melancholy way. As the chords shift, we get a flourish of electric keys. It lasts only a few seconds, but the effect it has is immense. The chord, lyric, and melody rush with importance.

Speaking of chords, this song has the perfect balance of simplicity and complex, non-diatonic progressions. You have to either know a lot about music theory or have a fantastic ear to make this kind of song work–maybe both. Either way, there’s a certain level of genius imbued in the musical content of this song. The way Diz James layers instrumentation on top of his writing also speaks volumes. Tambourine, distorted electric guitar, and subtle drum grooves make the ending a gratifying climax.

If you like indie/alternative rock or folk/singer-songwriter-esque music, Diz James could be for you. Plus, “For Pleasure” is just one song off of an incredibly diverse album called “Headfirst Backwards.” Be sure to give Diz James a listen, a like, and a follow!

Q&A with Diz James

Q: The lyrical content in this track is so moving and complex. What was your creative process in making “For Pleasure”? How does it mesh with the rest of your album, “Headfirst Backwards?” 

DIZ JAMES: I knew that this album was going to be diverse and have lots of unique, high-energy songs and when this one started coming together I knew it was going to be a change of pace on the album. I wanted it to feel really sparse and ambient to really let some unique lyrics shine through and get people thinking and engaged with the record on a deeper level. Lyrically, I was trying to express some of my personal feelings and also feelings about the world in an abstract way that people could really feel without it being so literal. I read some interesting things from Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco about writing things as they arise that don’t make clear sense, and then you can make meaning out of it afterward. I think I was doing some of that myself and enjoyed that mysterious feeling.

Q: What has been one of your favorite memories along the path to making “Headfirst Backwards”?

DIZ JAMES: I write songs all the time and constantly start new recording projects and don’t always know which direction I’m headed. That’s partly what inspired the name of the album.. just that chaotic creative state. I think at one point there were a lot of cool song ideas that I had lost interest in, but as the concept for this record started to form, and with the help of my bandmate Scott Lavalle, it was exciting to realize “Oh! this song is perfect here!” and “We can turn this one into this other vibe!’ and suddenly I had new inspiration for a lot of half-finished ideas. Sometimes you feel like your ideas aren’t good enough but over time you realize you were actually tapping into something really exciting. That process, and my memories in the studio whether creating alone or with Scott are something I’ll always remember and be grateful for.

Q: Who would you most like to collaborate with, if it could be anyone in the world?

DIZ JAMES: Ouuhhhh…. there are so many talented artists I’d love to meet and collaborate with. I can’t say I haven’t had daydreams about that, but I think if I had to choose, I would most like to collaborate with Brad Mehldau. We don’t make similar music, but I think he is a genius and I would get a whole music education and collab all in one.

Q: What projects are currently in the works?

DIZ JAMES: Well, I’m excited to say that ‘Headfirst Backwards’ is actually going to be part 1 of a trilogy. In the likes of Kamasi Washington’s ‘Epic’ trilogy, or Jacob Collier’s ‘Djesse’ series, I’m attempting to do my own big project which is loosely tied together but basically just my best of the best. The second album is nearly finished being recorded and will be available next year, but the release date is to be determined.

Q: What do you do when you AREN’T working on music?

DIZ JAMES: I’m always doing something. I can’t relax for too long.. I’m working on it. I have been reading a lot. Mostly musician autobiographies as of late. Here in Niagara, there is lots of really good hiking, live music, good food, and of course, work. It’s a good balance. I’m putting in a little bit of time in the studio most days.

Q: What would you like to say to your fans out there?

DIZ JAMES: Well, my fan base is pretty small but I’m just trying to make genuine music that people can look forward to and get very excited about. I work very hard, and love writing and producing music for myself first and foremost. I have been playing in bands and studying music formally for most of my life, but my favourite thing to do is create on my own terms. I guess with all of that being said, I just want people to know I am trying to continually make something more and more amazing for YOU. So check it out!

Reviewed & Interviewed by Alyce Lindberg





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