The inimitable Madi Diaz is headed to New York City tomorrow night for a show at Rough Trade, so I gave her a ring a few weeks back to talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! In particular, we talked about her phenomenal record Phantom (which dropped back in September on Nettwerk), about the scene differences between her former base-camp of Nashville and current home of LA, as well as about the best tacos on the planet located conveniently just outside Echo Park, what she’s been up to with her other project Riothorse Royale and MORE! Internet-eavesdrop on all of that below, snag a copy of Phantom, and be sure to grab tickets to the gig tomorrow night or REGRET IT FOREVER! Here we go:
So are you headed to SXSW?
I’m actually not this year…as much as I love the chaos, I’m avoiding the chaos. [Laughs] I do miss the SXSW days of total serendipity, though; it just feels so blown out of proportion these days, it’s such a bummer.
Ugh, I know. (Gotta love corporate America!) Now, SXSW aside, it IS outdoor festival season coming up. Is that your scene? Or do you prefer to be situated indoors in a smaller setting?
You know, it really depends; I’ve played some pretty epic outdoor festivals, but I’ve also had some really terrible, really sad moments outside before. [Laughs] I don’t know, I think it’s all pretty situational.
For sure. And you’re based in LA now, correct? Is it still treating you well?
Yeah, I really like it here. I think I definitely have at least a couple more years here. (But who can really tell?) I think it’s a really good place when you’re a musician; you can very quickly be back in a writing and creative zone when you come back from touring, and it’s very easy to kind of isolate here, both in a good way and a bad way. It lets me gather my energy when I get off the road…I think I’m a bit more of a secret introvert than I thought I was. [Laughs] But there’s so much you can kind of escape to and pull from here, which I really like.
Right. And you’d been in Nashville for quite a while, so I get that that was kind of a prompt for a shift, or a shake-up, but what would you say is the biggest difference between the two places (Nashville and LA) music scene-wise? Obviously there are different kinds of music happening, and the geography isn’t the same, but what else stands out to you as being distinct?
Yeah, LA definitely has a bigger history when it comes to rock bands, pop bands, indie music…there’s just a little bit more of that happening out here. Not that that’s something that you need coming up as a band now, especially with the internet. I think the main reason I moved is that I needed a little bit more space, and I was feeling a little claustrophobic in Nashville; there are so many people moving there right now because it’s such a new, happening city. (I have a friend down there who said it had been reported that there were literally a hundred people moving to Nashville every day, which is pretty intense.) But the Nashville I knew and loved is probably pretty close to being gone. But what are you gonna do? Something wonderful happens and people want to experience it. [Laughs]
Definitely, definitely. Well, now that you have a handle on LA, what would you suggest I do when I’m there at the end of the month? It’s going to be my VERY FIRST TRIP!
Definitely just remember to breathe. I remember the first three times I came to LA I really hated it. [Laughs] I was like, “I don’t fucking get it, this place is ridiculous!” It was too much…the traffic was too much, and if you over-schedule yourself you just end up getting really frustrated and not even being able to see any of the areas. So I would say just give yourself one or two things to do per day, and then really explore your area, because if you stack four to six things in a day, you’re just going to end up so mad at yourself. [Laughs]
Yeah, so far my plans are pretty loose…I’m going for a wedding that’s on a Saturday in Eagle Rock, and then the rest of the six days I’m just kind of planning on eating as many In-N-Out burgers and/or tacos as humanly possible.
Fuck yeah! Oh man, there are such good tacos on the Eastside…you can’t go wrong with most taco trucks, which is a crazy thing that exists out here; you pay a dollar fifty for the most incredible thing you’ve ever put in your mouth. But there’s a taco place called Guisados right on the edge of Echo Park that you should totally check out. There’s probably going to be a little bit of an epic line, but it’s going to be worth it one hundred percent. And I rarely say that. [Laughs] Everything else is like, there’s a line for the sake of being a line, but this place is totally worth it.
Amazing, definitely going to make that a priority! I mean, you can get decent tacos in New York, but I haven’t had too many that are mind-blowing. Oddly enough, there was a bomb taco truck scene in Columbus, Ohio where I went to college, and that was really the last time I’ve had an amazing taco experience. So I’m for sure looking forward to having my world turned upside down in LA.
Yeah, when I’m in New York I definitely don’t bother with tacos. And it’s the same with LA; when I’m there, I don’t bother with pizza or Italian food, because it’s like, WHY?! They don’t do that out here. [Laughs]
Totally. Well SPEAKING of New York, we’re very excited for your show out here in April! I don’t know how much free time you’ll have, but is there anything you’re looking especially forward to doing while you’re out here?
I mean, SO MANY THINGS! I miss the East Coast a lot. But I love running along the East River, I love running next to the West Side Highway, too, and I also love really conquering the bridges. I have to say the Brooklyn Bridge is probably my favorite one. There’s something really magical about that one for me. But as far as New York, with the amount of time that we’re generally given, that’s usually all I’m able to fit in. If I’m really given some time, I’ll just kind of wander around. It’s the most amazing walkable city…there’s no reason that you shouldn’t just pick a point and keep going, you know?
Completely. I live in Bushwick but I’ve been walking to Manhattan every day for the last two weeks or so, and the reactions I’ve been getting from people are like, “THAT’S CRAZY!” but I mean, not really! There’s a lot to look at, and it’s not THAT far. (It’s not like I’m walking TWENTY miles.)
Now, when you’re touring around, are you the type of person who can really multi-task? Are you able to sort of mix the writing and creative process into your daily routine on the road, or do you try to keep those things separate?
You know, when we’re out (mostly when we’re sound-checking) I can get an idea down, but I don’t put the pressure on myself to finish the thought so much. It’s just kind of a different zone for me, a different gear; tour is like fourth gear and writing is more like second, and to go from fourth to second takes some thought and time, and I’d rather wait it out. I totally envy people who are able to create on the go…I think that at some point when I win all the prizes (which I hope that one day I will all the prizes) and I can get the bus and can pay people really well, you know, at some point it would be great to have a studio on the bus, but for now, when I’m on tour I just like to see people and run around and not close myself off to feel feelings. [Laughs]
Right, and when you allow yourself to kind of be in the moment on tour, that permits you to sort of collect new experiences and inspirations for when you DO have that down time to write and be isolated.
Yeah, because otherwise it’s like…I don’t want to write the same shit over and over again; it’s not inspiring to me, and it’s not going to be inspiring to anyone else.
Right, you want to keep it fresh for sure. Now, I’ve noticed that some people have really sort of latched onto your “shift in sound” if we want to call it that…do you pay much attention to that sort of feedback?
I’m just trying to do what sounds good to me and right to me, and what fits the song and the moment, and nothing else. Of course we’re all influenced by what we’re listening to, and at the time of writing the record I was listening to a lot of Garbage Version 2.0. I was also listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks, dipping in and out of old Madonna, and that was kind of the world that I was living in. I mean, I totally wrote a pop record. I love pop music. But no one seems too mad about the way the record sounds so far, so I can only take that as a good thing. [Laughs]
Completely! Well, since you just brought up Garbage, I thought it was DOPE that Shirley Manson called out Kanye after that situation at the GRAMMYs.
I love her!
She’s so cool. Now, did YOU have any stance on that Kanyonce drama?
He’s just ridiculous. I can’t take him seriously. Like, that’s the thing…everyone gets all up in arms about what Kanye does and doesn’t do, but listen, Kanye is really fucking good at staying in the center of everyone’s attention sphere. I think at this point everyone is kind of rolling their eyes at him, you know? Because he’s a child acting out. Maybe he has a crush on Beyonce, because he’s constantly trying to give awards to Beyonce, but Beyonce does NOT need Kanye’s help. [Laughs] Not to mention, if he’s defending artistry, Beck’s one of the most deserving artists of our time. I mean, I love Sea Change, but with all of the records that he’s written and music that he’s given us over the last couple of decades, he just DESERVES it, you know what I mean?
Exactly! And it’s like, the people who are so upset keep saying “I’ve never even heard of Beck!” and it’s like, “Yeah, case in point // you clearly don’t have a great understanding of music on the broad scale in the first place if you have never heard of Beck!”
That’s the thing! You don’t even have to listen to the record so much to just know…I mean, if you know who Beck is, the dude deserves an award. Come on. [Laughs]
Preach. Now, back to YOUR music, what else have you got on the horizon that you’d like to talk about before we wrap up?
A lot of writing right now; I’ve been writing with some friends (I don’t want to say who yet, because who knows if the songs will actually end up on their records), but mostly I’ve been working on my project and the Riothorse project, which are both keeping me super busy. Riothorse is going out in May and June, and we’re coming to New York as well, opening for this band Other Lives. We’re finishing up writing for our record and getting songs ready for the road, and that’s requiring a lot of attention, whereas I feel grateful to be a little more on auto-pilot with my project…you know, “Cool, I wrote the record, my band is really great and we know what we’re doing.” I know what to expect at this point. [Laughs]