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Aloha Dustin Thomas

2 Nov

Even if you haven’t heard Dustin Thomas play a song, you’d recognize him from being out at shows. With a buoyant smile under a billowing cloud of copper hair and dreadlocks, there’s no way that the kid isn’t an artist. In a town chock-a-block with talent and singer-songwriters, Thomas is worth a listen for his passionate vocal delivery, sweet guitar lines and generally sunny disposition. His tune “G.UT.S.” from last year rivals songs like Kristoff Krane’s “Miracles” for uplift out of darkness and his recent EP Across The Ocean opened up to addressing politics and protest, songs that he says he “never intended to write,” but makes his own. Thomas will be playing at Cause Spirits & Soundbar on Thursday, 11/3 as part of his “Aloha Minnesota Tour”, which will wind up with Thomas in Hawai’i, which really only makes sense. CakeIn15 caught up with Thomas via e-mail to talk about the Big Island, exciting movements in songwriting and how music changes the world.

Photo by Erica Meyer via Facebook

CakeIn15: Tell us about Hawai’i. Besides the obvious appeal of warmth in Minnesota winter, what is it about Hawai’i that appeals to you? Have you been there before and do you have connections there?

Dustin Thomas: Minnesota winters are beautiful. There’s a certain romanticism to the freezing and bundling up. I always get a kick out of the odd 40 degree day in the dead of winter where everyone throws on their shorts and sandals like it’s summer again. To be honest I had never even thought about Hawaii before I went there for the first time. I knew that a few artists I listened to were recording out there but that was about it. When I first made the decision to go it was remarkably last minute. I was in college at the time and in the course of a few days I withdrew from all my classes and bought a one-way ticket to Maui. This time around I’ll be on the “Big Island” touring with my friends in Medicine For The People. They’re an incredible bunch of folks from Portland and we’ll be traveling around the island for most of November and December.

C15: What’s your writing process like? Do you have any rituals that you practice for writing lyrics and music?

DT: It really varies. When I first started I was scribbling lyrics on just about everything and trying to put them to the guitar when I’d get home from school. Sometimes that would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. There came a time, and this was probably one of my favorite periods of writing, where a full song would just appear out of nowhere an in just a couple of tries I’d have a new song in less than an hour. I think that’s how some of my best songs have been written. Other times I’ll have a guitar part I’ve written for a year and have a scribble of lyrics I can barely remember and they just come together. Late nights and early mornings are usually when this happens, though, and lately I’ve been really interested in constructing songs. Listening to the production of bands like Beirut, Oh Land, Gotye, and Darwin Deez has inspired me to look at the writing process through a new creative lens.

C15: What else is exciting you musically right now to spur your own creation?

DT:I’ve been coming across a lot of artists out there who are branching out and adding a lot of elements to their songs that are taking the best of the electronic, ambient side of production and marrying it to the lyrical integrity and melody that I enjoy so much from a more singer-songwriter approach. It’s exciting to hear great club/dub sounds with that technical or ear candy appeal mixing well with a verse/chorus/verse approach and really staying loyal to the concept of the “song.” Locally, Polica is a prefect example of this. On a broader scale, James Blake and SBTRKT come to mind.

Dustin Thomas – Viracocha by Lovedustinthomas

C15: Take a moment and describe what your perfect song might sound like or include.

SBTRKT has a song called “Hold on” that hits me on so many levels I can hardly go online or go anywhere with out listening to it at least once. A perfect song could be anything really. One thing that will always pull me in, outside of jazz, is a voice that has something to say backed by a sound that elevates that emotion, or idea. “Postcards from Italy” or “Good Intentions Paving Company” come to mind, Beirut and Joanna Newsom respectively.

C15: Do you feel that we are at a moment where there is going to be a shift in how we think about the world, and what role do you see music playing in that change?

DT: I believe that music has the ability to teach, heal, inspire, and break down barriers. With advances in technology, those ideas can spread faster than ever. At the moment, certain classes of society are reaching new levels of sarcastic apathy, crippling poverty, and absurd riches, while others are reaching new intellectual and emotional perspectives and stepping out of this economic hegemony and into a more compassionate, localized approach. When the food you can get from Hard Times or Acadia is better than what you can get from some chain, and the concerts you can see at the Triple Rock or the Cedar are better than the ones at the Target Center, that to me is showing a shift already. Big money and corporate ideals are wasteful. The earth is ever bubbling towards the 10 billion mark and water and energy are more important than ever. If there is anything short of catastrophe that could get people on the same page, it’s gotta be music. The fact that there are 20 some bands in Minneapolis alone that I listen to on a regular basis gives me the idea that we’ll be getting on the same page sooner than ever and start tackling some of these big issues from the ground up.

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  1. A Slice of 2011 | Cake In 15 - December 26, 2011

    […] Aloha Dustin Thomas: “If there is anything short of catastrophe that could get people on the same page, it’s gotta be music.” […]

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