Analogue Music | D.A. Stern

D.A. Stern

By Matt Conner

It's release day and D.A. Stern is far away from the civilized world.

Stern says he didn't plan things this way, but when invited to spend a few days at Lake Arrowhead at the same time he's releasing an album, it feels like an unconscious response to get away from the immediate returns of putting out an LP into which so much hard work was placed and for which considerable patience was required.

Do Not Take Your Heartache Out on the World is the latest brilliant album from Stern, an album notable for the many sonic doors flung open in the name of an insatiable pop curiosity. It's an album marked by fun and freedom even as it addresses the depths and demands of relationships from every angle.

While taking in some natural surroundings, Stern spoke with us about his "varied" new album and the patience required to make it.

Analogue: You said you’re away at a lake. Did you choose to do so on purpose on this release day?

David Stern: No, a friend earlier in the week asked if I wanted to go for a few days and I said sure. [Laughs] So, no, I didn’t plan this as a therapeutic retreat.

Analogue: [Laughs] I wondered.

David: I’ve never done this before, but I think I’ll never not do it again.

Analogue: You described in some pre-album posts on Instagram that this was an arduous process.

David: Yeah, it wasn’t so stressful as I may have made it out to seem, but the whole album, if I’m being honest, was finished before the pandemic—shortly before it. Getting it packaged up and mastered and finished and finding someone to release it was maybe harder than it typically would have been without the pandemic.

I released a few things in between finishing this album and releasing it—two EPs, a couple of singles—but this to me has always been the thing I’ve been waiting to release. Now that it’s finally out, it feels as if a real weight has been lifted. All of my friends and people who have come to the shows have heard these songs. These are the songs I’ve been playing at the shows, and it’s always been a question of when they can get the record. So now it’s here.

So it wasn’t so arduous as much as it was a trial of patience.

"I’m really proud of how varied everything is. I know that’s not always the best word to describe a record, but I’ve said before that my favorite records surprise you."

Analogue: How did you find an outlet to get it out?

David: The label MISRA was interested in putting it out and my manager worked out an arrangement with them as well as the company Symphonic to handle the digital side of things. To borrow a term from the business world, it was a sort of spray and pray.

Analogue: [Laughs] I’ve never heard that term.

David: You have to preface it or people get the wrong idea.

Analogue: When you’ve waited this long, has your relationship with some of the songs changed?

David: I would say no. I’m still very proud of these songs and a lot of them are not autobiographical, so it’s not as if they represent a part of my life that I’ve moved on from. Also, the ones that are don’t necessarily deal in feeling. They deal in situation and story. There are also songs on the album that mean a lot to me for personal reasons that speak to the same things inside of me that have been inside of me since I was a little kid. So in this case, the songs, at least thus far, their meanings haven’t changed. But I also feel I’ve said the same thing in the past and sometimes that changes.

Analogue: Listening to the album, I was so struck by the fact that the person behind it all felt like they could get away with anything they wanted—like anything belonged—and I wondered how true that was for you in making it.

David: Oh, yeah! 100 percent. You nailed it. A lot of that has to do with having my own studio and space to work out of and also having a co-producer like Andrew Lappin on board, who is down to go down any road you want to go down. It’s a double-edged sword. I can do literally anything I want—have a blaring almost klezmer-type sax solo on one song and then a flute interlude. That freedom is amazing.

Analogue: Is that as much as I’d assume it is?

David: Oh, it’s the best. Being a drummer and a decent enough guitar and piano player meant that I could get by playing a lot of things on the record. But when we needed a heavy metal solo or something above our pay grade, working with other people to outsource that was the most rewarding and fun experience. Honestly, it was also healthy for me to let go of the reins a little bit.

What’s the story behind “Don’t Take Your Heartache Out On The World” and what made that the appropriate banner for this entire set of songs?

David: That wasn’t always the title of the album. We had another title that might have come off as misogynistic in some way, so we scrapped that one. The thing with that song, “Don’t Take Your Heartache Out on the World,” is that not only is it my favorite on the record but the sentiment behind it has roots in all of the other songs on the album. This album, for me, is the first time I’ve ever consciously wanted to make a whole record about relationships—good, bad, horrible. I feel that song is the ultimate commentary on what I’m trying to say within all of the other songs.

Analogue: What are you most proud of on this album?

David: I’m really proud of how varied everything is. I know that’s not always the best word to describe a record, but I’ve said before that my favorite records surprise you. They represent a lot of different ideas and even styles. I think these do that while still being cohesive and I’m really proud of that.

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